Punjab Rights Forum
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The Punjab Rights Forum came into existence on June 28, 2005 at a convention held in Ludhiana, Punjab, India, that had been organized by D. S. Gill, Chair of the International Human Rights Organisation (IHRO).
The floating of the Punjab Rights Forum was largely in response to the arrests of dozens of Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) terrorists and BKI sympathizers in Punjab and New Delhi after the apprehension of Jagtar Singh Hawara, the main accused in the bombings of two cinema halls in New Delhi during May 2005. Another cause for the formation of the Punjab Rights Forum was in response to the crackdown on members of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), including the party's president, Simranjit Singh Mann and activists of the Dal Khalsa following a "Genocide Remembrance Parade" that had been carried out through the streets of Amritsar on June 5 in remembrance of those Sikh civilians and terrorists that had been slain by the Indian army during Operation Blue Star. The rally on June 5, which had drawn an enormous crowd and received widespread media attention across India, culminated at the Akal Takht, where members of the Dal Khalsa and Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) delivered "inflammatory speeches"[according to whom?] calling for an independent Sikh state of Khalistan. Two days after the rally members of the Dal Khalsa and Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) began courting arrest on charges of sedition.
The formation of the Punjab Rights Forum brought together a number of Punjab-based pro-Khalistan political parties and organizations who were joined by a dozen odd human rights, religious and Kisan (farmers) groups in order to form a loose coalition to campaign on issues of human rights in the state.
The Punjab Rights Forum (PRF), floated by D. S. Gill, Chair of the Ludhiana based International Human Rights Organisation has projected itself as a "third front" to the political dominance of the Congress Party and Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) in the Punjab state. The PRF has also championed itself as a defender of the interests and affairs of the Sikh and Punjabi people against the onslaught of the Indian state, Punjab police and Hindutva ideologues.
In order to further the agenda of the Punjab Rights Forum, a seven-member coordinator committee was set up comprising members from some of its constituent members, namely D S Gill, Jagmohan Singh, Karnail Singh Panjoli, Surinderpal Singh, Gurdip Singh Bathinda, Rajinder Singh and Dr. Manjinder Singh Jandi Dal Khalsa. D.S. Gill was selected as the chief coordinator while Justice Ajit Singh Bains was chosen as the convenor of the Punjab Rights Forum.
Activities of the Punjab Rights Forum
Two major activities of the Punjab Rights Forum upon its inception were to hold a number of seminars across Punjab regarding the detention of over thirty Babbar Khalsa International terrorists and their supporters and for seeking the immediate release of Simranjit Singh Mann, President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and activists of the Dal Khalsa who had all been placed behind bars on charges of sedition following a pro-Khalistan rally that had been carried out through the streets of Amritsar on June 5, 2005 marking the 21st anniversary of Operation Blue Star.
The second major activity of the Punjab Rights Forum, carried out soon after its creation, was the organizing of a Human Rights convention in Jammu on July 30, 2005 where members of the PRF had called for and given support to the Kashmiri peoples' right to self-determination.
The PRF constituent members which had taken part in this convention included the:
- Punjab Human Rights Organisation
- International Human Rights Organisation
- Movement Against State Repression
- Lawyers for Human Rights International
- Khalra Mission Committee - for gaining justice for the murder of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra
- Human Rights and Democracy Forum
- Lok Raj Sangathana (New Delhi)
- Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar)
- Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal)
- Sikh Students Federation
- Dal Khalsa
- SGPC Member- Karnail Singh Panjoli
- Bharti Kisan Union (Rajewal)
- Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta)
- Sikh Nari Manch
- Indian Ex-services League (Panjab and Chandigarh)
- Damdami Taksal
- Shriomani Khalsa Panchayat
- Sikh Human Rights Group (South Asia)
Worldwide Day of Protest - January 17, 2006
On January 17, 2006 constituent members of the Punjab Rights Forum held protest rallies throughout various district headquarters in Punjab demanding the abolition of death penalty and release of Prof Davinderpal Singh Bhullar and all other Sikh political activists. Prominent among the various organizations which took part in these rallies under the Punjab Rights Forum were the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal), Shiromani Akali Dal (1923), Dal Khalsa, Shiromani Khalsa Dal, Sikh Students Federation, Sikh Nari Manch, Shiromani Khalsa Panchayat, International Human Rights Organisation and the Damdami Taksal.
The rallies were held in co-ordination with candlelit vigils occurring on the same day across cities throughout Europe and North America. They were organized largely by the Sikh Federation (UK) in addition to the Canadian Organization of Sikh Students, Khalsa Human Rights, World Sikh Organisation and International Sikh Youth Federation.
The candlelit vigils protested against the use of the death penalty in India and called for the release of Prof. Davinderpal Singh Bhullar and all other Sikh political activists currently detained there.