Sikhs Say They Were Tortured in India

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Two Sikhs seeking refuge in the United States claim that allies of India’s ruling party tortured them to attain electoral victory, and for claiming a $16 payment for a massacre.
     New York-based Sikhs for Justice has sued India’s political leaders several times in U.S. federal courts, claiming they incited mob attacks that killed at least 2,733 Sikhs after the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.
     In a July 10 federal lawsuit, two Sikhs allege more recent human rights abuses from a Sikh leader.
     Defendant Manjit Singh G.K. became president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee in 2013 after his sole opponent dropped out of the race. The defendant Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee is an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, a right-wing Hindu party, according to the complaint.
     Plaintiffs Harjit Singh and Janki Kuar say they fled to the United States to avoid torture at the hands of Manjit Singh’s henchmen.
     Harjit claims that police and other officials acting on Singh’s orders “hounded” him with “death threats to [his] immediate family,” illegal detention and physical and mental torture for refusing to endorse Manjit Singh before the election.
     He claims that police raided his home and held him for “several days” without charges, lawyers, or a court hearing. They blindfolded him, deprived him of sleep, stripped him naked, hung him upside down, withheld food and water, and put a pistol in his mouth and threatened to shoot him, Harjit Singh says.
     Kuar, whose husband died in the 1984 massacres, claims Manjit Singh personally ordered his goons to sexually assault her for trying to collect compensation – the equivalent of $15.75 in rupees – that his organization had promised survivors and widows of the massacres.
     Kuar claims that Singh and his men told her “she should be used to feel several men at the same time because she has been taking it since 1984.” After the sexual assaults, she says, the defendants approved her application for the $15.75, but “at the same time sent goons to hound the plaintiff, threatening her of … repeated sexual assaults if she reported the mistreatment.”
     On the 30-year anniversary of the massacre last year, Human Rights Watch denounced India’s failure to prosecute a single rape case and the dearth of cases against senior officials and police accused of fomenting the riots.
     Kuar says she left her job as a “low grade but permanent government servant” to flee to the United States.
     The plaintiffs say their stories are all too common in India.
     “Torture, particularly upon the members of religious minorities and other voiceless groups and communities is [a] widespread and pervasive evil in India, the so-called biggest democracy of the world,” the 14-page complaint states. “[The] government of India’s reaction to the acts of torture, whether committed by private individuals of by state officials, as a part of stated official policy or unstated policy, is nothing but acquiescence, approval and condoning, which is evidenced from the fact that India despite signing the U.N. Convention Against Torture has not yet ratified and incorporated the provisions of Torture Convention into its domestic law.”
     Harjit and Kuar seek punitive damages for violations of the Torture Victims Protection Act and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
     They are represented by Babak Pourtavoosi of Jackson Heights.
     The New York Times on Sunday published a scorching editorial about corruption in the Indian government, citing the July 4 poisoning death of TV reporter Ashkay Singh, who had reported on “a corruption scandal of astounding proportions.” The decade-old scandal involves bribery for government jobs and college admissions. At least two dozen people believed to have been involved have “mysteriously died,” according to the Times. India’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered the country’s Central Bureau of Investigation to look into the scandal.

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