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Sikhs in plea over death sentence for Balwant Singh Rajoana

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

Sikhs in the West Midlands are calling on the Indian government to commute a controversial death sentence on a prisoner to life imprisonment after a stay of execution was granted.

Sikhs in the West Midlands are calling on the Indian government to commute a controversial death sentence on a prisoner to life imprisonment after a stay of execution was granted.

Hundreds of people from across the country attended a meeting at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Sedgley Street, Wolverhampton, at the weekend to discuss their pleas for the death penalty in India not to be invoked.

Balwant Singh Rajoana has been in prison for 17 years for the assassination of the former chief minister of the Punjab, Beant Singh, in 1995. Rajoana was sentenced in 2007 and was due to be hanged on Saturday.

But the death sentence has been deferred while Indian president Pratibha Patil decides on two petitions filed on Rajoana's behalf.

Orange scarves have been tied around lamp posts throughout the West Midlands in a sign of peaceful protest.

Orange represents courage and wisdom in Sikhism.

The meeting in Wolverhampton on Sunday was called by the Sikh Council UK and people came from as far as Newcastle and Bradford to discuss their concerns.

Manjit Singh, general secretary of the Gurdwara, said: "Regardless of whether Balwant Singh Rajoana is guilty or not, he has been in prison for 17 years.

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"It is not right to resort to capital punishment on top of that.

"It should not be a part of a democratic society."

Former councillor John Mellor, a retired senior West Midlands police officer, said he had also written to Prime Minister David Cameron and the government in India over the matter. Mr Mellor said: "It seems appropriate that the sentence now be commuted to life imprisonment after so long.

"I have received a response from both governments to say it is a matter that they are considering."

Last week around 200 people marched from the Baba Deep Singh Gurdwara temple on Soho Road, Handsworth, to the Indian Embassy in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham to protest.

Throughout the UK, people have appealed to the Foreign Secretary William Hague to raise the matter with Amnesty International and in Parliament.

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