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Above: Amarjeet Singh Sohi, Canada's Minster of Infrastructure & Communities.


How An Innocent Man Was Imprisoned & Tortured by India





26 years ago -- during the course of India's anti-Sikh Genocide which extended into the decade starting with 1984 -- poems by Punjabi poet Avtar Singh 'Pash', a copy of Bhisham Sahni's novel 'Tamas' and a cold cream had helped rescue Amarjeet Singh Sohi from the clutches of India’s police.

But not until he had been tortured and held in solitary confinement on trumped- up charges for 22 months in an Indian jail. All because he was a Sikh-Canadian.

Amarjeet was sworn in on Wednesday, November 4, 2015, as Canada’s Minister of Infrastructure and Communities in Justin Trudeau’s new federal government.

Amarjeet’s tale of solitary confinement in Bihar's Gaya jail in 1988 is already well known - both in Canada and Punjab. But had he not been lucky, he might still be languishing in an Indian jail as a 'Sikh-Canadian Khalistani terrorist who wanted to train Naxalites in Bihar'.

Amita Paul, a senior Bihar-cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer -- fortunately a Punjabi -- revealed this in Patna, the capital of Bihar, about what happened the day she confronted Amarjeet 26 years ago.

Jagmohan Singh, a friend of Amarjeet who pursued the case legally in Bihar during his 22-month confinement under the oppressive and undemocratic Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA), substantiated the story.

"Sohi was arrested by Bihar police in 1988 and taken to Jehanabad," said Jagmohan. "Nobody among Bihar's police brass believed his innocence. Bihar police were keen to establish that Sohi was a Khalistani terrorist who had returned from Canada on an invitation from Naxalites to train their cadres."

Paul was Jehanabad district magistrate at the time. "The moment she got to know that police in her district were holding a young man in solitary confinement on terror charges, she went to question Sohi," Jagmohan said.

Amarjeet, who was 25 then, maintained that he was a Leftist but not a Khalistani.

"Amita had a literary background," Jagmohan said. "She asked him to narrate a poem by any Leftist poet. Sohi narrated a few poems of the Punjabi poet known as 'Pash'. When she asked police officials what Sohi was carrying when he was arrested, she was told that he had a copy of 'Tamas', the novel set around the time of Partition [of Punjab]. After that, the magistrate was convinced that Sohi couldn't be a Khalistani terrorist."

Paul, a 1980-batch officer who is now chief adviser to the Bihar planning board, said: "Yes, I questioned him then. Not only 'Tamas', police also showed that he was carrying Ponds cold cream. Terrorists hardly carry such stuff. Sohi also told me that he was a theatre activist. I can still recall that when I told him to recite something, he recited Pash's popular Punjabi poem 'Kraanti diya gallaan karan waaleyo / kranti jad aayi tuhanu vi taare vikha devegi (O you who are talking about revolution; revolution, when it comes, will knock the daylights out of you)."

Paul said she was largely convinced by Amarjeet's claim. "Today, I am happy that he has been sworn in as a Canadian Minister," she said.

Jagmohan said after the magistrate was convinced, she prevailed over police to produce Amarjeet in a local court, where he was proven not guilty.

Amarjeet was released from jail after about two years.

Amarjeet, who had migrated to Canada in 1981, went back after his release from jail in 1990.

Before being elected MP from Edmond-Millwoods constituency and then named federal Minister, he was councillor from Edmonton, Alberta for eight years.

[Courtesy: Times of India. Edited for]
November 6, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Gyan Kaur (Gurgaon, India), November 06, 2015, 6:50 AM.

Bravo, India! You've labelled three of Canada's four Sikh-Canadian Ministers as 'Sikh extremists' and thus elevated them in the world's eyes as statesmen. How could we ever thank you enough for your help? Maybe India has a secret plan to identify and train Sikh leaders, albeit through a trial of fire. Whatever ... well done! Keep it up. O please, please don't stop your mischief, dear Mr Modi and BJP and RSS until India's Sikhs are free. [How about the fourth? Surely, she deserves your attention too.]

2: Taran Singh (United Kingdom), November 06, 2015, 1:50 PM.

Given that Amarjeet Singh Sohi is in high public office in Canada and now holds considerable influence, would he use his resources to turn a spotlight on the plight of hundreds if not thousands of other innocents who still languishing in Indian prisons on false terrorism charges?

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