UK MPs Raise Issue of Scottish Indian Man’s Imprisonment in Punjab
British MPs Preet Kaur Gill, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and Martin Docherty-Hughes raise the issue of Jagtar Singh Johal's detention in India.
The issue of the detention of Jagtar Singh Johal, a Scottish Indian man who was arrested by Indian authorities for alleged links to targeted killings of political leaders in Punjab, was raised by British MPs Preet Kaur Gill and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi along with Johal’s local MP, Martin Docherty-Hughes, during a debate in the UK Parliament’s Westminster Hall on March 13. The British leaders urged the government to discuss the issue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) meeting next month.
Mentioning Johal’s case, UK MP Preet Kaur Gill said that in 2016, the latest year for which data is available, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) delivered assistance to 118 British nationals who alleged that they were tortured in jails abroad. On an average, 6,000 British people are imprisoned abroad every year. The total number who have been tortured is likely to be higher, as some may not be able to report such violations, Gill said.
She added that Johal traveled to India in October 2017 and was arrested by on Nov. 4 by officers in plain clothes. Claiming that he was tortured in custody, Gill said that the “Indian authorities have prevented Jagtar from having private access to British consular staff.”
Dhesi added that the “UK government’s failure to condemn the series of abuses has left all British citizens travelling abroad vulnerable.”
Home Office Minister Ben Wallace responded for the government, saying that it was a matter of “great frustration” that Johal had not been granted private consular access, despite repeated requests from the United Kingdom. He said that the matter has been raised with Indian authorities.
“These things have to be done on a private basis rather than through megaphone diplomacy… I want to put on the record that India as a partner… has a strong democratic framework…” he said, adding that there were “challenges” when it came to enforcing human rights. “The British government is working alongside the Indian government to build capacity… and expertise… sometimes that is best done quietly… rather than through public pronouncements.”
The Indian government has said that “due process” has been followed in the arrest and detention of Johal.