The Crown's Prosecution Service on Wednesday, 22 September, dropped charges and freed the three United Kingdom (UK) Sikhs who were arrested for allegedly killing a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in December 2020. This development comes while a hearing to extradite the three men to India had just begun.
While the State of India claimed their involvement in the killing of RSS worker Rulda Singh in 2009 and has asked for their extradition and a subsequent trial in Indian courts, Sikhs across the UK protested the trial and the Boris Johnson government's compliance with Indian authorities.
The trial was being seen as a "trade deal" and a precursor to many extraditions in order to silence "activist Sikhs" who are considered dangerous by the Indian State.
There was widespread support for the three men – on ground, and on Twitter. While many gathered outside the Westminster Magistrate's Court, several others took to Twitter to showcase their unhappiness with the government and support to the three Sikh men. #WestMidlands3 had become a Twitter movement in itself.
What Were the Charges?
On 29 July 2009, senior worker and the national RSS-affiliated Rashtriya Sikh Sangat chief Rulda Singh was attacked by armed men outside his home in Patiala. He succumbed a week later in a hospital in the city.
In December 2020, weeks before the later-cancelled Republic Day visit of UK PM Boris Johnson to India, the West Midlands Police in the UK arrested three persons in connection to this case.
The three men had been detained by the local police under suspicions of being part of the murder conspiracy against the RSS member. The three men aged - 37, 38, and 40 are British nationals and the trial was to determine if there was any reason to extradite them to India.
One of the three accused was detained in 2010 by the West Midlands Police in connection to the same case and in 2015, a court in Patiala proclaimed him an offender in the case. An NIA probe also linked him to the targeted killings across Punjab in 2016-17, including the murder of another RSS leader – Brigadier Jagdish Gagneja (Retd) – the Indian Express reported.
Sikh Community in UK Celebrates
Now that the Crown's Prosecution Service has dropped the charges, the decision is being hailed and the Sikh community in the UK is celebrating.
However, this is not an end in itself. The Sikh community is also seeking the freedom of another Scottish Sikh – Jagtar Singh Johal.
"He (Johal) has been held without conviction for three years and has claimed to be tortured to sign the confession," the BBC reported.
The UK courts have, in the past, conducted trials for the extradition of Sikh suspects to India; the most recent being in February 2021, when the court found no reason to support extradition of a 44-year-old alleged to be a member of the Khalistan Zindabad Force, Baaz News reported.
(With inputs from Baaz News and The Indian Express.)