“I Do Think He’s a Martyr,” Says Daughter of Murdered Sikh Activist

Navkiran Kaur Khalra speaks about the 1995 disappearance and killing by Indian police of her father, Jaswant Singh Khalra, and his work to expose secret genocide in Punjab, India.

Transcript
Steve Macías (SM): My name is Steve Macías with the Organization for Minorities of India, and today we have the daughter of Sikh activist, Jaswant Singh Khalra, who went missing after he began investigating the activities of the Indian government and the disappearance of activists and their families.

Navkiran, we have you here today to talk about your father and to talk about the 20th anniversary of his disappearance and how that’s impacted you, your family and what his legacy means to Sikh people. Could you briefly tell us what happened twenty years ago? What were the conditions that led to his disappearance?

Navkiran Kaur Khalra (NK): So, if I just start with his whole activism story, my father he was born in 1952 in a very remote area of Punjab. It’s a border village. It’s right next to India-Pakistan border. So, he grew up being an activist. As a student, he was an active Student Union leader. He actually formed small unions within his village and even his college for students to get involved in political fields.

SM: What was his motivation for being involved in politics in general? Was it part of his religion or the conditions in India? What was happening?

NK: It was more of the social conditions in India at that time. So he was very much inspired by Bhagat Sikh — he’s a martyr of Indian independence. Then, as a student, when he graduated, he started working for the local village in charge of the governing body in the villages. Even there, he was less of an employee than a union leader. Then eventually he moved to the city with my mother. So they got married in 1981, in August, and my mother was a librarian and she worked in a university library in Amritsar in Punjab. So they both moved there to start a better life and to earn their livings. I was born in the city with my brother. We both were raised and went to school in the city itself.

SM: So you said that was in 1981. Did they stay through the Sikh massacre that happened in 1984?

NK: Yes they did. Actually, they moved to the city in 1985, but my father, he actually was in my mother’s parents’ house when June 1984 happened. He wasn’t involved in the Sikh struggle at that time.

SM: Okay, but he definitely witnessed what happened then.

NK: Yes he did. He actually was very distant to the things that were happening at that time. He was aware of what was going on in Punjab. As soon as he heard the news, he was about 200 miles away from Amritsar — Punjab is not a very big state — so 200 or 300 miles. And as soon as he heard the news (at that time it was only radios and televisions, everything was blacked out so I think it was only BBC radio from where they were getting news), he said he wanted to go back home, which was near Amritsar. The village is also about 50 kilometers, less than 40 miles away from the city.

So, everyone tried to stop him because it wasn’t safe to travel in Punjab in those days. It was curfew all around. But he did leave. He took a bicycle — like a bike —and he travelled 200 miles through the villages just to reach his own home because there were rumors that as soon as Darbar Sahib — the Golden Temple — will be attacked, Pakistan will attack India. So. since they were living right at the border, he was also worried about what’s going to happen next. My mother told us that when he was trying to cross a river, there were many other people. He saw people just marching towards Amritsar because every Sikh was hurt when their holiest shrine was under attack. Every Sikh wanted to go to Amritsar.

SM: Right. So this Golden Temple that was attacked in 1984 is kind of the center of Sikhism. So, this is in his mind as an activist. Fast forward a little bit to his activism that he’s more famous for. He’s now a banker, and he’s noticing that some of his fellow employees are disappearing. What’s going on there?

NK: So this is like early 90s. In 1990 and 1991, I would say. He started working in a bank in Amritsar, and two of his colleagues, who were good friends, they disappeared one after the other. He kind of tried, on his own level, to investigate what happened to them. From his family, he knew which police officers actually took them.

And he found out that both of his colleagues were cremated within Amritsar, because they were from Amritsar and they were picked up in Amritsar, and killed somewhere, and then they were cremated in a cremation ground that was actually run by a Mandir. So most of the Sikh bodies were cremated secretly in the cremation ground that actually was run by a Hindu Mandir.

SM: Okay.

NK: So he went there and he asked them about the whereabouts of his friends. So, the people who were working there, they had no idea what was going on. They just knew that police bring them truckloads of bodies or sometimes just one or two to this cremation ground and all other places to cremate them.

SM: Okay.

NK: And it was a law that if there’s any dead body found within the city, and nobody claims it, the government actually cremates the body on its own expenses. So the police were bringing these bodies, and obviously this was secret disposal, and so they actually used the government funds to get the wood to cremate those bodies. So, in India cremation is done with the logs — with the woods.

SM: Right. And the idea here is that the government is using this cremation program to hide what they are doing, which is?

NK: Yes. They don’t want to return the bodies to the families because this becomes a bigger issue and all the sympathizers for the Sikh movement, or even the families, would get united or it would actually create a bigger revolt within the Punjab state itself, because it was already going through a struggle at that time. So, they just abducted people, killed them, and so those employees told him that the only way he can figure out something is to go through that register which the Local Government body has to maintain to issue the wood.

SM: Right.

NK: Because, if you have to cremate an unclaimed body, you need to answer: “Where did you find that body?”

SM: Right. Because this is part of the government providing for it.

NK: Yes, and what he noticed was that those police officers were so shameless or you can say they did not realize how much error they were committing by writing their own names that this is the officer who’s bringing in the body. There were more than two thousand bodies — two thousand and ninety seven actually — where they actually put the name of the deceased on the register, and his father’s name and his village and approximate age.

SM: Interesting. So, you have a group of people who are supposedly unclaimed, yet the police officer knows their names, their villages, their fathers, and are intentionally destroying the bodies.

NK: Yes, and at the end it’s unclaimed.

SM: Interesting.

NK: Because if there’s any unclaimed or unidentified body, the law says that you have to keep the body’s clothes or some pictures so that even if, after a certain time, the family comes to claim it, you have to show proof that the person is dead. So they did not keep any record for those who were cremated.

SM: So your father finds this register, sees that things aren’t quite adding up and that this is kind of suspicious. What does he do?

NK: So, it was a full team who was working on these human rights issues. There were people involved from the international community as well and from other parts of India, too. So they all went together to the cremation ground, and somehow they were able to sneak out the data and make copies of that, and after that they started contacting the families from that list. As soon as they started reaching out to those families, those families were so intimidated. They were so scared to speak out. They were like: “Our loved ones are still alive, there’s no proof there. And if you ask us to go out and either file a complaint or go to the courts, they’re going to kill us, too.” So, nobody was ready to go to the courts at that time that there was so much state terror.

SM: Right. I mean, obviously their family have been missing for some time now and they’ve been shown no evidence that they’ve been cremated. So how many people are we talking about here that the Indian Government is secretly destroying and disappearing? What’s the number here?

NK: So, from 1990 to 1992 there were six thousand, more than six thousand bodies that he found out only in three cremation grounds of Amritsar, and you can imagine there are twelve thousand villages in Punjab. My father’s estimate, based on how the encounters were going on around Punjab, is that i was about 25,000 people who have been secretly cremated for whom we can actually get the proof. There would have been more people who were disposed of in the water, in the rivers, in the drains, because you cannot keep the record for the people who are killed that way.

SM: Right. So we’re talking tens and tens of thousands of people who are disappeared without any record.

NK: Yes.

SM: So what does your father do now he has this information. Who does he give it to?

NK: So there were committees formed with the lawyers, and he tried to convince a few families, and the case actually started in the High Court of Punjab, but the High Court denied the petition, saying, “This is not a Public Interest Litigation, so you have to bring out those families and tell us whose body belongs to which family.”

So, my father was very upset with this response from the judiciary. This is the highest court of the State saying that this is not a public interest when you see six thousand bodies. Then he actually took about 40 to 50 families who were ready to file a complaint in the High Court. So they filed a complaint by name. They knew the police officers and they went to High Court and they filed the complaint. Then the State machinery and the police actually got really upset when they had the cases filed against them.

SM: Right.

NK: My father kind of knew that these families would be intimidated. One thing I remember is he got his visiting cards printed at that time, and whenever he used to visit those families, he used to say, “Just in case any police officer or any political person comes to your house and says that you shouldn’t be filing any complaint against the police or against the State, just tell them that you didn’t do it. This is the guy that did it. Just go and talk to him.”

SM: Interesting. So your father, pardon the parallel here, but the situation’s very similar to the Southern United States during Civil Rights Movement. You had people being killed and attacked and your father’s a Martin Luther King type of figure who’s going into this communities, identifying the victims, and then really taking that burden and responsibility in risking his own life to bring them justice. What’s been the response to the courts, to the country, what’s happened since then?

NK: So, at that time, he realized that if he brings out everything within India or within Punjab, nothing is going to happen and he’ll be one of those unidentified bodies very soon. So that was the point when he knew that, probably, he’s going to get killed, but it would be better that if I get killed, that I still get some identity to these unidentified bodies so that people should remember that these were some Sikhs who may or may not have been part of the struggle but were killed and disposed secretly by the State. This was a mass human rights violations, a grave human rights violation on the part of both how they got killed and also how the family was not given the last rites.

SM: Right. So what’s the response of the international communities? Did he contact other countries or…?

NK: I think, at that time, even the diaspora Sikhs were quite active and they also wanted something, some proof to show to the international community that this is what is happening with the Sikhs in India. Also, there were some lawyers and some other human rights groups who were interested to work in Punjab but I remember Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations were actually banned in Punjab. They were not allowed. So they were looking for contacts who can take the data out.

So my father actually found some contacts in Canada. It was an MP in Canada, she invited him in April 1995 for a human rights event and it was Justice Ajit Singh Bains who my father accompanied.

At that time, my father realized that this is the time to bring this out and just reveal it in front of the whole world. So he went to Canada, he shared his documents with the local MPs where he was invited, and there was also the Indian community, the Sikh community who were keen to know the facts. So he met multiple people.

Previously, what was happening was that the community was just involved within themselves. They shared their grievances within the community and were not going out with different communities and just bringing the matter up with international human rights organizations.

My father knew that this is not going to work. If we want other people to empathize with us or sympathize with us, we need to go out, we need to reach out to those people. So, he was in Canada and he actually started getting death threats at that time. He went back in April. He was there for a very short trip. Actually, he came to Canada on a permit from the politicians so he didn’t apply for visa. The government approved and he just came.

SM: Where was his family in all this? Where were you? Where was your mom?

NK: So we all were all in Amritsar and, actually, my mom was working.

SM: So what’s it like? Your dad’s getting death threats and is all the way across the continent — three continents over — in Canada. Is there fear in your home? Do you remember any of that?

NK: So, the thing is that I remember my mother being worried. I remember my grandfather being worried. My grandfather and my grandmother were living in the village. When my father came back from his trip, my grandfather actually was concerned. When my father visited him in the village, he said, “I don’t want to be in the courts or police stations after you, if they come after you.” My father replied that, “I’m not running away anywhere, so if they come for me, they’ll take me. They won’t touch you.” And that’s the same thing he told my mom, “Nobody’s going to harm your children or you. They just want me and they will come for me.”

He was aware of what was going to happen to him, and he was prepared. He also realized that this was something that was needed to leave a mark or you can say to prove his point that this is the violation of human rights that actually happened. A massacre of Sikhs that was going on since 1978 or 1984. So he knew that he had some facts, and to prove those facts, maybe he has to give up his life.

SM: And did he expect to give up his life? Was it something that was a real thing for him or…?

NK: If I go back before or by April 1995 from June 1995, he was prepared. But it wasn’t something that he wanted to die. So, he wanted to live and he wanted to enjoy his life and to enjoy his kids. But, the thing, is that there’s sometimes a point in life and you know that this is the right cause. This is something worth dying for. That’s what he realized.

So, when he came back in April, I would say that when he came back after June, he was asked by his friends in Canada not to go back because some people from India had contacted them that, “Don’t send this man back because the government is going to kill him.” One of the local politicians contacted my grandfather, and he said that the police officers are saying that, if he’s asking us to answer for twenty five thousand people cremated, we don’t mind to give account for twenty five thousand and one.

So, these kind of threats were normal to my family by this time. On a landline phone, he used to get calls at midnight just to check where he is. By that time, he started staying more at home at night. He used to travel to other cities to visit the families, but he tried coming back home and he denied security. Most of his friends from High Court asked him to get security, but he said, ”What of those families who are trusting me to file their complaints? And when they see the security guards with me they won’t do it.”

SM: Right. Exactly. So give us the events that led up to his disappearance.

NK: So, on August 30th — so, he came back in July, late June or July — that’s two months after his arrival from Canada. During all these two months, he was busy meeting families and trying to file more cases. On August 31st, the then Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant Singh, was assassinated in Chandigarh. He was home. I remember that day. It was evening around 7pm. The national news in Punjab used to be broadcasted at 7pm. We were walking down the street and in a store nearby — a small shop — there was a TV going on and they were broadcasting this news that the Chief Minister was assassinated. My father was like, “Let’s go home immediately.”

SM: And this would be a cause for concern because this would lead to riots or political uproar.

NK: Yes, and he knew some of his friends or people living nearby will be picked up because police always kind of try to find some reason to just abduct people on any basis. So it actually happened that some of his colleagues were picked up, just for the inquiry, and he knew that something can happen even to him because police was already looking for him.

So, six days after that on September 6th, he was getting ready for a press conference in Amritsar itself and so he was washing his car outside the house. He was to be at the press conference at around 11am. This is a week day. I guess it was a Wednesday. So my mother leaves for her job around 8:45am because the job starts at 9 and she works in the university library, which is like 15 to 20 minutes walk from the house, so she normally walks. We — myself and my brother — were at school. So the cops had actually surrounded the area early that day, and it was pretty normal to see that much police around your house. Not house I would say, around the area you’re living in.

SM: Right. Around the village.

NK: Yes. So, at that time my mother wasn’t suspicious because that was normal. You see police all around, but she kind of felt odd when some of the police officers actually stared at her when she was walking as if to confirm that she left.

They actually thought that nobody would be home and we’d just abduct him and that’s it. But luckily, one of his friends who was to accompany him to the press conference, was sitting inside the house in the living room. So he was washing his car and some police — cops — just came in a blue van. It wasn’t a police van but a civil van. They tried to show him some papers, so he left his hose and he left his car over there and just went to them to read the paper, or something, and they pushed him in the car. He tried to resist but they kind of pushed him. There were six or seven men, so they pushed him in, and they just drove off.

So a few of our neighbors saw it and the guy who was sitting inside the living room when he heard the noise just came out, and he saw, and he actually recognized few of the police officers. After that, he called my mother, and she was immediately sent back home, and then they both went to the local police station to report it. I remember when we came back home after school, my brother told me what happened. It was hard to believe that something like this could happen because my father was never involved in any kind of crime, you can say. We had never seen police come into our house before, and this was odd for me at that time that why would that happen when your father isn’t needed for anything.

SM: At this time, how old were you when this happened?

NK: I was ten.

SM: You were ten years old, you know your dad is important, and is meeting with people in the community. Your brother just told you, “Police came and took Dad.” Do you expect to see your father again or is this like the disappearances he’s been investigating?

NK: So, at that time, we thought that maybe they took him, because at that time I didn’t understand the meaning of abduction. I didn’t know how he was taken. Then, by evening, the local police came to our house to write down the First Information Report (we call it FIR). So, at that time, my mother was trying to convince them of the names of the police officers who she suspected would have taken him but those guys were not ready to write the names. They also did not write it in the FIR that the people who abducted him were in uniform. So they said some random guys came and just picked him up.

Then my mother actually started contacting my father’s three siblings — his brothers — who lived in Europe. So she contacted them and she contacted few of his friends in Canada whom he visited and in Chandigarh, in New Delhi, and even the local Sikh politicians whom she knew. So she filed the complaint with the local police but they wrote whatever they wanted to write. Then she went to Supreme Court of India. So, she didn’t go to the local courts, she didn’t go to the High Court — the State Court — because she didn’t have trust in the judiciary at the local level.

So, she went to the Supreme Court of India and filed the complaint on September 9th. So, September 6th — morning— he’s picked up; by September 9th, they are in New Delhi, capital of India, to file the complaint. So, it was by chance, by luck that the case went to the bench of the judges. One of the judge was Kuldip Singh, and this was a judge who my father actually had met couple of months ago in Amritsar to discuss this case, and this judge had said that, “I cannot do anything here, I’m just here for a seminar. You need to come to the Supreme Court.”

And when that judge saw that this was the same guy who came to me with certain cases, and I asked him to come to the Supreme Court, and now he’s missing, so somehow it clicked to him that this needs to be investigated on a bigger scale.

SM: So did the Supreme Court take up this cause? Did they investigate? What happens? Is the Supreme Court in India similar to our court or what does it look like? What do they usually do?

NK: When it comes to the minorities, it’s biased I would say. In 1995 September, the case was being investigated by the Punjab police, so it’s the investigation against the police by the police, so what do you expect? But, in January 1996, the Supreme Court moved the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation. It’s like FBI — India has CBI.

So then CBI started the investigation, and they were very reluctant to charge any of the police officers. All the police officers who actually got charged in my father’s case were on duty till the last day of the judgement. So even if there were cases going on against them in the court, nobody actually dismissed them from their jobs, and some of them even served in the areas near where we lived.

SM: Was there a fear that there would be retaliation?

NK: There was. Actually, a lot of incidents happened. One of the key eyewitnesses who actually saw my father being abducted from the house was charged twice with being linked to terrorist organizations and was picked up from a random marketplace but shown that he was actually planning some kind of a bomb blast. But luckily, the next day the newspaper had his picture giving a memorandum to some international delegate visiting the Golden Temple and their story didn’t go along.

SM: Right. Right. These were obviously trumped up charges.

NK: Yes. My mother was charged for bribing one of the witnesses, and they came up with the story that she tried to bribe him at his in-law’s house. It was by chance that the reporters, the journalists went to the in-law’s house, and they asked, “Okay, what happened at your house, and what did she pay?” And they were like, “Oh, nobody came to our house.” So that also dropped.

SM: But obviously showing the Indian government is trying to hide what’s happening here…

NK: Yes, and they tried to intimidate. Even the State government tried to reach out to my mother saying that, “We can pay you millions of rupees and just take off the case. It would be better for the future of your kids and for your own self. You can do whatever with the money. What will you gain by going after these police officers or the State in general?”

So when my mother filed the case for the abduction of my dad, she also filed that, “Why was he abducted?” So the reason for his abduction was not just because he’s a Sikh and he’s interested in his political agenda, the reason was that he was trying to uncover something that the State was trying to hide. So she filed the case for those 2097 bodies in parallel to the Khalra abduction case. So these two cases startled the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court marked the inquiry to CBI to investigate, to see if what this man Jaswant Singh Khalra, is saying is correct or not.

So CBI finished its enquiry, saying that, “Okay, yes this man actually said the truth. These people were cremated falsely, and they were disappeared, and their families were not told about it.” But what the government or the judiciary or the CBI did was they sealed all the records from all of the cremation grounds in Amritsar. So till date, we do not have access to those, and we do not know how many actually other dead bodies are there, which should have got justice.

So, Supreme Court of India actually, there’s a body within the Judiciary of India called National Human Rights Commission. So the case was passed to the National Human Rights Commission to do the compensation part of that, and then they said that they’ll consider even filing charges against the police officers and all, but CBI kind of delayed everything because the judiciary over there works in a way that either the victim dies or the accused dies. We don’t have to solve anything.

SM: Okay.

NK: So it took ten years of our time or you can say for the Khalra case, which was a high profile case. It had a lot of international pressure. Governments from U.S., from Canada, from England were actually writing to the Indian government to know the whereabouts of my dad. So, even that case, which was so highlighted, took ten years in the CBI court to get first judgement in which seven people got punishment. It was seven years for a few of them, and two of them got capital punishment.

Then this case moved to the High Court, and in 2007 the High Court changed the term to Life for all. In 2011, this was presented to the Supreme Court of India and it still stayed as life imprisonment. So, you can say that it took about 18 years or 17 to 18 years to do just do one case. The other cases for 2097 dead bodies are still pending.

SM: So do you think that justice has been done with these life sentences?

NK: The thing is that it’s not just about one person, one dead body. It’s also not about those five or six police officers who got life term in this case because it was the whole State machinery that was involved, it was the government involved, it was not those petty cops or officers who were working on the orders of someone sitting high up and then those people who are being guided by the central government sitting in New Delhi.

So this whole machinery needs to be exposed. We’re not looking to punish or to get imprisonment to just those police officers. We wanted the State to accept that this is what they have done, and this was wrong. For that, we don’t see anything happening as for now, and we are still having some cases pending in the courts but there’s no hope.

SM: So let’s talk about your life in the last twenty years and having to deal with this. How did your family survive with your father now out of the picture? How did you guys provide for yourself? What kind of impact did this have on you and your brother?

NK: So I think this incident twenty years ago did change our lives. It totally changed how we thought we would be. If I go back twenty years from now, and if this did not happen, I would have been a different person. But this incident kind of also made us…. You can say, we kind of realized that our role in the community or even in larger community where we talk about human rights or basic rights for anyone, the role of the family is very important. If we back off, then nobody is going to carry on my father’s work

So, it changed from that normal life to being a responsible family, and being in the lime light all the time, and being brave enough to carry on the work that my father started. If we didn’t, then who would have done it? So we were the first people whom everyone would have been looking toward to see if we can carry on his work.

And it wasn’t just us, it was his immediate circle. He had very close friends who came forward and they just said, “It’s not a normal death. People die every day. People die of accidents or diseases, but this is something special and you need to carry on the legacy.” So, we kind of grew up in that environment.

SM: Right. Do you think that your father is a martyr?

NK: I do. I do think he’s a martyr and his work, actually… So, it’s interesting to note that, after his martyrdom, all the fake encounters and the way they were happening with the amount of dead bodies or custodial deaths or torture hat was happening in Punjab, just stopped. After that, you don’t see that continuous chain of encounters reported in the news. It just put a full stop so that this is the end.

SM: Interesting. There was something hopeful that came from his death.

NK: Yes, and he was aware of it. He knew that probably he has to give up his life to stop this.

SM: What do you see as the next step for Punjab? Obviously there are still lots of issues happening in that part of the country. What needs to happen in Punjab for things to change? What do communities need to do? What does the government need to do there?

NK: I think that, if I just see totally unbiased from the government side or from the community side, we need proper closure of what happened in the past. This will keep on happening if you don’t close up chapters of the history that need answers, that need acceptance that this was wrong and this needed to be corrected. So, if we do not accept the wrongs — if the government does not accept it — it will keep on happening in one way or the other.

The other thing is that in India, I normally see that most of the time all the minorities are in this plight. You see struggle in Kashmir, you see struggle in the south, in Assam, in Orissa. These communities are not linked to each other so they alienate each other when the other community is going through some kind of a trauma.

1984 happened. November 1984, when thousands of Sikhs were killed in Delhi, nobody from other minority communities in India spoke up to say that, “This is something that could happen to us or this is something that this majority Hindu system is trying to do on any kind of a minority.” So, they didn’t see that coming to them. Then 1992 Babri Masjid happened, and Bombay happened, and 2002 happened, 2008 Orissa where Christians were killed.

So, there was a chain that continued, and I think this is one thing that minorities in India need to realize: that we need to connect. That we need to see the other minority communities. It is not religious, it is not gender-based, it is not caste-based, any minority — it could be religious, caste minority, it could be gender minority, or any other type of minority, language-based or Adivasis. So these minorities need to connect. They need to empathize with each other. They need to support each other’s struggle. That was the missing part when Punjab went through the struggle, and I think it’s still missing somewhere. We do not care about what’s happening in other parts of the country.

SM: Right. And that’s largely a problem for us here in the United States. We don’t care what’s happening in other parts of the world. What advice would you give to other minorities that now found a safe home in the United States? How can we help the people in Punjab who are facing a government that’s against them? What should we be doing to be involved?

NK: So, first thing is never to buy the government propaganda against any of the struggling community, and the other thing is that we all in some way or the other have seen either our generation or previous generations go through some of this struggle, but somehow relate to that struggle and try to reach out to those families or to those people who are part of that struggle, and bring it out in the world.

My father believed that it’s very important to involve the international community. It is very important to make others know what you’re going through so that they don’t become your enemies. They should be your allies. They should join you instead of stand with your enemy or with the tyrant who is trying to diminish you. So I think that it’s very important for all the struggling communities, and even for people who care for human rights or for equal rights for everyone, for being a citizen of the world.

SM: So you live in the United States now. Does the rest of your family? Do you still have family left in Punjab?

NK: Yes, my mother still lives in Punjab. That’s another thing. My family decided not to leave India until we finish up the case. So, that would be kind of running away or we are scared of anything. We did not take any security. It was till 2011 that the government and the courts of India had to send police to our house saying that, “You should take security. We feel there’s a threat to your life.” But we decided not to.

SM: So even here, twenty years later, there’s still threats of danger to your life.

NK: Yes, those police officers who are in jail do come out on parole, and they visit their families, and they come on vacation, you can say. The thing is that they do send threats. People who are in jail with them — their inmates — somehow do talk, and they do say that, “Once we are out, we’ll see what to do.” But the thing is that we took up the challenge and we still do take the challenge.

It was only after 2007, when High Court decided, that my mom said to me and my brother, “Okay, now you guys can have a better future.” Because somehow we were so much alienated with the system in India, we did not want to live there. We did not want to live there. So, after 2007, once the case was decided, she was like, “Now you won’t feel like you’re fleeing from some kind of a struggle or a battle. We actually fought till the end. Now you guys can go and think of your future.”

SM: And I understand that you have a family history that you would feel very comfortable in this part of California. Your great-grandfather was part of the Ghadar Party, which had a set-up here in Stockton, and which helped India get its independence, and the Sikhs have always been involved with protecting and freeing India from oppression. So, I think it’s very appropriate that you are here in California. I think this is where Sikhs come to bring freedom back to India.

I think your message is very clear that you want equality and justice for all the people, and I believe that your father will be very proud of what you’re doing.

NK: Thank you.