Chandigarh: Condemning as “totally barbaric and inhuman” the recent beheading of two Punjabis by the authorities in Saudi Arabia, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said he would seek a detailed report from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on the matter.
The two men — Satwinder Kumar of Safdarpur Kallian village in Hoshiarpur district and Harjit Singh of Ludhiana district — were executed by Saudi authorities on February 28 this year without any prior information regarding their execution being shared with the Indian Embassy in Riyadh, Prakash Chand, Director (Consular), MEA stated in a written communication dated April 10, 2019.
Chand said in the communication, sent to Satwinder’s wife Seema Rani through the counsel at the Punjab and Haryana High court as she had petitioned before the court regarding her husband, that the Embassy had no information about the mortal remains of both men and was awaiting the same from the Saudi authorities.
Both men were arrested on December 9, 2015 in connection with the murder of another Indian national, Arif Imamuddin. All three (Satwinder, Harjit and Arif) had committed robbery and due to a dispute in sharing the loot money, Arif was killed by the other two.
Satwinder and Harjit were arrested over a case drunken brawl. During deportation formalities and finger-printing for final exit from Saudi Arabia, they were found to be involved in Arif’s murder. They were sent to the Riyadh prison where they allegedly confessed to killing Arif, the communication pointed out.
The embassy officials were following the case against the two Punjabi men and they even used to visit them in prison. The jail list regarding their case was collected till February 18, 2019.
Expressing shock and grief over the vicious act, which has been confirmed by the MEA to have taken place on February 28, Amarinder said: “It is atrocious that such incidents continue to happen in civilised nations in this day and age.”
The Chief Minister also flayed the MEA for failing to prevent, and then not disclosing the execution of the two men till it was forced to do so by a petition filed by Satwinder’s wife.
Amarinder said he would approach Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to secure more details about the execution of the two men.
“He would seek from the MEA information regarding the charges and would also question them on whether due legal representation was provided to the two men,” a spokesperson for the Chief Minister’s Office said.
“If the executions were undertaken without prior information even to the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia, with the victims not provided legal counsel, it amounted to a grave violation of the international human rights,” the Chief Minister said.
He called upon the United Nations and other global human rights organisations to take serious cognizance of the incident and put pressure on Saudi Arabia to end its ancient and blatantly illegal practices, which are against all norms of humanity.
Referring to media reports that the families of the victims would not get their bodies due to restrictions in place in Saudi Arabia, the Chief Minister said he would seek Sushma’s personal intervention to take up the matter with the Saudi authorities at the highest level on this count.
“That the families should be deprived of the chance even to see their deceased kin and perform the last rites makes the whole affair even more appalling and shocking,” he added.
Pointing out that just days before the reported beheadings, India had hosted the Saudi Crown Prince, whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi had received personally, in a break from protocol, the Chief Minister said.
“Given the friendly relations between the two leaders, getting the bodies of the two men back to India should not be difficult for the MEA. If needed, the Prime Minister himself should intervene to ensure the return of their mortal remains,” he added.
The Indian government should also take steps to ensure that such incidents are not repeated and no Indian is denied justice or his/her legitimate right in any manner in the future, Amarinder said.