35 Punjabi detainees in US call off strike

Chandigarh: The case of 64 Punjabi youths languishing in EL Paso jail of Texas (US) for the past nine months has taken a new turn with 35 of them calling off their week-long hunger strike. A number of others have been shifted either to the jail hospital or small barracks in the premises.

The youths were nabbed for “illegally” crossing over to Texas through the Mexico route probably after having been deserted by their agents. As many as 42 of them were on a hunger strike to protest against their “illegal” and “prolonged” detention at the EL Paso correction centre by the border authorities.

While most of detainees were from the Doaba region of Punjab, some of them belonged to Malwa and neighbouring Haryana. While 28 detainees are said to have called off their hunger strike on Monday, seven stayed off food till Wednesday.

“They called off the hunger strike on their own. Five of the detainees, including Pritpal Singh Kohar, Boota Singh and Mandeep Grewal, have been admitted to a hospital inside the jail and another detainee, Harsimran, was shifted to another hospital outside the jail for treatment,” said Satnam Singh Chahal, executive director of North American Punjabi Association (NAPA) while speaking to The Tribune from California.

The reason behind shifting six protesting Punjabi youths to the two hospitals was said to be their deteriorating health owing to starvation and the concern of the authorities over their physical state.

The jail authorities, it is learnt, transferred five of the detainees to a barrack called “Loaha” reportedly with an objective to teach them a lesson. A “Loaha” is a 5X10-ft cell comprising of a toilet and a bed. Normally, hardened criminal are lodged here.

“The Sikh Coalition has joined hands with us and we are trying our best to get parole for all the detainees. We are in touch with Lawit, the attorney for the detainees. He has told us to contact people having links in the White House,” said Chahal.

Amarpreet Singh of the Sikh Coalition was in the process of collaborating with Lawit.

About the case

* The youths were nabbed for “illegally” crossing over to Texas through the Mexico route probably after having been deserted by their agents.

* As many as 42 of them were on a hunger strike to protest against their “illegal” and “prolonged” detention at the EL Paso correction centre by the border authorities.

Source: The Tribune

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