IRB – Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (Author)
In mid-May 1999, veteran Sikh politician Gurcharan Singh Tohra was expelled from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) for six years (India Abroad 21 May 1999). The expulsion came after months of bitter factional fighting that began when Tohra criticized SAD leader and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal over the party's loss to the Congress Party in the Adampur by-election race in late 1998 (ibid.; The Gazette 15 Apr. 1999). Following his expulsion Tohra decided to float a new party, known alternately as the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD), or All-India Shiromani Akali Dal (AISAD) (India Abroad 21 May 1999; The Tribune 7 Sept. 1999; Indian Express 10 July 1999). In July 1999, in preparation for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the AISAD entered into an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) (ibid.). The party reportedly also held talks with the Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Lok Bhalai Party, and both factions (Bhupinder Singh Mann and Ekta) of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, to present a common front to the SAD-BJP combine in the same elections (ibid.).
The Lok Sabha elections were held in Punjab on 5 September 1999. The election turnout was very low, and, barring a few violent incidents, relatively peaceful (The Tribune 6 Sept. 1999a; ibid. 6 Sept. 1999b). Voter turnout was described as "low-to-moderate" in Ludhiana District, where elections were held for both the Ludhiana Lok Sabha seat and the Ludhiana (North) Punjab Assembly seat (ibid. 6 Sept. 1999b). Deputy Commissioner Arun Goel described the polling in Ludhiana as "by and large peaceful," with only minor scuffles reported at two polling stations (ibid.). The campaigning in the run-up to the poll was similarly described as a "low-key affair," with the parties confining their rallies and election meetings to a few select venues (ibid. 6 Sept. 1999a). However, an AISAD activist was killed in an incident of post-polls violence in Ferozepore District, reportedly by SAD activists (The Tribune 7 Sept. 1999).
The AISAD, which ran candidates in seven of Punjab's 13 Lok Sabha seats, won in none (India Votes 13 Oct. 1999). In contrast the SAD (Badal) won two seats and the SAD (Mann) won one (ibid.). The AISAD candidates were as follows: Bhupinder Singh Mann (Amritsar), Gurdeep Singh (Bhatinda), Sucha Singh (Gurdaspur), Gurdarshan Singh Grewal (Ludhiana), Prem Singh Chandumajra (Patiala), Balbir Kaur (Ropar), and Parmajit Kaur Khalra (Tarn Taran) (ibid.).
A list of members of the AISAD executive committee could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate; however, various reports identify Gurcharan Singh Tohra as AISAD President (The Tribune 16 Mar. 2000; ibid. 25 Sept. 1999), Mr. Jasbir Singh Ghuman, a former president of the All-India Sikh Student Federation (AISSF), as AISAD General Secretary (ibid.), and Mr. Prem Singh Chandumajra, a former MP and close confidant of Tohra, as an AISAD member (ibid. 21 May 1999; Indian Express 10 July 1999).
No reports of election-related violence in the village of Salempura, which is located on the Mattewara-Rahon road (The Tribune 21 May 1999a), could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. Mattewara is approximately 30-40 kilometres east of Ludhiana (The Times Atlas of the World 1990, pl 29). No reports indicating that AISAD members, workers or leaders were targeted by the police or other security forces could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
The Gazette [Montreal]. 15
April 1999. Final edition. "2 Million Sikhs Celebrate: Set Aside
Leadership Rivalries to Mark 300 Years of Faith." (NEXIS)
India Abroad [New York]. 21 May
1999. Vol. 29, No. 34. Harbaksh Singh Nanda. "Akali Dal Split
Likely as Tohra Is Expelled." (The Ethnic NewsWatch/NEXIS)
India Votes. 13 October 1999 (last
update). Various documents. http://election99.indiavotes.com/states/S19.htm
[Accessed 27 Mar. 2000]
Indian Express [Mumbai]. 10
July 1999. "AISAD, BSP Alliance Final-Chandumajra." http://www.financialexpress.com/ie/daily/19990710/ipo10106.html
[Accessed 24 Mar. 2000]
The Times Atlas of the World.
1990. 8th ed. New York: Random House.
The Tribune [Chandigarh]. 16
March 2000. "Divide in Clergy Worries Tohra." http://www.tribuneindia.com/20000316/punjab.htm#6
[Accessed 16 Mar. 2000]
_____. 25 September 1999. "Ghuman New
General Secy of SHSAD." http://www.tribuneindia.com/99sep25/punjab.htm#17
[Accessed 30 Sept. 2000]
_____. 7 September 1999. "SHSAD Activist
Shot Dead." http://www.tribuneindia.com/
99sep07/punjab.htm#5 [Accessed 7 Sept. 1999]
_____. 6 September 1999a. "55 pc Cast
Vote in Punjab: Low Polling in Urban Areas." http://www.tribuneindia.com/
[Accessed 6 Sept. 1999]
_____. 6 September 1999b. "Lowest-Ever
Polling in Amritsar." http://www.tribuneindia.com/
[Accessed 6 Sept. 1999]
_____. 21 May 1999a. "Encroachments
99may21/punjab.htm [Accessed 27 Mar. 2000]
_____. 21 May 1999b. "Tohra Faction
Snaps Ties with Badal." http://www.tribuneindia.com/99may21/punjab.htm
[Accessed 27 Mar. 2000]
Additional Sources Consulted
Indexed Media Review (IMR)
[Ottawa]. August-October 1999.
Resource Centre "India" country
World News Connection (WNC).
One oral source contacted.
Internet sites including:
The Asian Age [New Delhi].
Election Data Resources on the Net.
Elections '99. (Government of India)
The Hindu [Chennai].
The Hindustan Times [New
India Today [New Delhi].
The Indian Express
Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha).
The Sikhism Home Page.
Times of India [New Delhi].
The Tribune [Chandigarh].
Wilfried Derksen's Electoral