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Sikh Deserters Return to Military Service After Imprisonment

November 20, 1985

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ At least 124 Sikh soldiers who deserted in Kashmir last year when the Indian army attacked the Golden Temple, a Sikh shrine, have returned to service after spending several months in jail, a news report said Tuesday.

The Indian Express quoted a lawyer for the deserters as saying most of them were court-martialed and sentenced to one to four months’ imprisonment.

The government announced in August that 2,733 Sikh soldiers deserted throughout India to protest the army assault on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June 1984. At least 67 of them died in clashes with police and troops, the government said.

News reports said, however, that about 5,000 Sikh soldiers mutinied in nine states and that more than 100 deserters were killed in gunbattles with military pursuers.

The government said in August that 1,478 deserters had been court-martialed and sentenced. It said one was sentenced to life imprisonment and 50 received jail terms ranging from one to 14 years.

The government said 900 deserters had completed their sentences and returned to the army.

An estimated 1,200 people died in the temple siege, which was launched to flush out Sikh terrorists who were using the shrine as a munitions dump and headquarters for plotting terrorist actions.

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