By Ninder Kaur
Sikh activist Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa has been on hunger strike for more than seven months now, since January 16, 2015.
The 82- year-old US resident’s decision for going on a hunger strike came about as a form of peaceful protest against illegal and prolonged detention of Sikh Political Prisoners.
Ever since being initiated as a Khalsa in 1972, the former Government teacher has advocated human rights, and spoke out against injustices to Sikhs and other minorities living in India.
Now, despite his deteriorating health, Surat spoke with force about the cause that has led him to a hunger strike.
“The question is not about the release of a few Sikh prisoners, the question is about the inalienable right of a person to live life without fetters. The question is about the regaining of liberty after you have completed the full term of one’s sentence in prison. The question is about justice, equality and fair play. The question is about parity between the rich and famous and the poor and the underdogs. The prime question is whether after 66 years of the constitution, does it give the Sikhs the rights and privileges due to them as compared to the other majority community?”
Further stipulating his decision, Surat Singh’s son, Ravinderjit Singh, a U.S. citizen, who visited India to look after his father, was held under Indian police custody for two months under charges of being “likely to commit a breach of the peace”. At the time of his arrest, Surat Singh Khalsa was peacefully protesting for release of Sikh political prisoners. His son was merely accompanying his father at the hospital, when they were both arrested.
Since February 26, he has been forcefully kept at Ludhiana Civil Hospital where he has been subjected to medical procedures. The police have also enforced that the public are not allowed access to Surat.
Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa’s daughter Sarvarinder Kaur said: “Bapu Ji has faced immense torture in police custody. He has been through the situation where the food pipes were stitched to his forehead so he does not keep removing them. Now, he remains chained to his hospital bed. Isn’t his violation of his rights?”
Bapu Surat Singh was released on 23rd April after dropping all the charges against him.
Sarvinder Kaur also stated that her brother, Ravinderjit Singh, who was released after 61 days, was also brutally beaten in the police custody.
“Bapu ji’s health is deteriorating now. He is becoming weak by every passing day and is not even able to speak now. He requires two people to carry him now and is not able to stand by his own.”
She also said that her father feels that living a free life is every person’s human rights, and these Sikh prisoners should not be deprived of it.
It is for reasons like this that hundreds of Sikhs from across the UK have been protesting outside the Houses of Parliament to seek answers from the British government over the release of what they described as political prisoners in India.
Many have sent emails to their local MP to raise questions about human rights violations of Sikhs in India with the Foreign Office and Indian High Commissioner.
Surat Singh is determined to continue the fast till his demands are fulfilled.
Ravinder Jeet Singh added: “Struggle of my father is entirely peaceful. Along with him, our entire family, and all supporters are seeking the release of political prisoners through a peaceful protest. We condole violence but will continue to pursue our rights through peaceful and democratic means.”
The police action in India has also sparked protests in America and Canada.
Launching a ‘Sikh Referendum 2020’ campaign, activists claimed that they will get Punjab freed from the Indian government by 2020.