Surat Singh Khalsa
Surat Singh Khalsa (born 7 March 1933), also known as “Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa” is a civil rights and political activist, from the Indian state of Punjab. Surat Singh Khalsa has been involved with various political struggles related to Sikhs in Punjab, however he is currently in the limelight for a hunger strike as a form of peaceful protest against illegal and prolonged detention of political prisoners
On 16 January 2015, Surat Singh Khalsa began a Hunger strike which is still ongoing. He has refused food and water to seek the release of Sikh political prisoners who have completed their court sentences. Where he is seeking release of Sikh political prisoners, he has also called for unconditional release of prisoners of all religions who have completed their terms.
On 11 February 2015, Surat Singh Khalsa wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi explaining the motive of his hunger strike. In his letter, Surat Singh Khalsa summed up his demands in two points
- Treat all Sikh prisoners –under trials and those sentenced in cases relating to the Sikh struggle- as political prisoners and
- Release all prisoners who have completed their full jail terms and are legitimately due for release, exactly in the same manner, as other prisoners are so released in various other parts of the country.
A number of Sikh Political Prisoners are languishing in jails despite having completed their sentences. Many of these prisoners are released on parole on yearly basis. These prisoners can be granted permanent parole or be released on bail as there are no pending charges against them. In addition, Surat Singh Khalsa is seeking release of senior citizens based on humanitarian grounds. There are at least 8 such prisoners who have been sentenced under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act for their involvement in a bank robbery case that took place in Ludhiana. This law has already lapsed and has been deemed as controversial by human rights organizations, as well as the United Nations.
On 5 December 2015, a viral video began circulating showing a man purported to be Khalsa eating a number of items while in a hospital setting.
For 56 days — February 26 to April 23 — he was forcefed. Released without charges on April 23, he has had no sustenance since. On Thursday, 13 April 2017, he entered the 819th days of his hunger-strike. His demand is for the release of political prisoners in India who have completed their sentences, are due for release, but remain imprisoned.
Most of the prisoners were arrested during the 1980s and 1990s for protesting events like the Indian State’s invasion of the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, the 1984 Sikh Genocide sponsored by the ruling Congress Party, and the ensuing decade of death squads that systematically “disappeared” tens of thousands of Sikhs. Khalsa, who is on the verge of starving to death, stated after his April 23 release from police custody: “The struggle will continue until the political Sikh prisoners are released.”
Khalsa picked up the baton of political hunger strike for release of political prisoners from Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa, who twice went on hunger strike for that cause. In 2013, he refused food for 44 days, and in late 2014 he began a 64-day hunger strike that ended on January 15, 2015. The next day, Surat Singh Khalsa began his protest.
Additional details are available, and can be furnished upon request.
These are the political prisoners whose release is being sought by Bapu Surat Khalsa immediately. The list includes persons who have completed their life terms, along with some senior citizens who should be released because of their age, and prisoners who have undergone the majority of their rigorous imprisonment.
Note: Data on this page has been compiled with help of Advocate Gurjinder Singh Sahni, Jaspal Singh Manjhpur and SOPW
WebSite – Freesikhprisoners.com
Twitter – @BapuSuratSingh