NEW YORK—Since January 16, 2015, an elderly Sikh gentleman has been on a hunger strike to raise awareness about Sikh political prisoners. 84-year-old Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa began his peaceful protest at home in Hassanpur, Punjab and has since been forcefully kept at various hospitals for force-feeding and treatment.
His hunger strike will mark 950 days on 23 August, 2017, out of which more than 600 days have been spent at the hospital, against his will.
The Sikh political prisoners in question include those that have been kept in jail despite completing their full sentences, and those that can be released on humanitarian grounds.
The current Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder, who has the power to authorize their release, has been a staunch supporter of granting these prisoners their freedom. In 2013, he gave an impassioned speech that criticized the then party in power of keeping these men in jail. One can hope that he keeps his promise and grants freedom to the more than 100 political prisoners eligible for release.
Recently, two notable events aided in this pursuit for freedom. The first included a letter received by Indian politician Dr. Subramanian Swamy, who serves as a member of parliament. Dr. Swamy tweeted the response he received from Home Minister Rajnath Singh, in which Singh states the government will examine the issue of the release of prisoners, for appropriate action.
(Response from Home Minister Rajnath Singh)
The second event includes the meeting of the first turbaned Sikh MP in European Parliament, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and Chief Minister Captain Amarinder. Dhesi posted on his Facebook account that he had met with Captain Amarinder and discussed many issues, including the release of Sikh political prisoners. He also stated in a Punjabi news interview that this is an important topic and steps should be taken to release these prisoners (at 1:55 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ww5EnpLUJio)
Captain Amarinder and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi
Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa has stated that he will remain firm in his resolve to free these prisoners. His hunger strike will reach a significant milestone in October 2017, in which he will have endured 1,000 days on hunger strike.
Volunteers worldwide continue to help raise awareness for his cause. Supporters are encouraged to donate blood and post their photos on social media, using the hashtag #SikhBlood. Several art exhibitions around the world have been organized as well, showcasing pieces inspired by the hunger strike and Bapu Surat Singh (#Art4Justice). An email campaign was also initiated via the website www.freesikhprisoners.com, where anyone can go to the link, fill in their information and an email is sent on their behalf to the Punjab Government.
You can also follow Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa’s hunger strike on social media: