On Tuesday, we went to 10 Downing Street for the Kesri Lehar Vigil, which is a non-radical movement focused on abolishing the ‘Death Penalty and Human Rights Abuses’ in India. In particular highlighting the injustices faced by the Sikh community in India. The year long vigil which includes keertan by Sangat in the evening outside 10 Downing Street is to protest against how the shameless Indian government have asked for Professor Davinderpal Singh to face the death penalty based on a confessional statement. He was declared guilty of killing nine bystanders in a 1993 car bombing intended to kill Indian Congress politician Maninderjeet Singh Bitta, and sentenced to death by hanging by split decision, which has created a lot of controversy among judicial and human rights circles, considering there is no evidence or proof.
One out of three judges on the Supreme Court, M B Shah, acquitted Professor Bhullar of any wrongdoing. However, even then the President of India upheld the death penalty. Now the public prosecutor involved in convicting Professor Bhullar, senior advocate Anoop G Chaudhari, is agreeing with the dissenting verdict delivered by the judge Shah that Professor Bhulllar is innocent. See article.
What started as a Kesri Lehar presence outside 10 Downing Street from 12 noon to 5pm on 12th April 2013 has become a constant vigil - all night and till next June until the UK Prime Minister sends the UK Foreign Secretary to India or until Prof Bhullar is executed. I was so inspired to see that our brothers have been staying outside 10 Downing Street since last month since Professor Bhullar, whose mental health has deteriorated due to torture, was moved from hospital back to Tihar Jail in preparation to be hanged. Despite the cold nights, a small group of men have been sleeping there, serving the visiting Sangat with langar (food) and refreshments, and distributing leaflets to the public.
|Dedicated volunteers who have been staying outside 10 Downing Street for over a month.|
|Placards facing the road and public|
As I was helping to distribute some leaflets to the public, a came across a white Croatian lady who lives in London. She was taking some photographs of the placards and signs, so I approached her. I said, "We are holding this vigil because of the human rights abuses in India. In particular regarding Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar who is on death row in India." The lady replied, "I know Sir. I have been walking past this vigil since it started. I think it is amazing. I very inspired by the men who sleep here and have been carrying on the vigil."
I explained, "Sikhs, like other minorities in India, are denied rights and justice. Despite being less than 2% of India's population have been the main contributors in making sacrifices for India's independence in 1947. However, instead the Panjab was denied rights of language, water, and electricity. When the Sikhs spoke out, they were labelled "separatists" and eventually our holy shrine, the Golden Temple, was attacked in 1984, in what can be described as a holocaust. Then in November 1984 there was a genocide of Sikhs following the assassination of the Prime Minister. Since 1984 till the mid 1990s there were extra-judicial killings in what is known as fake encounters where innocent Sikh youths were wiped out by the Panjab Police who brought terror to common people. The murders and killers of the Sikhs have been promoted into positions of power and made members of parliament whereas innocent people like Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar have been announced the death penalty. Sikhs have been denied justice and therefore Sikhs feel that there is no other way that having independence and freedom from India."
The lady carefully listened and showed sympathy and support for the Sikhs. She supported the idea that a country where the government, law-makers and those who upkeep the law are corrupt and unjust, there the people had a right to seek freedom and independence. I mentioned something like Sikhs are peaceful people. The lady smiled and said, "You are definitely not peaceful people. I know that Sikhs are warriors!" I smiled and said, "We are Saint-Soldiers, defenders of faith." I showed my Kirpan and said that it represents being merciful (kirpaa) in defending others and also maintaining self-dignity (aan).
The lady looked utterly shocked. She then asked if she should take a photograph, to which I agreed. I explained Sikh women also wear a Kirpan. One Bibi showed her Kirpan. Again the lady asked to take a photograph and was shocked at the equality in the Sikh religion. She said, "Are you allowed to wear this? Isn't is dangerous that you are wearing a weapon" I replied, "Sikhs are Saint-Soldiers." She replied, "How can you be a Saint and Soldier? A soldier kills. The two cannot go hand in hand." I replied, "If you give a scalpel to a doctor, he will save a life. If you give scalpel to someone else, he can take life. If you give a weapon to a saint, he will save and protect life, whereas other people may use the weapon to commit tyranny." She became very interested at this point and said, what about a gun then? Is it okay to keep a gun. "Why not? The gun is not the problem, it is the one holding the gun - is he a spiritually minded and humanity loving person who would use the gun to protect women, children and men and keep people safe or is this person unstable and evil who would commit terror. I would not be scared if you were holding a gun, because I know you are a good person." She then said, "I agree. That is pretty cool. I never thought of Saint-Soldier before. I have learnt something knew."
I mentioned that on 9th June there is march and rally in London in memory of all those that have been murdered since 1984 and rally for the freedom of the Sikh people to have their own homeland. The lady was interested and supportive that she got out her diary and made a special note of the date and time. She shook my hand and she supports the cause of the Sikhs and thinks we are amazing people and said she will definitely come along on 9th June to show solidarity in Sikhs having their own homeland and paying tribute to the hundreds of thousands of Sikhs that have been killed by the state.
Then another lady to whom I gave a leaflet said, "Thanks. I know about this. I walk past here everyday when going home from work. I went home and looked up on the Internet about Kesri Lehar and the whole vigil. I fully support the cause and support Sikhs. I went on the Amnesty International Twitter looking for information about the Sikh Vigil but nothing showed. Please can you guys try and get Amnesty International Twitter to cover your vigil so that more people know. Keep up the good work." She smiled and walked off. How amazing.
There are other amazing stories that the sevadaars who have been staying there for a while shared with me.
Dhan Hai Guru! Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!