Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa, a Sikh human rights activist from California, USA, is on hunger strike since 16th January for the permanent release of Sikh detainees who have already completed their life sentences but are still languishing in different jails of India. Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa took this initiative in order to fulfil the earlier commitments and Ardaas that were made by Bhai Gurbakhsh Singh at Gurdwara Lakhnaur Sahib, Ambala. Sadly, after the dramatic collapse of Bhai Gurbakhsh Singh's agitation, the support and interest for these hunger strikes has declined in my opinion. People felt disheartened and questioned the motives and intentions of those starting these protest agitations.
However, it is admirable that elderly Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa has stuck at the cause for permanent release of Sikh detainees and his wish to fulfil the unfulfilled Ardaas of Bhai Gurbakhsh Singh. In the beginning of this month, Bapu Surat Singh was illegally detained by the Punjab Police for peacefully protesting against the Punjab and India Government. Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa was put on a virtual arrest at the Civil Hospital in Ludhiana by the police, where doctors tried to force feed him.
The illegal activities and ill intentions of the Indian authorities did not stop there! Bapu Surat Singh's family have been harassed and threatened. On 26th February, his son Ravinder Pal Singh, who is a USA citizen, went to visit him in India and was arrested from the hospital and illegally detained by Punjab Police as a political prisoner. A journalist, Surinder Singh, and a Sikh activist, Damandeep Singh, were also arrested from the hospital. Although the Police released journalist Surinder Singh after a few hours, Damandeep Singh was kept detained for nearly two weeks. It is noteworthy that Ravinder Pal Singh and Damandeep Singh had no charges against them when they were arrested. After 24 hours of being detained, and continued pressure from the USA embassy, the Indian authorities finally filed the charges the next day. Ravinder Pal Singh is still being illegally held. With India's history of human rights abuses, making fabricated cases to imprison Sikhs and their record of torturing Sikhs in custody, it is very alarming.
Bapu Surat Singh's family are reporting that their father is being harassed and pressed to end his hunger strike. When he was arrested, his dastaar was removed on the way to the hospital. He also fell down and was not given any medical attention. Police also confiscated his phones and other belongings forcibly. Doctors have forcefully stitched the food pipe on his forehead and nose. He is also being given glucose regularly against his will. However, despite the administration’s alleged concerns regarding Bapu Ji’s well-being, his health has started declining dramatically after this.
May we all pray for those who have completed their sentences and are being illegally being held in India's prisons. May truth, justice, and humanity prevail.