As Gurbakash Singh’s hunger strike enters its 36th day, his deteriorating health underscores the outrage felt by many Sikhs throughout the world, whose friends and family members were arbitrarily arrested, tortured, and extrajudicially executed by security officials.
We, the undersigned organizations, are concerned about the plight of Gurbakash Singh, a Sikh activist in Punjab, who is on hunger strike to protest against the treatment of Sikh prisoners detained under counterinsurgency laws in India, who many believe have completed their sentences and are being held beyond their terms.
As Gurbakash Singh’s hunger strike enters its 36th day, his deteriorating health underscores the outrage felt by many Sikhs throughout the world, whose friends and family members were arbitrarily arrested, tortured, and extrajudicially executed by security officials in the name of counterinsurgency operations in Punjab during the 1980s and 1990s. Despite evidence of these gross human rights violations, the government of India has refused to bring the senior perpetrators to account. Reputed lawyers and human rights defenders support his protest for highlighting the plight of India’s political prisoners in general and discriminatory policies toward minority prisoners in particular.
Numerous organizations, including the U.S. Department of State, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, have expressed concerns about irregularities in the Indian judicial system and impunity on the part of government officials implicated in atrocities against Sikhs during this period. Their reporting has highlighted, among other things, secret cremations of “disappeared” Sikhs and counterinsurgency laws that facilitated human rights abuses and shielded security forces from prosecution.
As organizations committed to universal human rights, including the right to due process, we appeal to the international community for increased oversight over India to ensure that its government upholds the rule of law.
Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, has made no public statement about Gurbaksh Singh’s hunger strike, while Parkash Singh Badal, the Chief Minister of Punjab, ordered the unlawful detention of Gurbaksh Singh for his peaceful protest, before releasing him due to public pressure.
We, the undersigned, simply demand that India undertake a judicial review of cases against Sikh prisoners detained under counterinsurgency laws and release those who have served their sentences or have been illegally detained.
Issued on December 19, 2013, by
Ensaaf, Jakara, Sikh Coalition, Sikh Research Institute, SALDEF, UNITED SIKHS-USA