We are shocked and dismayed by the continued detention, humiliation, and physical maltreatment by Punjab police of the 83-year-old Bapu Surat Singh and his family, simply for exercising the right to peaceful protest through a hunger strike. All reports highlight the Punjab police’s increasing abuse and the courts’ apathy in the face of this abuse, while mainstream media remains silent, reportedly under government orders.
Surat Singh, began his peaceful protest in his village home on January 16, 2015. He is calling for the release of Sikhs political prisoners, who have been imprisoned during the conflict in the 1980s and 1990s and many who have been in jail for 15-20 years and some longer than 20 years.
Surat Singh and his son Ravinderjit Singh have been charged with “apprehension of breach of peace and tranquility of an area” (107) and “arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences” (151). Surat Singh is being force fed through a feeding tube stitched to his face, while family is denied access or medical reports, and no photograph of him has been allowed since February 26. Ravinderjit Singh has been in police custody since February 26, has been brought to court 5 times and not heard, but was subject to an unprovoked beaten by the police outside the courthouse on April 15, with no repercussions for the offending officers.
We stand with Bapu Surat Singh, his son Ravinderjeet Singh, his daughter Sarvarinder Kaur and their families who have been facing all pressures with grace, continuing to uphold their commitment to non-violence. Their principled responses raises for us the obvious irony: doesn’t the charge of “breach of peace” here in fact fit the behavior of the Punjab police officials headed by Sumedh Singh Saini and sanctioned by the Punjab government?
In solidarity, Signatories:
Surat Singh was a primary school government teacher who resigned June 5, 1984, in protest against the Indian Army’s attack on Darbar Sahib (for Sikhs, akin to the Vatican or Mecca or the Temple of David). He spent one year in jail under National Security Act, but was never charged. In 2011, he had fasted in solidarity with Anna Hazare’s hunger strike against corruption. In 2015, he cited Gurbaksh Khalsa, who had earlier sat on hunger strike for political prisoners, but had given up his fast in January 2015. Surat Singh said he felt a moral obligation to see such a protest to its logical end.
Surat Singh, began his peaceful protest in his village home on January 16, 2015, for the release of Sikh political prisoners who have completed their jail terms but are still behind bars. On February 8, 2015, his house was stormed by the police and Surat Singh was forcibly put in hospital. On February 26, the hospital was raided and son Ravinderjit Singh was taken into custody and other family was threatened with dire consequences, including the planting of false murder charges against Ravinderjit Singh, should Surat Singh not stop his strike.
Despite the calls by several civil rights groups, the situation has not improved.
Surat Singh’s health situation is unknown to his family and doctors have stopped sharing updates with the family. He is being force-fed through a tube stitched on to his face and is increasingly isolated from his family; not a single photograph of Surat Singh in his deteriorating condition has been allowed since February 26.
Son Ravinderjit Singh, has been in police custody since February 26, for no criminal act, rather for supporting his father in the hospital. He has repeatedly been intimidated and asked to have his father withdraw his strike. He has been taken to the court 5 times, but no hearings have taken place.
On April 15, outside the courthouse, Ravinderjit Singh was first verbally abused by police officers who had brought him to the court, and then taken to a holding cell where several officers beat him, kicking and punching, including with a chain wrapped around one wrist. The family had to seek the intervention of the U.S. Consulate—since Ravinderjit Singh is a U.S. citizen—to begin the process of obtaining medical attention to Ravinderjit Singh.
While not commenting on the flagrant violations of officers on April 15, the current Director General of Police of Punjab, Mr. Sumedh Singh Saini, has earlier dismissed Surat Singh’s protests, declaring all demands are “illogical” and “unreasonable” and not acknowledging the peaceful nature of the protest, the human rights violations in the state action against Surat Singh and his associates. Lawyers’ charges that DIG has misstated Surat Singh’s demands, have not been carried by mainstream media. DIG Saini is a conflict-era officer is currently facing a 1994 triple murder trial in New Delhi CBI Courts.
The principled and non-violent protest of Bapu Surat Singh to conflict-era issues exemplifies how a society can move forward post-violence. The Punjab government is now allowing this rather continuing the human rights violations in the state action.
“An old man’s fast-unto-death that the Punjab government does not want you to hear about”
“Demand for Sikh prisoners’ release ‘illogical and unlawful’, says DGP”
CBI court fast-tracks kidnap and murder case as victim’s mother, 97, begs to ‘die peacefully’
“Akali veteran on fast-unto-death.” https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-otherstates/akali-veteran-on-fastuntodeath/article6888788.ece?textsize=large&test=1
PUCL slams Punjab for ‘inhuman treatment’ of activist, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pucl-slams-punjab-for-inhuman-treatment-of-activist/article7046458.ece
https://sikhsiyasat.net/2015/02/28/family-members-sikh-bodies-and-intellectuals-condemn-force-feeding-of-bapu-surat-singh/ “Family members, Sikh bodies and intellectuals condemn force-feeding of Bapu Surat Singh
“Stop force feeding Bapu Surat Singh immediately and allow free access to him”