Group protesting against human rights violations in Punjab force Punjab minister to stay away from Abbotsford forum (Latest on Surat Singh Khalsa)

 

A group of Sikhs protesting against human rights violations in the state of Punjab in India forced a visiting Punjab minister to cancel his appearance at a public forum at a local banquet hall in the 31800 block of South Fraser Way on Sunday.

According to a report, more than 400 people turned up at the event and all of them could not be accommodated. Also, there was tension between two groups.

One of the protestors told the media that the minister was one of those responsible for the human rights violations.

Protestors held up placards that read: “I support Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa.”

Two days earlier, the World Sikh Organization of Canada had in a press release expressed its concern over the tense situation in Hassanpur in Punjab.

It said: “Bapu Surat Singh, an 82-year activist, has been on hunger strike at his home in Hassanpur since January 16, calling for the release of Sikh political prisoners who have served their minimum sentences but remain imprisoned.

“According to reports, a large contingent of army and police has recently been deployed in Hassanpur and all roads to the village have been heavily barricaded as police and civil administration pressure Bapu Surat Singh to end his hunger strike. A group of Sikh activists are also present at Bapu Surat Singh’s home, vowing to prevent his arrest.  Bapu Surat Singh had previously been arrested and released after being force-fed.”

WSO President Dr. Amritpal Singh Shergill said: “The tense situation in Hassanpur is of grave concern to us.  The release of Sikh prisoners who have served their sentences is a human rights issue and must be addressed immediately. While other prisoners are regularly granted parole and released after serving their minimum sentences, there are many Sikh prisoners who have served decades in prison without release. Sikh prisoners who have served their sentences must be treated like other inmates in the Indian system and allowed the opportunity to return to their families and rebuild their lives.  Bapu Surat Singh has been on his hunger strike for over six months to raise awareness about this issue.   The use of force at this time to end his protest would be deeply troubling and we fear, may have serious repercussions.”

The Tribune newspaper of Punjab reported on Tuesday that Akal Takht had issued a statement seeking release of the Sikh detainees, but didn’t “wholeheartedly” support Khalsa’s movement. “Surat Singh Khalsa was forced to resort to hunger strike for the release of Sikh detainees. It was imperative for the administration to step in to save his life, but the action it initiated at Hassanpur village in Ludhiana was condemnable,” said Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh.

 

ON Wednesday, the Tribune newspaper reported that Surat Singh Khalsa had been moved from Ludhiana’s Civil Hospital to Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) after his condition deteriorated. Khalsa’s son Ravinderpal Singh Goggi said his father had fallen unconscious.

The Tribune said that there was a possibility that he may be moved to the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh or All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi if he did not respond well to the treatment.

The Tribune said: “Sources said the activist had been put on intravenous drip. Supporters gathered outside the emergency ward after news of Khalsa’s deteriorating health spread, prompting the police to step up security.”