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Sikhs protest human rights violations

By Suzanne Sen
February 2015
Sikhs protest human rights violations

Gurmeet Kaur gives details on the 7 prisoners. (Photos: Suzanne Sen)

Sikhs around the world have been protesting peacefully against a grave violation of human rights and demanding justice. On January 7, 2015 about 100 members of the Sikh Community of Georgia gathered in front of the Indian Consulate in Atlanta. Led by Gurmeet Kaur, Gursharan Singh Pannu, Kuldip Singh, Inderpreet Singh and Manbir Singh, they had an appointment with the Consul General to present him a memorandum asking him urgently to communicate with the government of India to press for resolution of a long-standing human rights issue for Sikh prisoners of conscience and also for saving the life of Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa, a 49-year-old Sikh farmer on continuous hunger strike since November 14, 2014 for this cause. They were not able to meet with Consul General Ajit Kumar, but after standing for two hours despite freezing temperature and cold wind to show solidarity with Mr. Khalsa and support his movement “#HungerforFreedom” (covered by TV Asia), the memorandum was presented to consular representatives who came outside to the barricades that had been erected to keep the group on the sidewalk. Asked if the consulate is in direct contact with the Prime Minister, because of the urgency of the issue, there was no definitive answer, but a promise to give the papers to the Consul General.

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 The January 7, 2015 gathering at the Atlanta Consulate begins. Gurmeet Kaur, organizer of the Atlanta event, speaks.

The prisoners in question include men who have no criminal history other than supporting the political movement against the state. Seven have been detained by the Government of India for 18 to 23 years, a period far in excess of the minimum mandatory 14 years at which life sentences are usually released. Khalsa protests that the sentences have been unusually harsh and some have been imposed despite any evidence or on fabricated cases. Most were convicted under laws that were repealed by the Government itself after pressure from international human rights organizations. The cases fall under "Category I" cases as identified by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, cases where "[I]t is clearly impossible to invoke any legal basis justifying the deprivation of liberty (as when a person is kept in detention after the completion of his sentence or despite an amnesty law applicable to him)."

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Organizers Gurmeet Kaur (far left), Gursharan Singh Pannu (with mic).

 

The Sikh community’s concern is continuous violation of human rights and injustice to minorities in India. After over 30 years, Sikhs are unable to get justice for some 50,000 Sikhs who were killed during 1984 to 1992, says Atlantan Gursharan Pannu. Sikhs who, in protest of these atrocities, engaged in warfare against the state have been jailed for life and have not been allowed parole. Khalsa raised his voice the first time in 2013; he ended that 44-day fast when some of the prisoners were allowed temporary parole and on the assurance that the rest will follow. However, this has not happened, so after a year he resumed his hunger strike. Supporters around the globe fasted with him on December 25. On January 1, nearly 100,000 arrived by his side to show their respect. On January 7, worldwide protests were held. Khalsa was admitted to hospital on January 10, and ceased his fast on January 15 after 64 days, per directions of the Sikh supporters worldwide, Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee, and family members of the political prisoners, with the understanding that legal ways to continue the movement will be pursued with full force.

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Kuldip Singh speaking at the event.
Elders offer prayers.

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Presenting the memorandum to the consulate staff.


Website Bonus Feature

Photo Gallery:
https://www.facebook.com/inderpreet/media_set?set=a.10153528248721040&type=1

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Mr. Angad Singh, son of Gurmeet Kaur, tells an American youth's perspective. Shaloo Kaur and others listen as a youth leads a call and response.

Videos from the Atlanta event:
https://www.facebook.com/sikhstudycircle , 
https://www.facebook.com/inderpreet/media_set?set=vb.805966039&type=2
Mr. Angad Singh, son of Gurmeet Kaur, telling American youth perspective: Angad Singh grew up in Alpharetta, is now a student in NYC.
Sikh minorities in India being held past minimum mandatory sentence, simply because they are Sikhs. Other non-Sikhs have been released. “India is the world’s largest democracy. As a citizen of the US who has grown up in democratic culture, who’s been around these values, it really makes me sad to know that the country that I love and care for, India, that is home to the heritage of my people, whom the Sikhs have stood up for time and time again in the past. …is the source of an injustice to their own people. That makes me grieve."
https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153527821661040&pnref=story

Dr. Inderpaul Singh:  “Human rights is the central issue here. We are very troubled by the fact that some human rights violations have occurred in different parts of the world, but we least expect that from our own country, India. We have high respect for India…we must all work together to solve these problems.”

Another participant: “These people have no criminal history, they are just political prisoners who supported a cause… Mr. Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa has put his life on the line to bring awareness … The governments are not listening… We stand behind him as a community to stop these injustices.”

Links:
“56 Days Hungry — Activist Stays Steadfast for Human Rights” by Gurmeet Kaur https://medium.com/@gurmeetkaur/56-days-hungry-activist-stays-steadfast-for-human-rights-a5b3c4069f74

“Atlanta Sikhs join Worldwide Protests against India as activist starves for the 55th day”
by Gurmeet Kaur | Posted January 7, 2015 | Atlanta, Georgia
http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1204532

Background: what happened in the 1980s:
“India: No Justice for 1984 Anti-Sikh Bloodshed” - October 29, 2014
“Successive Indian governments’ failure to prosecute those most responsible for killings and other abuses during the 1984 anti-Sikh violence highlights India’s weak efforts to combat communal violence. The new Indian government should seek police reforms and to enact a law against communal violence that would hold public officials accountable for complicity and dereliction of duty.”
http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/10/29/india-no-justice-1984-anti-sikh-bloodshed

“The Forgotten Prisoners: An MASR Fact Sheet”
By Inderjeet Singh Jaijee, Convenor, Movement Against State Repression.
The Sikh Review, April 2003
http://www.shaheed-khalsa.com/masr.html

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Gurmeet Kaur gives details on the 7 prisoners.

Details on some of the prisoners:
http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/kaleidoscope/sikh-prisoners-ins--outs-of-jail-terms/28539.html

End of this hunger strike:
http://sikhsiyasat.net/2015/01/16/gurbaksh-singh-khalsa-finishes-off-his-hunger-strike-drinks-fruit-juice-on-assurance-by-dsgmc/

What you can do:
“Petition US Congress to pressure India to release political prisoners
5,508 Letters Sent So Far”
http://www.petition2congress.com/13121/petition-us-congress-to-pressure-india-to-release-political-priso/
“Petition the President of India”
https://www.change.org/p/president-of-india-release-of-sikh-prisoners-who-have-completed-their-sentence/share?after_sign_exp=default&just_signed=true

Contacts:
Gurmeet Kaur, Gursharan Singh Pannu, Inderpreet Singh, Kuldip Singh, Manbir Singh, Aasees Kaur
singhni@gmail.com, Gspannu08@yahoo.com, vimpy@hotmail.com, kuldipsinghus@gmail.com, mannysingh1@comcast.net, kaur.aasees@gmail.com



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