Commemorating Human Rights Day: Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa's Fight for the Rights of Sikh Political Prisoners

Every year, the United Nations commemorates Human Rights Day on 10 December. In its steadfast commitment to uphold human rights for all, the annual observance urges individuals to stand up for someone’s rights.

One prime example of this act is 83-year-old Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa. Marking 700 days of hunger strike on 15 December, 2016, Bapu Surat Singh has been standing up for the rights of Sikh political prisoners in India.

Since 16 January, 2015, he has endured 700 days of mental and physical abuse by the Indian authorities, all to bring attention to the political prisoners still desiccating in jail. During that time, he has been forcibly removed from his home on several occasions, with the use of aggressive force, and taken to hospitals for months of unlawful force feeding. (WARNING: graphic content below).

Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa at home in Hassanpur, Punjab during his hunger strike.
Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa at home in Hassanpur, Punjab during his hunger strike.

Contrary to what the Punjab Government continues to say in this matter, several political prisoners have been released due to Bapu Surat Singh’s effort. Insisting it is not in their jurisdiction to release Sikh political prisoners, the Punjab Government chooses to ignore Bapu Surat Singh’s plight, while other Indian states have released prisoners on humanitarian grounds. The common excuses of life imprisonment, TADA Act convictions, and the state government lacking power to do so, have all been proven false in the permanent release of prisoners that fall under these criteria.

Waryam Singh (left) was permanently released from Bareilly Jail in Uttar Pradesh at the age of 70. Singh was convicted under
Waryam Singh (left) was permanently released from Bareilly Jail in Uttar Pradesh at the age of 70. Singh was convicted under the TADA Act and spent more than 25 years in jail as a political prisoner.

To that end, what continues is the maltreatment of Bapu Surat Singh and these prisoners. Bapu Surat Singh’s physical appearance has gone through drastic changes, deteriorating from a once robust figure to protruding bones, and has now distressingly become a medical specimen, continually being injected with undisclosed substances by hospital personnel.

Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa being force-fed at a hospital in Punjab, India.
Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa being force-fed at a hospital in Punjab, India.

When we speak of standing up for someone’s rights, Bapu Surat Singh’s struggle personifies every word and message of that sentence. He put aside his home, family and personal well-being to undertake this mission for the sole purpose of bettering others’ lives.

Genuine love is a rare thing to see in this world. As our social environment continues to change and we desperately seek to spread love in a time that seems to harbor hate, it’s individuals like Bapu Surat Singh that show us it’s possible.

Released Sikh political prisoner Waryam Singh meeting Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa for the first time in DMC Hospital and College
Released Sikh political prisoner Waryam Singh meeting Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa for the first time in DMC Hospital and College in Ludhiana, Punjab.

For years, many Sikhs worldwide couldn’t fathom the idea of these prisoners being released. All awareness efforts seemed to be futile and ended in these prisoners returning to jail. Bapu Surat Singh’s struggle broke through that doubt and disappointment.

For 700 days, he has shown true resolve. For 700 days, he has shown human rights are possible in the direst situations. For 700 days, Bapu Surat Singh has shown what can happen when one person takes a stand.

Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa with his granddaughter
Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa with his granddaughter

To help raise awareness for Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa’s hunger strike, a team of dedicated volunteers have organized various campaigns and social media events. For the latest updates and information, please follow:

Email: freesikhpoliticalprisoners@gmail.com

Poster detailing how one can help raise awareness for Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa and Sikh political prisoners (Courtesy of graph
Poster detailing how one can help raise awareness for Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa and Sikh political prisoners (Courtesy of graphic designer Vikram Singh)
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