December 29, 2013
Amritsar, Panjab, India: Gurbakash Singh, Sikh Rights Activist who started his indefinite hunger strike on November 14, seeking release of six Sikh prisoners, finally ended his 44 days hunger strike on Friday, December 27.
On December 25, Jathedar of Akal Takht (the Supreme temporal seat of Sikhism) met with Gurbakash Singh at Gurudwara Amb Sahib, Mohali, Panjab and directed him to break his indefinite hunger strike. Following the Jathedhar’s dictat and release on parole of four Sikh prisoners, Gurbakash Singh announced the end of his hunger strike at Akal Takht, Amritsar, Panjab and later accepted a glass of juice.
Gurbakash Singh, man behind “Freedom of Sikh Prisoners movement” (Sikh Bandi Rehai Lehar) has been asking the State and Central Governments to release six Sikh prisoners who have already completed between 18- 23 years of their sentences.
It is notable that out of the six convicts, Lakhwinder Singh, Shamsher Singh, Gurmeet Singh and Lal Singh are released on parole. The other two Wariam Singh (Uttar Pradesh) and Gurdeep Singh Khera (Karnataka) are still waiting for their release. These six prisoners have completed the minimum mandatory term of their sentences.
Gurmeet Singh, Lakhwinder and Shamsher Singh were arrested in 1995 under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act also known as TADA and they have been in jail since then. Despite serving for almost 18 years and having an impeccable post-conviction record, they were never granted parole.
Lal Singh, who already has served almost 21 years in prison, has been granted Six weeks release on parole but not a permanent release.
While talking to Voices For Freedom (VFF), Gurmeet Singh’s mother, Surjit Kaur said, “I am very happy to see my son out of prison. I had lost all hope to ever see him in house during my lifetime.” She thanked everyone for fighting for the release of Gurmeet Singh.
Harpal Singh Cheema, member of the Organizing Committee of the ‘Freedom of Sikh Prisoners Movement’ said, “The objective of the movement was to spread awareness about the plight of Sikh prisoners who are languishing in jails for long. The love and support of the community has made it possible.”
Requesting everyone to keep the spirit of the movement alive he added, “ Ending this hunger strike, is not the end of the movement, we would continue to struggle to secure the release of all other Sikh detainees.”
It is notable, Gurbakash Singh demanded permanent release of six Sikhs prisoners under Articles 72 and 161 of the Indian Constitution which empowers appropriate authorities to remit or commute a sentence. By refusing their release in past, India also violated, Article 26 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1976, which guarantees equal protection of law and non discrimination on the basis of race, religion or sex.
VFF urges India to work in compliance with these international rights and also Article 60(2) of International Standards for the Treatment of Prisoners, which ensures reformation and rehabilitation and guides institutions (prisons) to take appropriate steps for pre-release and gradual return to life in society.
Voices For Freedom would thank everyone for supporting this movement and would request to continue their support. VFF will continue the pursuit of justice for the Sikh prisoners and make sure that they are not discriminated because of their faith.