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Today Is The 51st Day In Gurbaksh Singh’s Journey

GURMEET KAUR

 

 

 

The following are some excerpts from my FaceBook wall, leading up to the latest -- today's -- entry.

 

DAY 2
Nov 15, 2014 - He is back with more determination, although with a weary body from his 44-day of hunger strike last year. Bhai Gurbaksh Singh was promised by the Jathedar of the Akal Takht that he would personally pursue the matter of the Sikh political prisoners but to no avail. Gurbaksh Singh waited for a whole year, went around Punjab gathering support for his cause, reminding the Jathedar of his broken promises, and giving him and the government many months of notice to act.

This time around, he was not allowed to hold his morcha (protest) at any gurdwara in Punjab. So he worked it out with Gurdwara Lakhnaur Sahib in Ambala, Haryana, where he grew up and was initiated into the Khalsa. .

DAY 21
Dec 5, 2014 - A few of us got together and wrote to the Governor of Georgia explaining that this a human rights situation and that it affects our families in Punjab and thus of direct consequence to the Sikh Community of Georgia.

DAY 22
Dec 6, 2014  - We, the sangat in Atlanta are collecting signatures and faxing/emailing letters to the Indian Embassy to make our thoughts known (and hopefully heard) in support of Bhai Gurbaksh Singh and his movement to free arbitrarily detained #SikhPoliticalPrisoners in #India. We are asking the Indian Ambassador to convey our feelings to the authorities in India. 

DAY 37
Dec 20, 2014 - This is what how we celebrated my daughter's 4th birthday. The children in my Punjabi class worked on coloring a picture of Bhai Gurbaksh Singh as we discussed the meaning of freedom, imprisonment, and our responsibilities to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. We talked about leadership that Gurbaksh Singh is showing. We talked about his selfless sacrifice. Will you join our children and stand up for the rights of our brothers, most of whom have not had a single parole visit to their families in the last 20+ years?

DAY 41
Dec 24, 2014 - I was not expecting to speak to him, I didn't even ask for him for I don't want to waste even a calorie of his energy. I was speaking to Gurpreet Singh Guri (his spokesperson) to tell him that we have hundreds of supporters who, along with me, will be going hungry on the 25th to show our solidarity. Gurpreet Singh handed the phone over to Bhai Sahib. I could only tell him with a very teary voice that we are with him and for the last 40 days each meal that goes into my body goes with a prayer that it nurtures his body and movement as well. His voice was full of gratitude and he sent his Fateh to all. He also was not happy about my crying, but who would not?

DAY 48
Dec 31, 2014 -  His body is fully depleted in terms of health. His urine sample has started showing presence of ketones and his body is emitting odors from Ketoacidosis (resulting from body breaking down its own muscles due to starvation), indicative of the final stage of starvation or cannibalism when the body begins to eat itself.

Usually people can survive 2 - 6 weeks without food depending on the body fat they have. Gurbaksh Singh, having survived for seven weeks despite his lean body (which has taken the strain and toll of starvation 12 months earlier, for 44 days and not having had the opportunity to replenish) is in danger of complete collapse at any moment now.

DAY 49
Jan 1, 2015 - Government ambulances can be seen parked outside the Gurdwara Lakhnaur Sahib. The doctors are forcing to take him to the hospital. He is afraid that the government might end up killing his movement by forcefully removing him and ending his protest to maintain the status quo. He has dodged them for the last couple of days, saying he’ll go with them the next day. He puts up a strong front. But today the local government has asked him to leave Haryana since the 7 prisoners he is focusing on are not in their prisons. He maintains his right to a peaceful protest in his native gurdwara.

DAY 50
Jan 2, 2015 -  “Today is the 50th day of ‪#‎HungerForFreedom and the apathy of my people is killing me. So what if the media, the governments and the powerful have ignored this plea for justice. We have the power to bring to the world attention to this cause. Let’s all speak up for the sake of justice, humanity and human dignity …

The mainstream media has not picked up his story. Every day we spend a few hours to find, update and communicate the latest so we become the media for this war against injustice.

Each of us has hundreds of friends and followers on FB. Let’s use that power. We can start by changing our profile picture and updating the description associated with it.

My profile picture - #IamGurbakshSingh has the following description:

A 49-year-old Sikh farmer, a civil rights activist, Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa is on a hunger strike unto death, in #India from Nov 14, 2014 with little attention or reaction from the present government.

He has been conducting his nonviolent protest, his hunger strike, at Gurdwara Lakhnaur Sahib, Ambala, in the state of Haryana. [In a neighbouring state, because the politicians of Punjab, under pressure from the Central Government, will not let him do it in Punjab.] He is demanding the release of political prisoners who have long since served their complete jail terms -- all of the 7 prisoners he has focused on (lifers; including one whose capital punishment has finally been commuted to life after 19 years) have served the minimum mandatory of 14 years and most of them are being held without parole for over 20 years. (In India, most life-term prisoners are granted early release after serving  minimum mandatory 14 years in prison.)


This is Gurbaksh Singh’s second hunger strike. His strike in 2013 received much attention nationally and internationally with Sikh protests across India and the world. He ended that fast when some of the prisoners were allowed temporary parole and on the assurance that the rest would follow. However, since there has still been little movement on addressing the issue of all the prisoners, he has once again called attention to the issue. He is now in the throes of a fast unto death -- a protest he resumed on the one year anniversary of his 2013 hunger-strike.

This year the media and the government are paying no attention to him. His body has entered the final stage of starvation. The local authorities want to throw him out. He is steadfast but without  international attention to this cause, his life will vanish in vain. He is fighting for the right of all prisoners, not just Sikhs. Your help in sharing this cause on the social media may go a long way. Please change your profile pictures and cover page to make his just cause known. Thank you!

I support Bhai #GurbakshSinghKhalsa and his peaceful movement #HungerforFreedom to #FreeSikhPoliticalPrisoners

https://www.facebook.com/gurmeet.kaur.7140497

January 3, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Kulvinder JIt Kaur (Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada), January 03, 2015, 8:52 AM.

What do they call "... doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"? [Albert Einstein] -- My dearest Sikh brothers and sisters: please don't get me wrong. I support the cause taken up by Bhai Gurbaksh Singh. I respect his self-sacrificing stance for the Sikh prisoners being illegally detained in India's prisons. However, it is important to know and understand the Institution / System you are dealing with when you take any step. I know many will not agree with me but I would suggest that we should try and save the life of such a noble Sikh. His life is precious. Every Sikh's life is precious. If his hunger strike did not bring the desired results the last time, what makes us think that it will do it this time? Save him. Please. We need these kind of Sikhs, alive. I am not suggesting that we abandon the cause but we have to keep changing our modus operandi until we see the desired results. Self-immolation is not one of them. Instead of pleading and crying for justice from those that are not paying any heed to us, please plead and convince Bhai Gurbaksh Singh to give up the hunger strike and fight on for this cause for the rest of his life with the support of ALL Sikhs, in India and abroad. Let our think-tanks work to get India's judicial system changed not only for the Sikhs but all who are unfairly imprisoned.

2: Rup Singh (Canada), January 03, 2015, 12:02 PM.

@ 1 - After his first hunger strike, "Bhai Gurbaksh Singh was promised by the Jathedar of the Akal Takht that he would personally pursue the matter of the Sikh political prisoners but to no avail." So now he is doing it again to actually force the Jathedar to do what he promised. How can we Sikhs respect a jathedar who won't keep his word in relation to his own people? Perhaps the calendar issue is too important. I actually respect Bhai Gurbaksh Singh for single-handedly bringing attention to the plight of those still languishing in Indian jails without any justification. Also, I will say there are no think tanks in India that will work to make the judicial system fair for all, rather the opposite, as proven again and again. Also the Jathedar has forced Bhai Sahib to not hold his hunger strike in any gurdwara in Punjab, but Rahul Gandhi was allowed to visit Darbar Sahib. How come the five jathedars have not gone on public record to ban the Gandhi family, Zail Singh's family, the generals who carried the attacks on Darbar Sahib, from visiting gurdwaras? But if a Sikh wants to raise a Sikh issue he gets banned. Funny how things work, eh? A happy New Year to everyone.

3: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, USA), January 03, 2015, 12:03 PM.

Kulvinder ji, ideally your thoughts make sense and it was the same emotion that was misused by politicians into manipulating Bhai Sahib to give up his fast in 2013. Everyone was relieved and pledged their support for a more organized movement. (Well, not everyone; just his well-wishers like you.) Gurbaksh Singh tried all in his power and his capacity to keep the momentum and follow up on the movement that was already built. He went from one organization to another trying to rally support and finding ways. But we have become a people of words and only words and if things don't serve our ego we don't invest anything there. All those who supported him last time around were either offended that he did not include them in negotiations with the Akal Takht Jathedar (I understand their sentiments; especially because they were afraid of manipulations) or were upset at him for breaking the fast and accused him of not honoring his word. He tried to reach BJP since the power at the center changed in 2014, and the Khalistanis called him an RSS agent. He had so much beating the last year that he had no choice but to resort to the only thing he knew the best - going back to honor his words this time. Saving him, as we learnt the last time, did no good. He says: "It feels like poison if you tell me to stop the fast." I personally did not agree with the methods, the location, the lack of organization, etc., but, hey - what did I do the whole year to help him? So I am here doing my best to support him in the way he thinks is right. I honor him for following his destiny as best he understands it.

4: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, USA), January 03, 2015, 12:19 PM.

Please write to the PM of India. It will take you a couple of minutes to register and send the message that is included here - or write your own. http://unitedsikhs.org/calltoactionforsikhprisoners/

5: Kaala Singh (Punjab), January 03, 2015, 1:01 PM.

I am sorry to say this. The Akal Takht of today is controlled by the Akali Dal which is controlled by the BJP. The Akali Dal of today, which is supposed to be a Sikh political party representing Sikh interests, is sadly not what it used to be. Sikh issues can only be resolved if a political party truly dedicated to Sikh interests comes to power in Punjab and takes up these issues, along with building international pressure.

6: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, USA), January 03, 2015, 1:07 PM.

Also another decently written petition to the President of India has just ben launched on change.org - Please sign and share: http://tinyurl.com/ml8zyt3

7: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), January 03, 2015, 1:25 PM.

@4: How exactly should we word this letter to the Prime Minister of India? "Dear Mr Modi, as you know we Sikhs are actually Hindus and it would be in your best interest to help your fellow coreligionists. By the way, the guy we are trying to save also took arms against the Hindu government in the 90's but just pretend like that didn't happen and help this fellow patriot of Bharat. Jai Hind." Do we seriously think that sending petitions to these jokers will inject any humanity or decency into them?

8: Gobinder Singh (USA), January 03, 2015, 1:36 PM.

I went to my local gurdwara and they were asking everyone to sign a petition that Sikhs are not Hindus so that Obama can bring it up during his trip to India. First of all, there's not a chance that it'll happen. Then, my question to them is, what good would it do? Are we so gullible that we don't understand that these efforts and precious resources are wasted on signing petitions which can bear no fruit? The question then is: what can we really do to support Bhai Gurbaksh Singh ji and his cause? For starters, how about if we spread the word of his struggle and illegal detention of Sikhs in Indian prisons> Why have no international media and other organizations picked up this story so far? Stop paying for channels like Zee TV which only support Hindutva and RSS ideologies. Our money can be better spent on media which supports us. Is there a judicial process which can be started simultaneously if detentions are illegal? Which legal firm can take up this case, so thatwe can support them? So far, both Punjab and Haryana governments have declined to even acknowledge that they have any such prisoners in their prisons. Finally, can we pledge to completely ban and stop supporting these jathedars and their stooges in the local gurdwaras in US / Canada / UK and other countries in the diaspora? If we can't even do any of these things, then we have failed Bhai Sahib's cause and any chance of long term success within our institutions.

9: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, USA), January 03, 2015, 1:47 PM.

@7 - I get your point and appreciate sarcasm, believe me. But consider this: BJP is very vested in taking direct control of the Punjab state (without SAD) and is working hard to win the 2017 State elections. BJP's modus operandi has been to try to impress upon Sikhs that BJP will be a genuine voice for Indian Nationalist Sikhs. For the first time ever, the Home Minister of India, Rajnath Singh - A Hindu, not a Sikh, despite his last name! -- has admitted that the killing of Sikhs in 1984 were not riots but were in fact a Genocide. So it is possible that the BJP would look into these long time incarcerated prisoners and provide some relief. We have to approach this at all levels and from all angles. Besides, do you have better solutions than the theoretical one already mentioned in comment #1?

10: Ujjagar Singh (San Francisco, California, USA), January 03, 2015, 2:27 PM.

Sorry, Gurmeet ji, but ... here we go again! One doesn't start thrashing around, looking for solutions at a time of crisis. This shows we are still at square one. Until and unless we build solid institutions that represent us professionally and with integrity -- at a time when there is no looming crisis, that is, during 'peace time', we'll always find ourselves at this juncture. Years ago, we started the Sikh Coalition and Saldef and United Sikhs, and that's it! Both they and we have failed if we don't have a hundred of them by now, fulfilling these very roles, including nipping at the ankles of those in power. Static stagnancy cannot be mistaken for progress and dynamism. As long as we spend our wealth on Black Friday and Boxing Day sales and not on building our institutions, we will continue to be asking ourselves the very same question you are asking today, over and over again ... like that tedious scene from 'Groundhog Day'! And the BJP? Are you serious? They may be in power, but how can we even think of turning to them, knowing that their openly stated goal is to destroy Sikhs as a separate community and identity? Are we so bereft of ideas? Have we lost all self-respect, and are now willing to demean ourselves before thieves and beggars and bandits and rascals, merely because they've managed to claw themselves into power?

11: Basant Kaur (Chandigarh, Punjab), January 03, 2015, 2:48 PM.

Each one of us will have to be willing to die, if we want to live free and with dignity. And when push comes to shove, some -- nay, many -- will have to die, before we'll be victorious. Think of all the sacrifices that had to be made to overcome the Mughals and the British. It wasn't easy then; it won't be easy now. We now need to be focused on who our enemy is ... and you don't do that by going to bed with it! Let's not obfuscate Gurbaksh Singh's message: he's laying down his life, having reached a point of no return ... when no more compromises can me made.

12: Mohkam Singh (Amritsar, Punjab), January 03, 2015, 2:56 PM.

Chu kaar az hameh heel-te dar guzasht ...

13: Amardeep (USA), January 03, 2015, 3:24 PM.

can we all write to avaaz.org to bring this to international attention? They get millions of petitioners from around the world.

14: Kaala Singh (Punjab), January 03, 2015, 3:39 PM.

I agree with #10. Do we really think that a state which killed more than 30,000 of us in cold blood in a mere 3 days will care if one more Sikh dies? The only answer is building solid and effective institutions dedicated to Sikh interests.

15: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), January 03, 2015, 3:52 PM.

@9: I understand your logic, it makes sense on paper but it will not work in reality. I am aware of the efforts of the BJP in trying to take over Punjab, however we need to realize that this political party is a fundamentalist Hindu organization. For them, it is okay to rape women, murder children and hold individuals without due process because the territorial integrity of the nation -- which they deem a 'Hindu' nation! -- takes priority over any moral or any civilized behaviour. The BJP will not gain anything by releasing from prison individuals who challenged the very idea of Hindutva. It is a complete waste of time. We have to find other ways ...

16: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), January 03, 2015, 3:56 PM.

@11: I think the big problem right now is that our community is still exhausted from the sacrifices made only a few decades ago. The generation born after that phase is dysfunctional. We will have to wait for the next one. I say this while wholeheartedly understanding the hypocrisy of my statement as I am sitting in a civilized, free, western nation where I don't have to worry about my father being beaten to death or my sisters or mother being raped in a jail cell, to lure me into the gun-sights of a corrupt police.

17: Kaala Singh (Punjab), January 03, 2015, 11:43 PM.

@11 & 16: I do not think taking up arms against a far superior foe which can buy world support with billion dollar deals is the answer. The world of today does not view armed struggles favourably. You may consider the example of the Tamils in Sri Lanka: the Tamil Tigers had militarily defeated the Sri Lankan state but then Sri Lankans and Indians convinced the world that the Tamils were "terrorists" and the combined gang of Sri Lanka, India, China, Pakistan and others, with blessings from the Western Bloc, defeated the LTTE and carried out a genocide of the Tamil people and nobody bothered ... just like what happened to Sikhs in 1984. India had been secretly buying world support with commercial deals before it launched the attack on the Golden Temple to give "legitimacy" to its criminal actions in front of the world. We are now aware of the role played by the UK and USSR, time will uncover many other facts. The solution lies in intelligent politics and international pressure. The first step should be to get rid of the corrupt political parties who control Punjab today and building a Sikh political force and making Punjab and the Sikh community as a whole an "economic powerhouse" - capable of giving a few commercial deals to those who matter and buying some time on the international media. Talking about the Sikh armed struggle of the 1980s, it did succeed in the sense that it made the Indian State realize that Sikhs could not be wiped out or crushed using military force and it would have to deal with us politically (hence you see the state-sponsored stooges ruling us). Otherwise the gains were not commensurate with the price paid. Also, we must be wary of external forces trying to use us for their own objectives. Here it is worth mentioning the role played by Pakistan who first promised support to the Sikh armed struggle and when it peaked they made a secret deal with India to demilitarize the Siachen Glacier which had become a military and economic headache for them and in return they helped India crush the Sikh armed struggle. If at all, we must have deterrent capability if India attempts another 1984 to be used as a last resort after clearly demonstrating to the international community that they are "legitimate defensive actions".

18: Kanwarjeet Singh (USA), January 04, 2015, 1:08 AM.

@ All: please read all your comments again. We are at the 51st day of his hunger strike and cannot even agree on what we want, leave alone how to go about achieving it. This is the problem with Sikhs today - we are so self-absorbed in our smaller interests that we have forgotten how to think as a sangat. Look at the Hindus - whatever their differences, they have begun to stand together, at least temporarily, when it comes to propagating yhe Hindu agenda; look at the Muslims, whatever their differences, the final goal is always propagating Islamic values and religious beliefs. Now look at ourselves. Whatever our differences, it always results in gurdwara fights, sucking up to one organization or another to the extent that we have even played into the hands of the evil RSS and the BJP and divided the most sacred of our needs - the Amrit. Today one organization claims their 'Amrit' is better than the others. This can only lead to decline. Unless we pick ourselves from this rut, learn to stay united, stop this nonsense of infighting, we are doomed. We have to learn to be politically smart (not to pick up a kirpan everytime); learn to lose some battles to win the war (for reference, see Guru Gobind Singh ji's life itself) and finally learn that we need political power to survive and build our next generations: "dharam chalana hai raaj de lode hain" - Guru Gobind Singh.

19: Kaala Singh (Punjab), January 04, 2015, 4:19 AM.

Further to my post above #17: 1) India is among the top 5 investors in the UK. 2) India is the second biggest market for British Airways. 3) The UK is one of the biggest investors in the Indian telecom sector. All this is just the tip of the iceberg. Do we see some connection here? What will they possibly gain by supporting the Sikhs? Yes, we became gun-fodder for them in the world wars and other conflicts, but who needs us today? We too should become capable of throwing a few big-ticket deals as in today's world support can only be "bought" and for the powers that be there are no "moral" scruples while deciding whom to support.

20: Gurinder Singh (Stockton, California, USA), January 04, 2015, 5:59 AM.

I agree with Kulwinder Kaur ji. Top priority should be to save Bhai Sahib's life.

21: Kulvanth Kaur (Darlington, Ontario, Canada), January 05, 2015, 4:05 AM.

I've read most of the posts. We can either deliberate or be doers. The Doer works for the greater good. http://pmindia.gov.in/en/login -- this link goes straight to PM Modi, portal link. Send email .."Please refer to United Sikhs Letter on Sikh political prisoners, and Gurbaksh Singh's hunger strike, Day 53. Thank you, Sir." Do it now, please. Time is running out.

22: Kulvinder Jit Kaur (Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada), January 05, 2015, 9:52 AM.

We must first strive to save Bhai Gurbaksh Singh's life (if it is still possible). A living Sikh is of more use to the community than a dead one.(We already have more than 100,000 dead in the last 30 years, to what avail? Most of them gone in the prime of their lives, their families suffering even now both economically and emotionally. Will one more Sikh sacrificed to this cause make a difference?) Let's then continue to send a million, 2 million, 10 million emails to PM Modi. Perhaps use our negotiation skills in every possible way to free the detainees. What will it be like if we lost Bhai Gurbaksh Singh and also failed to liberate the prisoners? We will be left with more of the same: resentment, anger and a feeling of helplessness. Letters, morchas, dharnas, protest marches, resolutions, petitions, accords/agreements, armed retaliation, peacefully filling up the prisons voluntarily and hunger strikes in the past have not yielded the desired results. Sometimes they have actually back-fired and added to our misery. Keeping all the above in mind we can be pro-active with a strategy. Right now we are reacting in emotional desperation. Sure, keep writing to Mr. Modi (never know, he might free the prisoners) but save Bhai Gurbaksh Singh first. The same amount of emails/phone calls to him reminding him that the "matta" passed by the Panth cannot be ignored by him. Even Guru Gobind Singh respected the people's voice. He has to be convinced that passive self immolation is not what the Tenth Guru created the Khalsa for.

23: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, USA), January 10, 2015, 8:59 AM.

In an attempt to give more visibility to Bhai Gurbaksh Singh and his struggle, I will be documenting daily on Medium.com - Please follow me, comment and share so that the story stays alive and perhaps catches attention of the mainstream media and audience. https://medium.com/@gurmeetkaur

24: Harpreet Singh (India), January 11, 2015, 11:57 AM.

As per Punjabi newspapers, one Sikh veer, Sardar Vikram Singh -- (perhaps just taken Amrit, he's alleged to have thrown a shoe at a top politician of Punjab) is on a hunger strike for a full month now at the Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. Not reported in any of the other media, though.

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