Campaign for Release of Sikh Prisoners The Sikh Council UK reaffirms support for the ongoing campaign for the release of Sikh prisoners in India.

The campaign has recently received a massive boost due to the ongoing and lengthy hunger strike by Bapu Surat Singh. Many of the prisoners were imprisoned during the 1980’s and 1990’s using extremely regressive and draconian legislation that was specifically enacted and gave extraordinary powers to the Police and Army.

This was in response to a campaign in support of the legitimate claims of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution including for improved access to water and electricity, recognition for the Punjabi language, location of the State capital within the State etc – in effect a campaign for better rights and treatment for the State and its people. Indiscriminate use of these powers has subsequently been described as genocide of Sikhs. A campaign has continued for many years for the release of these prisoners some of whom have already served extremely lengthy sentences, or may be in ill health, or are very elderly. In some cases the legitimacy of the conviction itself can be questioned and in some cases the imprisoned person is subject to further proceedings in cases that have already spanned many years.

Sikh Council UK commends all those in the Punjab and across the world who have campaigned for many years on this issue and worked to support the prisoners and their families. The hunger strike by Bapu Surat Singh has served to galvanise the community behind the campaign and through his personal sacrifice, Bapu Surat Singh has raised awareness of the issue in a manner that is unprecedented.

Sikh Council UK is aware there are essentially two strands to the ongoing campaign – legal and political. It is important that both of these strands are pursued simultaneously to seek redress for the individual prisoners but also to effect change for the better in India. Sikh Council UK believes all efforts need to continue to take full advantage of due legal recourse and processes.

A recent decision by the Supreme Court has restored the power of discretion available to State Governments, albeit with some exceptions. Where appropriate these powers of discretion should be vigorously pursued. Sikh Council UK is also aware that a number of Sikh prisoners have repeatedly been granted parole on a number of occasions. Based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds Sikh Council UK calls on these prisoners to be granted indefinite parole.

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