SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 22, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — South Asian diaspora will unite with state legislators and community organizers in California on Friday, May 22 at 3:30 pm to rally at the State Capitol Building in honor of Surat Singh Khalsa, a permanent resident of the United States who lives near Stockton, CA but has been on hunger strike in Punjab, India since January 16 to demand release of political prisoners.
“On May 22, Khalsa will have been hungry for justice for 126 days,” says Bhajan Singh, Founding Director of Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI), one of the groups sponsoring the rally. “Over the past four months, his family has faced political persecution in India while his state representatives at home were passing a resolution recognizing the 1984 Sikh Genocide that originally instigated his democratic protest. Indian jails are full of political prisoners arrested for peacefully dissenting from their government, including other hunger strikers like Irom Sharmila of Manipur, and we will stand with Khalsa for their freedom.”
Speakers at the rally will include Jada Bernard (OFMI), Punit Khalsa (an American Sikh activist), Mandeep Kaur Dhillon (one of Surat Singh Khalsa’s five daughters), Pieter Friedrich (Sikh Information Centre), and Fr. Joshua Lickter (Incarnation Anglican Church), and staff from the office of Assemblymember Susan Eggman (who represents Lathrop, Khalsa’s hometown).
Surat Singh Khalsa, a lifelong human rights activist, immigrated to the United States in 1988 not long after being shot by police who, unprovoked, opened fire on demonstrators outside the Punjab Legislative Assembly during a protest demanding redress for the 1984 Sikh Genocide.
On March 10, the City of Stockton (home to the oldest Sikh-American community in the country) recognized the tragedy, stating in a resolution: “Sikhs suffered a genocide in June 1984, when the Indian government launched a full-scale military invasion of the Sikh Harmandir Sahib…. Sikhs suffered another genocide in November 1984, when Sikh communities in the capital of India, New Delhi, and other areas, were systematically targeted for murder by roving bands headed by political party members and members of parliament.” In April, the California State Legislature followed suit, unanimously passing a similar resolution.
Since March, OFMI has worked with Khalsa’s family to draw attention to his cause. On February 8, Khalsa was arrested in India for being on hunger strike and force-fed for 73 days. On February 26, his son Ravinderjit Singh Gogi (a U.S. citizen) was arrested for visiting his father, who was detained by police at a civil hospital. Gogi was jailed, held for two months without arraignment, and tortured in custody.
Seven California congressional representatives joined an April 15 letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to “assist” Gogi and Khalsa. Both were released from Indian police custody within two weeks. Khalsa’s family in California is now appealing to representatives to speak in honor of Khalsa’s struggle.
Pieter Friedrich | 530-906-1233 | Email