“Non-violence is a piece of theatre. You need an audience. What can you do when you have no audience? People have the right to resist annihilation.” -Arundhati roy
CHANDIGARH—Since Bhai Gurbaksh Singh started his hunger strike on November 14, the mainstream media of India, as well as the state machinery has largely ignored Bhai Sahib’s protest and demands once again exposing the biased and oppressive nature of the Indian establishment.
With his hunger strike, Bhai Gurbaksh Singh has poured life into the fire of our sangarsh and has successfully mobilized the kaum to shift from reactive protest to proactive agitation. Instead of protesting in reaction to the state’s incessant abuses, the kaum has has come together on a united platform to push forward towards the liberation of Punjab – beginning with the freedom of Punjab’s imprisoned sons.
At the same time, Bhai Sahib’s protest shines a light on the repressive tactics of the Indian state and the stifling of democratic dissent by the “world’s largest democracy.” The frequency with which such events have taken place in past years are unequivocally clear – the Indian state will not allow any democratic space to be used to challenge its deathgrip on the lives of millions of national minorities, farmers, and others. From the passing of draconian legislation granting immunity to brutal security forces, to banning various farmers’ unions and other civilian organizations, and to shooting and killing protestors – the message is clear and has been understood by Sikh youth like Bhai Hawara.
When the oppressed masses are continually and consistently denied the right to protest and have their voices heard, what choice are Sikh youth and other dissenters left with to fight for their economic, political, and cultural rights?
Letter by Jathedar Jagtar Singh Hawara:
Vaaheguroo Jee Kaa Khalsa! Vaaheguroo Jee Kee Fateh!
As the Sangat is aware, Bhai Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa has undertaken an indefinite hunger strike since November 14 at Gurduara Amb Sahib, Mohali for the release of those Sikh youth who remain unjustly imprisoned. Five Singhs; Bhai Lal Singh Akaalgarh (Nabha Jail), Bhai Shamsher Singh, Bhai Lakhwinder Singh, Bhai Gurmeet Singh (all in Bural Jail), and Bhai Gurdeep Singh Khaira (Karnatka Jail) all remain behind bars even though they have completed their sentences pronounced by the courts. Despite being on hunger strike for the past two weeks, neither the government nor the Hindi media has acknowledged Bhai Sahib’s protest or demands. While various Punjabi and Panthik media outlets have covered the story, the government has not even taken notice.
On one hand, long grandiose speeches are made that India is a peace-loving country. Those who feel forced to resort to armed struggle in order to defend their rights are encouraged to engage in non-violent struggle instead. On the other hand however, it has been proven time and time again that those engaging in non-violent resistance will be consistently ignored. Bhai Gurbaksh Singh’s case is yet further evidence of this.
Are the government and mainstream media not endorsing the belief that the only way to send a message through to the deaf ears of the state is through armed struggle? It is undeniable that if instead of a hunger strike Bhai Gurbaksh Singh had set off an explosion, the government, the media, and other Brahmanical forces would have been crying themselves hoarse until now. Now, when one Singh of the Guru has remained hungry for the past two weeks to have his just demands heard, what message is the conspiratorial silence of these institutions sending?
This intentional silence, this state-sponsored message should be clearly understood that “We don’t care about non-violent protest and hunger strikes, we only hear the sound of bullets and explosions.”
Sending this message, how can they then hope for peace?
Whatever happens Khalsa Jee, the Sikh Nation should not remain silent. In each and every village and city, a movement to support Bhai Gurbaksh Singh’s struggle should be organized. What motive does the government have behind not releasing those Singhs who have already spent more time in prison than they were sentenced to?
Our brother has taken a great step in our national struggle, and it is our responsibility to organize and mobilize a strong movement until the demands of Bhai Gurbaksh Singh are met. All Panthik jathebandis must unite and come up with a course of action to secure the release of those Singhs who have already completed their sentences. Rallies and protest marches should be organized everywhere so that this deaf government can hear our voice and it can be carried around the world. If the state continues to ignore our demands, then we will come up with the next phase of action.
Servant of the Guru-Panth,
Jagtar Singh Hawara
Jail No. 4
Tihar Jail, New Delhi
Commentary and translation done by the Baagi Media Network.Baagi Media can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org