Sikh leaders had big hopes as they came to see Bapu Surat Singh this past week. While the police at the DMC Hospital has stopped the Sikhs from visiting him, these leaders were allowed to visit the 82 year old Bapu from the back door of the hospital. The Akal Takht Sahib appointed Jathedar, along with the SGPC President visited Bapu Surat Singh recently to convince him to end his six month long hunger strike. Their fate was similar to that of Punjab DGP Sumedh Saini who too had to return empty handed as Bapu refused to entertain his pleas until the release of Sikh political prisoners.
Having used all tactics to disrupt the growing support for Bapu Surat Singh, it seems that the game is not in the hands of the Akali Government anymore. However, now a national level smear campaign has been initiated to destroy the peaceful struggle.
After the Gurdaspur attack, the Indian media has played a significant role in maligning the struggle of Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa. The terror attack in Gurdaspur had no affiliation with Khalistanis, and nor did it follow the same patterns as plots by prominent Sikh insurgency groups during the 1990s – the media however attempted to associate it with the Khalistan movement and Bapu Surat Singh’s struggle.
By attempting to do so, the media tried its hands at two things –
- First it associated Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa’s struggle with the Khalistan movement even though the movement for the release of Sikh political prisoners has largely been associated with the human rights of all prisoners, irrespective of their political or religious views. Bapu Surat Singh has firmly stated that the Indian law sees minority religious groups differently and he was seeking the release of all political prisoners, not just Sikhs.
- Secondly, the media has orchestrated rumors that Bapu Surat Singh’s demands are unjustified and by the release of “terrorists”, peace in Punjab would be disturbed. Media has put no emphasis on the fact that the current struggle of the Sikhs is entirely peaceful. Bapu Surat Singh is seeking the release of prisoners who were sentenced under harsh laws such as TADA. TADA allowed the Government to imprison and charge prisoners without providing them access to fair trials. If the Government releases these political prisoners, it will aid in bridging the gaps that have existed between communities in India.
A number of prominent politicians have helped aid Indian Government propaganda against Bapu Surat Singh. Prominently, after the Akalis, Congress leaders from Punjab too have jumped on the bandwagon to malign the peaceful struggle. Ravneet Bittu, Maninderjeet Bitta and Partap Bajwa have added to the Government’s propaganda to malign the Sikhs and their struggle for human rights in India.
Ravneet Bittu has stated the Bapu Surat Singh’s struggle is “unjustified”. He further labelled Sikh political prisoners as “terrorists”. It is important to mention that some prisoners whose release is being sought by Bapu Surat Singh were linked to the assassination of Bittu’s grandfather – Chief Minister Beant “Singh”. As the Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant “Singh” was directly linked with deaths of hundreds of Sikh youth across Punjab. His tenure as the Chief Minister led to human rights abuses of Sikhs across Punjab. Most importantly, Beant was directly responsible for the abduction and assassination of Giani Gurdev Singh Kaunke, Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib.
Manjinderjeet Bitta on the same hand is responsible for instigating violence through his controversial statements. Not only is Bitta responsible for spreading hatred against the Sikhs, he has from time to time released statements calling for a direct war between India and Pakistan. Partap Bajwa, president of Punjab Congress, too tried to smear the campaign of Bapu Surat Singh when he associated the Gurdaspur attacks directly with the demands of Bapu Surat Singh. Without the results of any investigations, Bajwa was quick to associate it with Khalistan and Bapu Surat Singh.
The Indian media too played a questionable role before and after the investigations of the Gurdaspur attack. While investigations have found no link between the terrorist attacks to the Sikhs, Indian newspapers have continued to link the incident with the Sikhs.
Growing attacks on Bapu Surat Singh suggest only one thing – that he doesn’t face a battle against the Punjab Government only. Harassment and torture by the Police failed to break his courage, and now, he stands in the battleground directly face to face with the country’s entire regime. The battle is long from being over. India may have invented laws like TADA and POTA to terrorize minority communities, however it is only a matter of time until these laws will be squashed and humanity will prevail.