LONDON, UK—From October 26 to November 1, Sikhs worldwide donated blood in a charitable effort inspired by Human Rights Campaigner Surat Singh Khalsa. The event coincided with the Sikh Genocide Week, a week where Sikhs from across the world remember those who died during the 1984 Delhi massacre.
Affectionately called Bapu (translating as father), 82 year old American resident and Indian native Surat Singh Khalsa has been on hunger strike for over 290 days in Punjab in an attempt to raise awareness about the Indian government’s treatment of Sikh political prisoners. Many of these prisoners were convicted under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) in 1985-95. This act was criticized at the time by human rights groups, and has since been withdrawn as it gave the state powers to detain suspects without charge. There were also widespread reports of the police extracting confessions under torture.
The week long campaign saw Sikhs giving their blood for justice, something ingrained within the Sikhs. By bringing awareness to the situation Sikhs hope to get Indian authorities to look into the case of the political prisoners.
Dilower Potiwal Singh from Bristol, was one of the many blood donors and his donation was reported in the Bristol Post newspaper . He said
“I have been moved by the images of Bapu Surat Singh over the past months. Blood donation saves lives. This is regarded as a small sacrifice compared with Bapu Surat Singh’s hunger strike to highlight human rights issues in India. I would urge all Sikhs who are inspired by his courage to donate blood and dedicate their donation to Bapu Ji’s human rights campaign.“
Chaz Singh from Plymouth also donated blood for the campaign, and he and his wife Saranjit Kaur made a video to encourage more people to become blood donors with the help of Ben Ward. Chaz said, “Thank you to the hundreds of Sikhs and non-Sikhs who have donated blood and supported the campaign. People from around the world have united for the campaign with people donating blood in the UK, Australia, India, United States and Canada.”
Many Sikhs regard Bapu Surat Singh’s hunger strike as a service to humanity, a core principle of the Sikh religion. This is echoed in the campaign, which has increased blood donations from Asian blood donors who are more likely to have a rare blood group. The drive has been supported through a social media campaign using the hashtag #SikhBlood.
Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa has commended efforts by the worldwide Sikh Sangat to donate blood. “While the Panth today is going through a crisis due to Government brutalities against the Sikhs, the Panth is still committed to Sarbat Da Bhalla,” Bapu Ji said. Bapu Surat Singh is currently confined at the DMC Hero Heart Hospital in Ludhiana where the administration has only allowed his son to see him briefly. He is forcibly detained there by Punjab Police for the fifth time whilst on hunger strike after being removed from his home in Hassanpur Punjab on October 30, 2015.