On Wednesday, the Indian Express reported, that Punjab authorities have decided to force feed Indian-American activist Surat Singh Khalsa, 82, who has been on hunger strike for over 191 days. Hindustan Times reported on Thursday that Sarvinder Kaur, Khalsa’s daughter, claims that authorities tried force-feeding her father in his sleep on Wednesday morning. “The doctors found that my father’s pulse rate was dropping, they then tried to force-feed him,” Kaur stated.
Khalsa and his supporters began a hunger strike, on January 16, 2015, to gain attention for prisoners who are being held beyond their original sentence. Khalsa believes that the prisoner’s detention is politically motivated. They see the government as being corrupt and guilty of human rights violations. Sikh, Muslim and Hindu prisoners are amongst the prisoners being held beyond their original sentences. Khalsa’s supporters say that some prisoners have had their sentences extended by as long as 10-years.
Khalsa began his hunger strike in Hassanpur, Punjab, India, with supporters and family members joining him from all around the world. Earlier this week, he stopped drinking water as a result of being forcible moved to a hospital by police. Video footage shows that the police violently rushed into the house where he was staying. This is not the first time that police have used violence to subdue the group. In June, during a demonstration, police began clashing with Khalsa supporters in order to get them to stop chanting. During the clash a number of people were injured and arrested. The 29-year-old Bhai Dapinder Singh from Derby, England, was one of them. He traveled to India in support of Khalsa’s hunger strike.
After being placed in the hospital, Khalsa was eventually not allowed to receive visitors. “We apprehend that the administration has plans to force-feed him today, that’s why it has disallowed family members and others to meet him,” said HS Dhami from Dal Khalsa. Witnesses say that approximately 400 police officers are currently in the village of Hassanpur and have been arresting supporters of Khalsa. Once at the hospital, doctors decided that Khalsa would receive intravenous fluids. “Fluids have been started on Khalsa after medical assessment. As Khalsa was not taking anything orally, fluids had to be started,” said Deputy Commissioner Rajat Aggarwal.
Reaction from government
Prior to his arrest, Khalsa was visited by the Additional Director General of Police Hardeep Singh Dillon, along with other officials. “I will not initiate talks with the government and officials until my supporters and members of Sangarsh committee are released from the jail,” said Khalsa from his bed. He also stated that he had warned the police that if they removed him forcible or forced medical treatment, he would stop drinking. After refusing medical treatment, Khalsa explained that Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has the medicine for his ailment, he believes that it is Chief Minster Badal’s decision when it comes to offering him the proper treatment. The Chief Minister has the authoritative power to release Khalsa’s supporters who have recently been arrested and the prisoners who are being detained beyond their original sentence. Khalsa will not start talks with the authorities until they release these prisoners.
The Indian Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that state governments are allowed to exercise power of remission when freeing convicts who were not investigated by the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation. This has been received as a major blow to getting 65 Sikh prisoners freed, reported The Indian Express.
History of the Khalistan movement
The Punjab region is the Sikhs traditional homeland. Prior to the British arriving, it had been in the control of the Sikhs for over 80 years. With the Lahore Resolution of 1940, the Muslim League demanded that there be a separate country created for Muslims. The resolution created Pakistan, which resulted in a partition between Hindus and Muslims. The Sikh leadership worried that their community would lose its homeland. As a result, the movement of creating the country Khalistan was born. India gained its independence from England, in 1947.
On April 12, 1980, Khalistan leader Jagjit Singh Chauhan met with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi after which he announced the forming of the “National Council of Khalistan,” declaring himself president. He had also placed a ad in The New York Times stating that the council had been formed. In Amritsar stamps and Khalistan currency were released. Flourishing during the 1980s, a un-known number of pro-Khalistan groups started separatist movements geared against the Indian government, with some being militant. This caused for Indian security forces to plan counter military operations. In June of 1984, the Indian government launched Operation Blue Star.
Led by Sikh General Kuldip Singh Bar, the Indian Army encroached the Harmandir Sahib, better known as the Golden Temple. With their gun power, government soldiers were able to force themselves into the sacred gurdwara. Religious Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was inside of the temple with a group of armed men. Bhindranwale was at the temple with his man because he believed that the Indian government wanted to take control of the temple. Located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India, the temple is the holiest Sikh gurdwara. With their gun power government soldiers were able to over power Harmandir’s forces.
The attack on Harmandir Sahib is seen by the Sikh’s as the desecration of their most holiest site. Shortly after the attack, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated in retaliation, by two of her Sikh bodyguards. After her death, thousands of Sikhs were killed during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, which has termed a genocide by Sikhs.