The members of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) held a demonstration in Surrey on Sunday, March 10 against the recent sentencing of three Sikh activists in Punjab, for merely keeping literature that was perceived as “anti-national” by the state police.Arwinder Singh, Surjit Singh and Ranjit Singh were criminally charged in 2016 under draconian laws. Last month, a Nawanshehar court awarded them life sentences, which has been strongly denounced by various human rights groups in India.
The participants at the Surrey rally held signs that read “Free the Three”. The speakers were unanimous in their demand for the release of these three men and other political prisoners. They also raised slogans against the crackdown on political dissidents and growing state repression under the right wing Hindu nationalist regime. Those who spoke on the occasion, included Federal Liberal MP from Surrey Centre Randeep Singh Sarai, and Conservative party candidate for Surrey Newton, Harpreet Singh. Both criticized the sentencing and described it as an attack of freedom of expression. Others who addressed the gathering were Sikh activists, Barjinder Singh from Sikh Nation, Gurmeet Singh Toor from Guru Nanak Singh temple, Gian Singh Gill from Dashmesh Darbar Gurdwara, and Gurmukh Singh Deol, as well as leftist activists Amrit Diwana and Sahib Thind from Prof. Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation. IAPI members Rakesh Kumar, Sarabjit Singh Baaz and Gurpreet Singh also spoke. Those in attendance included Guru Nanak Sikh Temple President Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was also charged by the Indian police in absentia after being accused of running a terror training camp in Vancouver. The participants agreed that the Indian state is becoming increasingly intolerant toward dissidents from minority communities and those subscribing to the leftist ideology. While those from minority extremist groups are frequently arrested and tortured, the Hindu extremists continue to enjoy state patronage.