To mark the martyrdom day of the fifth master of the Sikhs, Guru Arjan Dev ji, South Asian community activists came together on Sunday, May 31, to raise voices for political prisoners being incarcerated in the Indian jails.

Organized by Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI), the rally against state violence was held at the Surrey-Delta Guru Nanak Sikh temple.

Guru Arjan Dev ji was tortured to death for standing for justice and human rights.

The temple held special prayers in memory of the guru.

The rally was called to draw attention of the world to the current state of affairs in India, where scholars and political dissidents are being arrested and tortured under a right wing Hindu nationalist regime. The minority groups are at the receiving end of both police brutality and state sponsored vigilante attacks.

The temple Secretary Gurmeet Singh Toor said that the rally was a fitting tribute to Guru Arjan Dev ji, whose sacrifice remains relevant considering the ongoing repression everywhere in the world.

The organizers also paid homage to Bhagwati Charan Vohra, an Indian revolutionary who died fighting against the British occupation of India, on May 28, 1930.

Vohra was killed during an attempt to make a bomb to break the jail housing his comrades.

The demonstrators held signs and placards asking for the release of all political prisoners, including jailed Sikh activists, who were given life sentences for merely keeping books and literature that supports the idea of a separate Sikh nation.

Some of the signs carried the pictures of disabled Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba, and other intellectuals such as Telugu poet Varavara Rao and author Gautam Navlakha. All these men are currently imprisoned on motivated charges for standing up for the rights of the oppressed communities and religious minorities.

Signs for George Floyd, an Afro-American who recently died at the hands of police in the US, were held out by some of the participants. A moment of silence was observed for Floyd at the beginning of the rally. Significantly, the Surrey Delta Gurdwara had witnessed the brutal murder of Nirmal Singh Gill by white supremacists in 1998. Gill was a temple keeper who was assaulted for stopping neo-Nazis from vandalizing inside the temple premises.

Slogans against state repression were raised at the gathering, which was deliberately kept very low due to COVID 19 restrictions. Necessary physical distance was maintained by the participants.

Those who spoke on the occasion included IAPI President Parshotam Dosanjh, as well as two other IAPI members, Tejinder Sharma and Gurpreet Singh, and prominent Sikh activists Charajit Singh Sujjon and Kulwinder Singh.


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