Close to the birthday of George Orwell and the 46th anniversary of Emergency in the world’s so called largest democracy, activists came together in Surrey on Sunday, June 27, to raise their voices against the incarceration of thinkers by the Indian authorities.

Organized by Radical Desi publications, the rally was held right outside the Indian Visa and Passport Application Center. The participants carried placards with pictures of jailed scholars who are being detained under trumped up charges for merely questioning the power and standing up for the poor and marginalized. Among them are former Delhi University Prof. G.N. Saibaba, who is ninety percent disabled below the waist; towering columnist and author Anand Teltumbde, who is the grandson-in-law of Dr. B.R.Ambedkar, an architect of the Indian constitution; elderly revolutionary poet Varavara Rao; and renowned human rights lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj. The health of Saibaba, who is suffering with multiple ailments, continues to deteriorate.

Attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown under the current right wing Hindu nationalist regime. This is despite the fact that the present Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, had disguised himself as a Sikh to go into hiding during the emergency and press censorship imposed by the then Congress government on June 25, 1975. Modi is accused of repeating the history through an undeclared emergency and throwing his critics in jail.

Incidentally, June 25 is also the birthday of George Orwell, who was born in British India. Orwell made a prophecy about a totalitarian regime in his famous novel 1984. The actions of successive governments in New Delhi have proved his imagination right.

A moment of silence was observed at the beginning of the rally in memory of two journalists, Jarnail Singh and Raj Kumar Keswani, who died last month due to COVID 19 complications. While Singh kept fighting to make the Indian government accountable for the Sikh Genocide, Keswani has been trying to expose Indian officials for shielding those involved in the gas leak at a pesticide plant in Bhopal. Both the tragedies rocked India in 1984, leaving thousands of people dead . Those complicit at the highest level of the government remain unpunished for all these years.

The speakers unanimously demanded the scrapping of draconian laws under which the journalists and scholars are being targeted, and sought the unconditional release of political prisoners. They also condemned the growing foreign interference from Indian diplomats in Canada, and attempts to silence activists and media outlets daring to challenge the policies of the government in New Delhi. Those who spoke on the occasion included Telugu Church leader John Yajala, prominent Sikh activist Dupinder Kaur Saran, anti-racism and social justice educator Susan Ruzic, and cofounder of Radical Desi Gurpreet Singh. Ruzic was presented at the event with a Radical Desi medal of courage for standing up for Saibaba and all scholars at risk in India and elsewheret. Saran presented her the medal on behalf of Radical Desi.

Those in attendance also raised slogans against black laws and in support of the freedom of Saibaba and others.



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