Protest held in Canada against the custodial death of Father Stan Swamy and incarceration of scholars

Stan Protest

On the birthday of jailed Indian scholar Anand Teltumbde, activists gathered outside the Visa and Passport Application Center of the world’s so called largest democracy in Surrey to raise their voices for his release, as well as others detained under draconian laws.

Teltumbde, who turned 71 on July 15, was arrested last year on trumped up charges for merely questioning the power through his writings and standing up for the poor and marginalised. He is among more than a dozen scholars and thinkers who are being held in Indian jails for their advocacy of the rights of oppressed communities.

On the call given by Radical Desi, the activists came together on Thursday evening to seek unconditional release of all the political prisoners, including Teltumbde.

They held out “Free Teltumbde” signs, and others bearing the portrait of Father Stan Swamy, who died in custody early this month.

The 84-year-old Swamy was a Christian priest who was working among the Adivasis, or the indigenous peoples, whose lands are being taken away by the extraction industry with the backing of the Indian government. He was arrested, along with other activists and scholars, under fictitious charges. Some of the signs held out by the participants read, “Forgive us not, Father”. They also raised slogans against black laws and for the release of political prisoners.

A moment of silence was held for Swamy right at the beginning of the rally. Those in attendance also remembered thousands of indigenous kids whose unmarked graves were recently discovered all over Canada, and five workers who died in a crane accident in Kelowna on Monday.

Among those who spoke on the occasion was anti-racism educator Annie Ohana. She has been raising the issue of jailed Indian scholars for the past several years. Others who addressed the rally included prominent community activists Dupinder Kaur Saran, Kulwinder Singh, Ishwinder Singh and Tejinder Sharma.

Well-known poet Amrit Diwana read out a poem dedicated to Teltumbde and others who are fighting against injustice. Radical Desi director and cofounder Gurpreet Singh also spoke at the rally.

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