PUCL slams Punjab for ‘inhuman treatment’ of activist

Published - March 30, 2015 05:05 am IST - NEW DELHI

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties has expressed concern over the condition of Surat Singh Khalsa, an 83-year-old activist who has been on a fast-unto-death for 68 days seeking release of Sikh political prisoners.

Describing the Punjab government’s response to the protest as “indifferent and insensitive,” the Punjab and Haryana units of the PUCL said the authorities had “forcibly stitched a food pipe to his forehead to force-feed him.”

“The PUCL is shocked at the cruel and callous manner in which the Punjab Police, with the support of medical authorities, have reportedly stitched a food pipe to his [Surat Singh’s] forehead to force-feed him, breaking his fast in a manner reminiscent of the way in which [Manipuri activist] Irom Sharmila has been force-fed over many years,” it said.

The “unhygienic, unscientific” act had caused an infection on the activist’s forehead, the PUCL said.

“If true, it amounts to inflicting torture, inhuman, cruel, degrading and illegal treatment. Bapu Surat Singh is engaged in a non-violent, democratic act of asserting his right to protest. The State is denying him his right to protest with human dignity,” the organisation said in a statement. “It is imperative that the Punjab government responds with a sense of urgency and alacrity to the democratic demands of Bapu Surat Singh, who seeks the release of all prisoners who have completed their term but have been kept in jail for many years.”

Mr. Singh has been on a fast since January 16, demanding the release of “political prisoners” who have completed their terms of imprisonment. He was detained by the government on February 8 and admitted to the Civil Hospital, Ludhiana, under police security.

“In order to break his resolve, the police undertook inhuman and unacceptable practices; his family was prevented from being with him and taking care of him,” the statement said adding that the police had been “scaring away” visitors by threatening them. Mr. Singh was a government-school teacher before he resigned his job in 1984 in protest against the “mass killing of Sikhs”.

The Punjab government has said that the release of political prisoners could not be processed because of an interim stay by the Supreme Court in the Union of India v. Sriharan Murugan & Ors. case relating to the remission and release of prisoners.

The PUCL asked the State government to ensure the activist’s safety and good health.

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