Local Protest at Indian Consulate on Continued Incarceration of Sikhs

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Members of the local Sikh community protested in front on the Indian Consulate General on Scotland St. for a few hours.

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: With an activist continuing his hunger strike in India for now over 60 days, members of the local Sikh community staged a protest in front of the local Indian Consulate General on Scotland St. in the heart of the city to drawn attention to his plight and the reasons behind his strike.

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Harjit Galhotra reads from a prepared statement of demands

About 250 people showed up on a cold Wednesday afternoon on January 7 across the street from the Consulate and used bullhorns to shout their demands and grievances. Several leaders of the protest later sought to present a memorandum of the same to the Consul General or other officials, but were unable to do so and instead were asked that they leave it with the receptionist.

According to organizers of the protest, Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa has been on hunger strike, surviving only on water, in Gurudwara Lakhnaur Sahib near Ambala to seek the permanent release of Sikh prisoners who are still in jail despite having completed their prison terms. Khalsa has lost 44 lbs (20 kg) since he began the strike on November 14, 2014. He has been joined in the hunger strike by a companion, Gurpiyar Singh who has shifted from Ambala to near the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.

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The protested were demanding the release of Sikhs who have been held in prison beyond their incarceration periods and to bring attention to the hunger strike in India by Gurbachan Singh.

This is the second time that Khalsa has gone on hunger strike over the same reasons. His last fast ended after 44 days on December 27, 2013 after he had received assurances of the release of two prisoners, Lakhwinder Singh and Shamsher Singh. This time around, Khalsa was seeking the release of seven Sikh prisoners, including those convicted for the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh in 1995 and the 1993 Delhi bomb blast.

According to news reports, the Shiromani Akali Das government has already moved the Supreme Court to free all 13 prisoners who have completed their terms and are eligible for parole, however their BJP ally does not support this move. The Punjab BJP initially supported Khalsa’s protest but later changed its mind.

The Houston protest rally was organized and supported by 21 Sikh Gurudwaras and organizations in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Beaumont and Lake Charles.