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    Posted December 18, 2013 by

    Gurbaksh Khalsa: Hunger Strike to Free Prisoners


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     iReporter Damanvir Kaur Sidhu, who lives in the United States, sent in this iReport with a poster he created of Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa. Khalsa is a Sikh farmer from India who has been on hunger strike for more than a month in Mohali, in the country’s Punjab region, in protest against the continued detention of six Sikh prisoners in various Indian jails.

    Harpal Singh Cheema, an aide to Khalsa, told CNN that his hunger strike began on November 14. "He's weak but says he will not end it until he sees those six prisoners free," Cheema said.

    According to Cheema, Khalsa says the men are still in prison despite apparently completing their sentences on charges relating to the state’s bloody insurgency by Sikh rebels, which lasted for more than a decade until the early 1990s. Several top political leaders were assassinated during the insurgency, including India's then prime minister Indira Gandhi, who was killed by her Sikh bodyguards in October 1984. Human rights groups have accused both Indian authorities and militants of serious violations during the period.

    Sidhu says he feels that Indian media have not covered the story enough. "We [the Sikh community] are fighting to get them permanently released on the basis of human rights and justice,” he said. “They have served more than the required amount and on the basis of fairness and human decency need to be permanently released."

    Harcharan Bains, a spokesman for the Punjab government, told CNN the provincial chief minister was in touch with other Indian states over Khalsa's demands. Of the six prisoners that the hunger-striker wants to be released, four are currently in Punjab jails, he said. However, he said they had been convicted by courts in other states.

    "It's up to the discretion of those governments [and] administrations to reconsider their cases. We are trying our best," he said.

    Read CNN's coverage of this story here.
    - sarahbrowngb, CNN iReport producer

    Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa has been on a hunger strike since November 14th, 2013, in Mohali, India. The purpose of this strike is to raise awareness about Sikh political prisoners languishing in Indian prisons years after serving their given sentence. His health has deteriorated considerably; his body is shutting down and he could die within days. His cause has received no media coverage in Punjab, India or elsewhere due to the Indian Government’s lack of interest in its minority populations. Prominent newspapers in Punjab, and nationally in India, even when given outside funding, have refused to publish any stories about Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa and his hunger strike. His cause and message is simple, peaceful, and straightforward: free those political prisoners that should be legally free.
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