South Asian activists came together to protest against recent arrests of political activists in India on Saturday evening.
Organized by Radical Desi, the rally was held at Holland Park in Surrey.
Police had recently arrested five political activists across India for inciting violence and allegedly being involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Among them are human rights lawyer Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson.
Most of these individuals have been raising their voices for political prisoners and the rights of marginalized sections of society. Their relatives and supporters believe that they have been framed to stifle the voice of dissent under a right wing Hindu nationalist government. Doubts have already been raised over the authenticity of the evidence of conspiracy to assassinate Modi.
Notably, Gadling has been advocating for jailed Delhi University Professor, G.N. Saibaba, who is ninety percent disabled below the waist. Saibaba is a political activist who was arrested after being branded as a supporter of Maoist insurgents. He has been raising his voice against the repression of Indigenous peoples in the name of war against Maoists by the Indian forces. He has also been vocal against attacks on religious minorities. The United Nations Rights’ experts recently urged his release on humanitarian grounds and questioned the validity of charges against him.
The rally was started with a moment of silence for Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa who committed suicide in March. Khalsa was a Sikh activist who was campaigning for the release of Sikh political prisoners. He had jumped from a water tank during his fasting for the freedom of Sikh detainees.
The organizers also expressed their solidarity with indigenous political prisoners languishing in North American jails. They demanded the release of Leonard Peltier, a 73-year-old indigenous leader who has already served 42 years in US jails.The speakers were unanimous in their demand for the release of the five political activists and strongly denounced ongoing state violence and draconian laws being used to suppress freedom of expression. They resolved to fight back together against growing attacks on religious minorities and oppressed communities in India.
The participants, who included women and seniors, carried “Free Saibaba” and “Free Azad” signs and raised slogans against the high handedness of the Indian government. Azad is a radical Dalit activist who has been fighting for the rights of the so called untouchables. Much like Saibaba, he is also being incarcerated under repressive laws.
Those who addressed the gathering included: Ambedkar International Social Reform Organization leaders, Rashpal Singh Bhardawaj and Rattan Paul; Indian Rationalist Society leader Avtar Gill; Progressive Intercultural Community Services cofounder Charanpal Gill; veteran Sikh activist Kesar Singh Baghi; Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation leader Sahib Thind; and Radical Desi cofounder Gurpreet Singh.