Surat Singh Khalsa (born 7 March 1933), also known as “Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa” is a civil rights and political activist, from the Indian state of Punjab. Surat Singh Khalsa has been involved with various political struggles related to Sikhs in Punjab, however he is currently in the limelight for a hunger strike as a form of peaceful protest against illegal and prolonged detention of political prisoners.
On 16 January 2015, Surat Singh Khalsa began a hunger strike which is still ongoing. He has refused food and water to seek the release of Sikh political prisoners who have completed their court sentences. Where he is seeking release of Sikh political prisoners, he has also called for unconditional release of prisoners of all religions who have completed their terms.
On 11 February 2015, Surat Singh Khalsa wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi explaining the motive of his hunger strike. In his letter, Surat Singh Khalsa summed up his demands in two points
- Treat all Sikh prisoners –under trials and those sentenced in cases relating to the Sikh struggle- as political prisoners and
- Release all prisoners who have completed their full jail terms and are legitimately due for release, exactly in the same manner, as other prisoners are so released in various other parts of the country.
A number of Sikh Political Prisoners are languishing in jails despite having completed their sentences. Many of these prisoners are released on parole on yearly basis. These prisoners can be granted permanent parole or be released on bail as there are no pending charges against them. In addition, Surat Singh Khalsa is seeking release of senior citizens based on humanitarian grounds. There are at least 8 such prisoners who have been sentenced under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act for their involvement in a bank robbery case that took place in Ludhiana. This law has already lapsed and has been deemed as controversial by human rights organizations, as well as the United Nations.