March 9, 2015 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Lathrop, CA, USA: An American citizen has been taken as a political prisoner in Punjab, India. His family in America is now speaking out, asking the American government to intervene: “The freedom and the liberties that we have here aren’t exactly the same in other countries. That’s kind of what we’re worried about. Going to sleep every day. You know, I have to stay up at night time for extra, till a long period of time, trying to talk to the embassy, trying to get them to free my dad.”
That was Sahib Singh speaking at a press conference Friday at the Lathrop Chamber of Commerce, where he and other community leaders gathered to plead on behalf of their father and community leader, Ravinder Jeet Singh, the owner of a local truck driving school.
Bhajan Singh, Founding Director of Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI), commented: “This is not only a persecution of individuals. They are persecuted because they are Sikhs, and the Indian State has a long tradition and history of persecuting and oppressing and torturing Sikhs.” Bhajan is himself a business owner in Lathrop, where he serves as vice-president of the chamber.
Ravinder is the son of Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa, who remains on a hunger strike he began January 26 in protest of the Punjabi government’s efforts to censor political dissent by arresting Sikh political activists and reporters. Bapu Surat has vowed to not eat until the Sikh political prisoners have been released.
Ravinder Singh, an American citizen and resident of Lathrop, traveled to Punjab to be with his father and comfort him during this time. Both Bapu Surat and Ravinder were arrested on February 26. His family in America is now worried for their safety and has been unable to speak to their father since his arrest.
Sahib, 16, says about his father: “I just want the embassy to know that taking away my father from our family is not only hurting us, cause I have to go to his business every day after school, spending three to four hours of my own time at the business — it’s taking my life away from education. And family-wise not having him at the dinner table is kind of lonely. It’s not the same [not] having the presence of a strong figure there in my life everyday.”
At the end of the press conference, Sahib along with his uncle, Kulwant, signed a letter to the embassy requesting that the United States take immediate action in protecting their father and brother, Ravinder. Speakers included Dalwinder Dhoot (North American Punjabi Association), Mike Boparai (American Punjabi Chamber of Commerce), and Ruben Sandoval (Lathrop Chamber of Commerce).
Steve Macías, an advisor to OFMI who directed the conference, remarked: “I know that this will mean a lot for Ravinder, and as soon as we get him back here to Lathrop we’ll have to come together and celebrate this wonderful achievement for free speech, democracy, and journalism in India.”