FORT ST. JOHN, B.C.- A small group of Sikhs in Fort St. John gathered outside North Peace Cultural Centre on March 25th to raise awareness against ongoing human rights violations in Punjab.
Since March 18th, 2023, internet services have been suspended in Punjab as authorities search for Bhai Amritpal Singh and his associates. The government of India has suspended civil liberties and has arrested over 100 Sikh activists with no legal justification.
Organizers of the protest said Singh, leader of the social Sikh group Waris Punjab De, was trying to revive Sikh values and traditions in Punjab, which resulted in his conflict with the Indian government.
While the issue of the ongoing crisis in Punjab is still unfolding, local Fort St. John Sikhs centred their protest on raising awareness about human rights violations in India and women being used as weapons of war in Punjab.
“We are here to show our support to Bhai Amritpal Singh and also raise awareness about Sikh women being tortured and harassed in India,” said Harpreet Singh, a member of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sahib.
Singh explained that Indian security agencies are targeting innocent Sikh women and their children to create fear among the masses.
“It evokes pain and kills our pride when our women are tortured and harassed.”
The protesters held banners, and speakers called out to the Canadian government to intervene over the so-called “mega crackdown” on Sikh activists.
“The Canadian government should speak about Sikhs as there is a history of silence, especially when Sikh lives are at stake,” said Manveer Singh, a resident of Fort St. John.
Manveer Singh says that Sikhs around the world are concerned over false encounters of Sikh youth activists in Punjab as the same tactic was used by police during the 1980s and 1990s to eliminate Sikh activists.
Many social media accounts belonging to Sikh journalists and civil liberty organizations, both within and outside India, have also been withheld in India.
Organizers of the protest urge residents of Fort St. John to use the “FreeAmritpalSingh” hashtag on social media to show their support for ongoing human rights violations happening in Punjab.
Those at the protest want Canada’s government to speak out over the crackdown on Sikh activists. They say they will hold more protests if the situation doesn’t change in Punjab.
“Canadian Sikhs will use their right to protest and raise their voice against human rights issues and will not stay silent,” said Harpreet Singh.
With files from The Associated Press.