Activist Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa Inspires London Art Exhibition

Human rights activist conducting hunger strike inspires #Art4Justice Art Exhibition

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An art exhibition took place at Menier Gallery in London from 1 August to 6 August, 2016 showcasing work inspired by human rights campaigner Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa.

Bapu Surat Singh is an 83-year-old lifelong human rights activist who is currently on hunger strike in India to raise awareness for Sikh political prisoners languishing in jail. He has been on hunger strike since January 2015, during which he has been detained and force-fed for more than half that time, as well as harassed and abused by Indian authorities. So far, his hunger strike has resulted in the permanent release of nine prisoners as well as parole for long-serving detainees.

The exhibition included work from 50 artists all over the world, including an array of mediums such as sketches, paintings, digital work, fabric, crochet, and poetry. Each piece entailed a personal story of inspiration and expression for Bapu Surat Singh’s hunger strike.

Artist Raj Tattal said, “I decided to use probably the most iconic piece I could find of Bapu Surat Singh- on a bed with his hands raised, not asking for help, but asking for understanding of the struggle he is going through- a picture more of hope. Art can convey a message you can’t get through any other means. Through this exhibition we are hoping to reach a wider audience than our community and hope that it inspires the next generation to become involved in the campaign.”

Artist Vikram Singh said, “I see Bapu Surat Singh as one of the few people in my lifetime who truly is, ‘A man of his words.’ This inspired me to create an image of Bapu Ji (Father) which is made up of the words he used in his letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlining why he is on hunger strike. The deputy mayor of Southwark, London, Charlie Smith, also visited the exhibition and expressed, “I do understand that Mr. Singh is on his 550th day of hunger strike, and the authorities in India have been oppressive towards certain Sikhs…”

Co-curator of the exhibition Dr. Manjit Kaur stated, “What Bapu Surat Singh wants and what we would like is for all political prisoners to be free. These men are still in jail despite having served all of their sentence, and so all we’re asking is for India to treat them fairly and to release them.”

Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa is presently at home in his residence in Hassanpur, Punjab. He was released from detention on 16 July, 2016 at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital. His hunger strike will reach 600 days the first week of September. He is still adamant in his demand for the release of all political prisoners, regardless of religion, that have served their prison sentences.

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