Gurpreet Singh: B.C. Federation of Labour demands release of jailed Indian activist with disability

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      The largest labour group in British Columbia has raised its voice for a physically disabled Delhi University professor incarcerated in India since March.

      On International Human Rights Day, the B.C. Federation of Labour called upon Canadians to sign petitions seeking the release of G.N. Saibaba, who is in a wheelchair and who was sentenced to life after being branded as a supporter of Maoist insurgents.

      The statement also encourages Canadians to stand up for Rohingya Muslims and the LGBTQ community.

      It describes Saibaba as an “Indigenous rights activist” who's been raising awareness about repression of tribal people, religious minorities, and the Dalits (or so-called untouchables) in India.

      B.C. Fed president Irene Lanzinger mentioned in the statement that there are many issues happening both locally and globally that her organization would like to highlight. She acknowledged that the imprisonment of Saibaba has gained attention internationally. The statement provides a link to an online petition for Saibaba.

      Saibaba was first arrested in 2014 but was released on bail following an outcry in many parts of the world. In March he was given a life sentence and sent back to jail where he continues to face inhuman conditions.

      He has been instrumental in mobilizing political actions in Delhi against the eviction of tribal people from their traditional lands by the extraction industry with the backing of the Indian state. Due to police high-handedness, many Indigenous people have been forced to join Maoist insurgents, who are active in the tribal belt of the country.  

      Prof. G.N. Saibaba remains in jail in India, despite a growing uproar abroad.
      Gurpreet Singh

      The B.C. Fed is the first labour group in B.C. to come out in support of Saibaba.

      Earlier, New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh took to the social media to condemn the mistreatment of Saibaba by Indian authorities.

      In the meantime, Radical Desi held an emergency rally for Saibaba in Surrey on December 3, which is celebrated as International Day of Persons with Disabilities in Surrey. Among those who spoke on the occasion included human rights activist and lawyer Amandeep Singh.

      Singh previous drafted a petition launched by Radical Desi asking for the Canadian government's intervention into the matter. It has received more than 1,000 signatures. Another speaker was Dashmesh Darbar Gurdwara spokesperson Gian Singh Gill, who encouraged the temple congregation to sign the petition.

      So far two Canadian MPs, Sukh Dhaliwal and Peter Julian, have accepted the petition. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has acknowledged that it is aware of the case and only says that it encourages India to protect human rights.  

      Gurpreet Singh is cofounder of Radical Desi magazine. He's also the author of Why Mewa Singh Killed William Hopkinson: Revisiting the Murder of a Canadian Immigration Inspector and Fighting Hatred With Love: Voices of the Air India Victims' Families. Both were published by Chetna Parkashan.