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Bhai Sukhdev Singh Chirra was arrested in 2009 from his family home. The arrest came as a complete shock to him and his family and to this day they all have not been able to fully comprehend what has happened to them. The methods used by the police were so brutal and their psychological effects are apparent in all the family members who witnessed the arrest. This is a very common feature with many of the detainees and their respective families that our team are working with.  Bhai Sukhdev Singh Chirra is currently incarcerated in Gurdaspur Prison yet still does his best to remain in chardikala (positive and optimistic spirits) despite ill health.

Prior to his arrest, Bhai sahib was already being routinely harassed by police officers as he was a Gursikh. They would turn up unannounced to ‘question’ bhai sahib which would cause much anxiety for his loved ones. On the day of his actual arrest in June 2009, Bhai Sukhdev Singh Chirra was watering and tending to his fields when a neighbour told him that police were looking for him. Worried for his family, bhai sahib immediately returned to his home to find scores of police officers ransacking the place. They were suspicious of everyone, verbally harassing family members while ‘searching’ the property. ‘Searching’ in this regard usually entails officers checking every nook and cranny of the house, including food items and clothes. By creating a sense of chaos through ‘searching’ and throwing contents of the house around the place and even taking part in looting, family members suffer a great sense of anxiety and panic as well as being stripped of any sense of dignity which lasts for years after the ordeal is over. In this case, police officers started to severely beat one of Bhai Sukhdev Singh Chirra’s male relatives who was already a patient of many heart and respiratory problems and they took him along with Bhai sahib. Although the relative suffered much physical and verbal abuse, he was later released although the abuse did take a toll on his health. The reasons for taking him along with bhai sahib to the interrogation are still unknown. The family concedes that the arrest and subsequent detainment of bhai sahib and the male relative has caused much mental stress and many relive the memory at least once a day. Particularly for the children, it has become difficult to erase the memory, as bhai sahib’s wife described that the police officers behaved ‘like animals’.

After being taken to the interrogation centre, bhai sahib was horrifically tortured for a number of days. Through breaking significant bones and muscle, bhai sahib was unable to walk and was not given any water. His family witness the torture wounds when they saw him in court a few days later. Police officers and guards would not let his mother or wife meet him. They recalled how even in court as bhai sahib asked for water, he was not given even a drop. It is important to note, that it was the month of June, can anyone imagine how bhai sahib endured such torture and then was deprived of water in such humid and inhospitable conditions?

In court bhai sahib was accused of harbouring arms and explosives under the Arms and Explosives Act of the Indian Penal Code and was sent to Amritsar Jail. Due to the dire conditions of the jail, bhai sahib has suffered from many illnesses including severe jaundice. Although as a prisoner he is granted access to medical care by the state, the jail refused to provide adequate medical care and to avoid the matter sent bhai sahib to Gurdaspur Jail. With no proper health or medical facilities there, bhai sahib’s wife and mother visit him weekly to give him the relevant medication and injections he requires. Since Bhai Sukhdev Singh Chirra’s case has come to our attention, we are providing health and welfare support so that the family are able to give the relevant medication to bhai sahib. Over the past year, we have also been taking care of school fees for bhai sahib’s three children. Unfortunately we have observed that many of the political prisoners that are arrested and imprisoned come from relatively poor families with no adequate support system. It is up to us as the sangat to be their support, not only financially but emotionally too. We humbly request you to join us in this campaign for freedom.     

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