Accused of hurting sentiments, poet takes asylum in Europe - ECAS Punjab

Accused of hurting sentiments, poet takes asylum in Europe

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Vishav Bharti

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 29

Haunted by the government as well as Khalistani and Hindu fundamentalists alike, young Punjabi poet Surjit Gag has taken political asylum in a European country. He was underground for almost two years.

It's not easy to live in exile. One gets a feeling of alienation among the people whose culture and language are not related to you. - Surjit Gag

He said he had been granted political asylum on Wednesday. Surjit, who hailed from Gag village in Anandpur Sahib, was booked thrice under Section 295A (outraging religious feelings) of the IPC in 2017 and 2018.

Surjit, who initially eked out his living as a television technician and later as a clerk at a private institute, belongs to a new generation of Punjabi poets who shot to fame on Facebook. He has been extremely critical of religious 'middlemen' in his creative expression. "I became active on Facebook in 2010. Within a year, controversies started erupting around my poems. Soon abuse and threats by fundamentalist groups became a routine," he said.

His two works 'I and Nanak' and an essay on Dasehra in which he critically looked at the Hindu mythology remained the most controversial. "I was booked in 2017 on a complaint given by the head granthi of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib. I had to spent two months in jail, where I was attacked," he says.

Soon, two more cases were slapped against him. "Perhaps, he is the only Punjabi poet who faced such a serious threat from the state and religious bigots. It is also a case when a democratic country failed to protect its citizen's fundamental rights," says Prof Jagmohan Singh, president, Association for Democratic Rights, Punjab, who once led a delegation to the police for his protection.

Writer Surjit Patar says, "When a poet has to live in exile, it indicates that his motherland is not ready for a dialogue with him," he says.

from The Tribune

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