On November 16, 1986 Satpal Ram, a British Asian man, was eating at the Sky Blue restaurant in Lozell's, Birmingham, when six white men shouting racially abusive words entered the restaurant.1 One of the men broke a glass and stabbed Ram in the face. After being pushed away, the man stabbed Ram in the arms and again in the face. Ram, fearing for his life, defended himself with a small knife he used at work and injured his attacker. Both men were taken to the hospital; Ram received stitches, his attacker refused treatment and died.
Ram only met his lawyer, Douglas Draycott, a few days before the trial and for only 40 minutes.1 Draycott changed Ram's plea from self-defense to provocation, and did not call Ram as a witness during the trial.1 The defense's key witnesses were Bengali-speaking waiters of Sky Blue.1 An interpreter was not provided for the all-white jury because the judge said he would interpret, though he did not speak any Bengali. The jury found Ram guilty after hearing the prosecution's witnesses, mostly friends of Ram's attacker, testify. Ram was sentenced to life in prison.
Ram has had every parole application rejected and is still in prison. Since 1994 he has been under the Continual Assessment program, which has moved him from prison to prison (called "ghosting"), sometimes after only four weeks in a new prison.1 As of the end of 1999, he had been moved 59 times, compared to the average (of someone with his sentence) of six.5 In Ram's own words, he has "endured years of mental cruelty...been held
in total isolation in solitary confinement, ha[d] to endure prolonged periods of deprivation, psychological abuse, constant intimidation, starvation diets and physical torture. On numerous occasions I have been shackled in a body belt and thrown into strip cells having to sleep on the floor cold and naked for days on end. [T]he guards often display sadistic tendencies and specialise in humiliation and degradation they often enforce their own rules by terrorising those within their grasp."5
To help Satpal Ram, contact:
Free Satpal Ram Campaign
c/o 101 Villa Road
telephone: 0121 331 1511
"Free Satpal Ram" is a song by Asian Dub Foundation on their 1997 album R.A.F.I., and remixed and rereleased on Rafi's Revenge (1998)2. The song, in keeping with the purpose of the group's creation, raises awareness of racist crimes and justice systems and their victims.
It's a fast, energetic song with an Eastern-sounding, tension-building beginning, preparing you for the onslaught. Deeder Zaman's vocals are (relatively) clear, until he gets worked up towards the end of the song, but the voiceover is a nice touch and adds a bit of a background to the situation as well as conveying a sense of urgency. Overall, I like the song, the message and the cause, but it's a bit weird when followed, three songs later, by another song with the lines, "You will pay for your crimes / We will bleed you dry"4 (that song's title is, interestingly enough, "Hypocrite")...
The lyrics have been removed due to E2's new copyright policy. While I wait for the band to respond to my request for permission to print the lyrics, I have added more information on Satpal Ram's case, imprisonment and the movement to free him.
1: Free Satpal Ram: http://adf.8m.com/satpal.htm, using information from Jim Wilson, Solicitor for Satpal Ram
2: JuRg's ADF Discography: http://www.nothingless.org/adf/
3: "Free Satpal Ram" by Asian Dub Foundation
4: "Hypocrite" by Asian Dub Foundation
5: An open letter from Satpal Ram, November 1999, then in Frankland Prison (prisoner E94164) (http://www.ainfos.ca/99/nov/ainfos00140.html)
8 August 2003: Song lyrics removed due to E2 Copyright Changes; I am digging up more information on Satpal Ram's attack/case/movement to make up for it.