compilation: various sources
published: 15 March 2017
17 March 2017 will mark ten years since the tragic death of one of the stalwarts of the campaign movement against deaths in police custody and abuse by police and prison officers in the United Kingdom. True to his nature in life, Gilly continued giving to others even in death. He saved three lives and restored the eyesight of two others when he donated his organs after his death in March 2007.
Gilly, who died suddenly aged just 36. For the last nine years of his life he had been senior caseworker for INQUEST, the charity that advises relatives of those who have died in custody. An Indian educational charity was established in memory of Gilly.
Friend and colleague Kevin Blowe said: “As a campaigner and activist, Gilly managed to cram so much into his own life and touch the lives of so many others that it is almost too painful to imagine what more he could have achieved. As well as supporting victims of racist violence in East London while at the NMP, he worked for the Lawrence Family Campaign during the inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s murder.”
Born to Mota Singh and Surinder Mundy, Gilly and his brothers, Jas and Rippee, grew up within Leamington Spa’s close-knit Sikh community, roots that he was intensely proud of. He was closest to his brothers and school friends, but his inspiration for a lifetime of political activism came from his father, whose values led Gilly to a passionate opposition to racism and injustice.
He was a student activist at Edge Hill College, Ormskirk, Lancashire, before starting voluntary work for the community, anti-racist organisation Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) in London and becoming its caseworker from 1993 to 1997. This was a turbulent time for black communities in east London, with the election of the first BNP councillor in Tower Hamlets and the racist attack by eight white youths on 17-year-old Quddus Ali in Stepney.
Gilly provided support for victims of racist violence, and coordinated anti-fascist campaigning, bringing together black and white working class communities in the first anti-fascist festival in Canning Town, then the heartland of BNP support.
During the inquiry in 1998 into Stephen Lawrence’s murder, he also worked for the family campaign.
Tippa Naphtali of 4WardEver UK & The Mikey Powell Campaign said: “Gilly was a rock to our family when my cousin, Mikey Powell, died in police custody in 2003. Gilly made several trips to Birmingham to see us during those early painful months. He will be sorely missed, but the legacy of compassion and care that was at his core will live on through all those whose lives he touched.”