Sukhdev Reel fighting for Justice - Poetry in high emotion

Sukhdev Reel fighting for Justice - Poetry in high emotion
Drawing of Sukhdev Reel by Gillian Pryor. When Sukhdev saw the drawing, she said it is great. She has captured the look of longing, hurt, frustration and anger in my eyes.

Sukhdev Reel, since meeting you, hearing you tell your haunting tale, then reading your story I have gone to sleep at night thinking of your 25-year fight to gain justice for Ricky, I have woken each morning with poems swirling round my head.

I have mixed emotions regarding this:; on one hand, I feel saddened that your sad plight should be my inspiration; on the other hand, if my small skill can bring your courageous campaign to more peoples’ attention and in doing so bring your ordeal to swifter and just conclusion, then I have achieved a good ending.

I started the prose part of this blog by saying how Manjit Sahota’s poem was my introduction to your story. So, it is only fitting that we begin this poetry selection with that poem.

Shine a light on the Truth

by Manjit Sahota (October 2021)

Racism and the river took Ricky

But he’s buried under the police and the state

They say don’t dig up the past,

they say let history just lie!

But we will not rest, so shine a light for Ricky

Shine a light so we can find the truth.

Because we asked for assistance, the police gave us bigotry and surveillance

You see they want our silence and not our anger

They want our compliance and not our resistance

They want our polite acceptance and not our rage,

They want their Law and order; we want our justice!

Yes, Racism and the river took Ricky

But he’s buried under the police and the state  

Now the SDS spied and lied, that’s when you know the force is against you.

We’ve seen it before, so many times, buried under the lies is the truth

Yes, Racism and the river took Ricky

But he’s buried under the police and the state

So, look into our eyes and what do you see?

I don’t see victims, I see fighters

I see the Black Star rising, a memory of our youth and resistance

I see Jayaben Desai and the ‘strikers in Saris’ at Grunwick, Gurdwara collections for miners

Black and white fists against hate, I see Sukhdev Reel, fighting for Justice

That’s why when we march on the streets,

we are not alone, in our hearts we will always carry

Gurdip Singh Chagger, Blair Peach,

Stephen Lawrence, Ricky Reel and

All the victims of racism and the police.  

Now, we don’t want your silence, we want your noise,

we want your voice, we want your rage

So, shine a light, shine a light on the truth for Ricky Reel  

And say his name…. Ricky Reel. Say his name, Ricky Reel, Say his name…

What can I say about this poem and poet another brilliant poem from an inspirational poet and campaigner. Someone I am proud to share any platform and stage with. Prouder still to call him friend.

Now I come to my first poem. As I have already said I have been inspired to write a clutch of poems, “Making it Reel” which was based on my first encounter with Sukhdev on 3rd July 2022 at her Marxism book launch.

Making it Reel

From the moment I heard on that stage

Telling your story through a veil of tears

My heart went out to you

I know I must do everything in my power

Use my energy, time, and words to amplify your tale

I pledge in this poem, upon this page

To work to bring about justice for Ricky

We cannot bring your son back to life

We cannot give you back your lost years

We can ensure that Ricky’s legacy

Is that no other mother must go through

the same horror your family endured

The police must be brought to account for their role

They should be there to assist not resist

To bring the criminals to account in the courts

Not spy upon the victim's loved ones

Sukhdev Reel you are an inspirational woman

A caring and loving mother

A strong brave warrior, a modern-day Boudicca

Placed in the spotlight you did not ask for

Let us make justice real for the Reel’s

Finally give them a tiny degree of peace of mind

The next poem I want to share with you also came from hearing the speakers on that day, in that tent;, the poem speaks for itself, so I will say no more.

Judgement on Justice

Have we lost sight of justice?

What does real justice look like

What does true justice taste like

What does full justice feel like

Is justice handed down by learned lettered lawyers

In horsehair wigs and flowing gowns from on high

Or delivered from twelve true and honest citizens

Sitting in a jury room after considering all the evidence

Is justice in the head, heart, and hands of the victim

I think not

Is it carried out when the sentence is carried out

Written down the legal ledgers recorded for posterity

Is justice found in the crowded streets or the hallowed halls

Just justice treat the victim and accused equally

Or are the scales of justice tilted and unbalanced

The more I seek out answers, the more questions I uncover

Can someone help me discover

The ultimate judgement on justice

My next piece is called one week this poem covers the first devastating week between when Ricky went missing and when his body was found in the river Thames (14th October – 21st October 1997)

One week

One week that saw an innocent

Life taken from this world

Ripped from the bosom of his family

One week that saw an ordinary British

Working-class family shattered, torn asunder

One week that  the London police force

The British legal system shows its callous, brutal, racist face

On the 14 October 1997, a yet unknown murderer(s)

Took the innocent life of Ricky Reel

A young Asian British man with his whole life ahead of him

Exactly one week later, while a young girl was talking

On the telephone to her mother

The police stormed the house

Ripped the phone from the wall socket

With malice aforethought they informed

the family gathered there that their brother, their loved one

Had been found dead drowned in the river Thames

When their parents arrived home shattered and distraught

They found a family devastated and destroyed by this news

As the kids struggle to comprehend the devastating news

Coppers collect in corners laughing at their own jokes

A mother enters her lost son's bedroom

Shattered and unsure if she can carry on

A voice from deep down tells her

Get up, fight on, get us justice

A meek mother entered that room

A courageous campaigner exited that room

For Sukhdev realised that is what Ricky wanted now

She recognised that is what her family needed now

The mother remains cloistered in that room

The woman wears the mantle of justice warrior now

All this happened in a week in October ‘97

The campaign continues to this day

The fight will carry on until justice is done

It was shocking how the police and the justice system treated the family like criminals and violated Ricky’s body throughout the inquest. The poem sums it up.

Let him rest

It was enough you trivialised his death

Treated it as an accident, never considered it murder

Treated him as a stereotypical Asian youth

Running away from an oppressive culture

Treating grieving family more like perpetrators than victims

You had to rub salt into an open bleeding wound

Not allowing his body to rest his spirit any peace

Stripping the skin from his body,

Removing any last sign of dignity

In doing so showing yourselves inhuman

No in the name of justice, just in morbid curiosity

Upon hearing this news, the entire nation

Cries out, loud in unison

Shame on you, Shame in YOU!

For my next poem I return to the subject of Justice. How the British judicial system is rotten to the core and needs destroying and replacing.

The Justice Tree

The justice tree is rotten

No longer fit for purpose, (if it every was)

Deceased and dying from the root to the leaves

We need to chop it down uproot it

Replace it with a species that serve today’s society

A tree that can give life, justice, and peace to all

Whoever you are, wherever you come from

Be you high or low rich or poor

Let us give justice its sight

So, it can see the injustice being delivered

down by her servants upon her people

Let us give justice its hearing,

So, it can hear the cries of the victims of crime

The next one is called “Only then...” it came from a single paragraph and centres on when Sukhdev (“I” in the poem) will be able to move on – This s torn at my heart strings, something difficult to do for a heartless soul like me... It also touches on the fact that the road to justice is not only the Reel’s responsibility, but also the responsibility of us all.

Only then...

The future looks dark and troubled

The road ahead rough and tough

My body is weakening under the strain

My mind is burdened by constant abuse

By those who should be assisting

Yet, still I march on, for I have no option

For the only destination of this train

Is justice for Ricky my lovely lost boy

No matter the strain, no matter the pain

I must endure along the track

Only then can the spirit of my beloved son rest in peace

Only then can my family move on,

with a small feeling of justice done

Only then can I look in my mirror

And say with conviction I have fulfilled

My promise made long ago

Ricky my darling boy

These are the thoughts and words of Sukhdev Reel

For Sukhdev's dreams to come true

We her supporters have a role to perform

We must shine a light upon her future

So, she can see the way forward

Make that rough tough road accessible

Keep that train track clear of barriers

Only then can she achieve justice for Ricky

Only then can her family move on,

can they move from the shadowlands

Back in the realms of reality

Only then can she put away the mantle of campaigner

Become a wife mother and grandmother again

Live out her days in a degree of peace

That must be our pledge to her plight to alongside her

I am coming to the end now (I promise ), but it only goes to show how Sukhdev, Ricky and the whole family’s story affected me.

The next two poems go together, when you see them, I hope you see why.

On this River

On this river someone took my son’s life

On this river somebody changed my life

On this river the tide constantly moves on

On this river time stopped dead for me and my family

Before that dreadful day I had a life

After that death- filled day, I only exist

To gain justice for our Ricky

On this river the tide continues to flow

But my pain never dies, never goes


Every day when the sun falls from the sky

The star of my son shines down from the heavens

Illuminating the way, showing us the direction to search

Find the culprits who committed the callous crime

Took our Ricky from us far too soon

Bring these murders to justice

So, my lovely son, our beloved Ricky

Can finally rest in peace

I have written more and will continue to do so, but I am starting sound obsessed now.

So, I will sign off with a special poem one I wrote to make the 45th anniversary of Ricky’s birthday on Monday 11th July 2022. I signed this poem and sent it to Sukhdev. Happy to report she loved it.

From a rough diamond to a pure gem

A poem to mark Ricky’s birthday


As a poet I perform for you

As a campaigner I communicate with you

As an activist I assemble with you

As an advocate I stand up, speak out with you

As a demonstrator I demand with you

Or demand against you

As a protester I want to charge with you

Or charge against you

All of these are facets and faces of me

Make me a diamond

If you focus on one facet I will shine

But it is not until you stand back

Will you see me in all my dazzling collective brilliance

This diamond was forged from the Earth, made by this world

To bring about natural and social justice

Sukhdev herself is a fine poet. So it is only proper she gets the last word here.

Verdict By Sukhdev Reel

I came with a heart full of anticipation and hope

The thought of justice gave me joy

But my heart froze as my son’s dignity

Was thrown around the courtroom like a broken toy.

My legs longed to stand up in indignation

My lips ached to protest

My arms cried to protect my son

And hug him close to my chest.

RIP. Ricky Reel my darling son. One day someone will stand up and tell me who killed you. Until then wait patiently my Ricky. Truth always comes out in the end.

From Silence not an Option By Sukhdev Reel PP. 163