"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

Capital of Crows Featured

 

Gurpreet Singh   

I have always been fond of books, but never before had I read so many in one single year. I have actually lost the count of those I read one after another, at times two simultaneously, during the pandemic.  

COVID 19 turned me into a book addict, compelling me to keep researching for them online and continue ordering. So much so, I reread some, and pulled out those I have been collecting over the years for my home library but never had time to go through.  

Around this time, I began reading Panchatantra, a collection of fables that many believe were written around 200 BC by a Hindu scholar, Pandit Vishnu Sharma. It is said that a king entrusted his three sons to Sharma, so that they could learn niti (policy making).  

One of the stories that caught my attention deeply was of the crows and owls. I could not resist relating it with some bigger and real events that happened in Canada and continue to affect us even today. Being a journalist by profession, I have a responsibility to look at any issue from different angles. The story gave me one perspective that I wanted to share, but was not sure if anyone would listen.  

The story goes like this: there was a bloody rivalry between two kingdoms, one led by an owl and the other by a crow.  

Crows were enraged over the continued killing of their tribe by owls during nights. Since owls can see in the dark, the crows were always at the receiving end in an event of attack.  

The crows decide to wipe out owls once and for all. They begin chalking out strategy, and eventually agree to infiltrate one of their own among the owls, spying on their activities to find an appropriate moment for their annihilation.  

As part of the plan, they kick out one member of their flock. Once this comes to the attention of the owls, they get carried away and offer him refuge. Despite some opposition by a few owls who remain skeptical, the owl king remains adamant and decides to take the abandoned crow under his wings.  

The crow is brought to the kingdom of owls and given a place to stay. The days pass, as the crow who is perceived to be an estranged tribe member, in reality keeps a watch on the daily routine of the rivals.  

The owls sleep during the day, and remain active at night. Their precise location is revealed, making it easier for the crows to know where and when to strike. After gaining the confidence of the owls, the spy flies back to its kingdom while the owls are asleep, and gives the signal for invasion. As a result, the crows attack the cave and burn all the owls alive.   

If you are Canadian and have been following the case of Air India bombings, you cannot help making connections. This particular story of Panchatantra clearly speaks in the same language with the saga of Air India. 

The Air India Flight 182 was bombed mid-air above the Irish Sea on June 23, 1985, killing all 329 people aboard. Around the same time, two baggage handlers were killed in a separate blast on the ground at Narita Airport in Japan. The explosions were caused by two suitcase bombs checked in at the Vancouver airport on flights headed to India. The incident is widely blamed on Babbar Khalsa, a banned terror group seeking separate a Sikh state of Khalistan. The authorities in both India and Canada continue to claim that this was done to avenge the repression of Sikhs in India.  

A year before the bombings, the Indian military had invaded the Golden Temple Complex in Amritsar, to deal with a handful of insurgents holed up inside the holiest shrine of the Sikhs. The ill conceived army operation left many innocent pilgrims dead. This had outraged Sikhs across the world, culminating in the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984. Her murder was followed by state sponsored massacres of Sikhs all over India.  

To make sure that I read everything right in Panchatantra, I was forced to scan once again Soft Target, a book that challenged the official theory of Air India. 

Its author, Zuhair Kashmeri, goes into many details of the conspiracy, concluding that this might have been the handiwork of the Indian spy agency RA&W, which wanted to discredit Sikh separatists in the eyes of the international community. RA&W had infiltrated agents among the Sikh activists in Canada, and had them target Air India, so that supporters of Khalistan lost all their sympathy and support generated because of the ugly incidents of 1984.  

As the years went by this alternative viewpoint gained more credence with some of the characters named in the Air India case, either turning away from the cause of Khalistan, or some starting to show inclination towards the Indian state. A few have already passed away. These include Talwinder Singh Parmar of Babbar Khalsa.  

Parmar was the alleged mastermind had died at the hands of the Indian police under mysterious circumstances in 1992. With his death, an important link to the investigation was broken, raising even more questions about the involvement of the Indian establishment.  

Ripudaman Singh Malik, a BC-based Sikh billionaire, was accused of being a financier, but acquitted in 2005. He recently expressed his outright support for the current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose Hindu supremacist party BJP is determined to turn India into a Hindu theocracy. Before that, Malik was given Indian visa to visit the country of his birth. His brother even acknowledged during a TV interview that they had a cordial meeting with RA&W chief Samant Goel. This is despite the fact that the judge who acquitted Malik - due to lack of evidence - had said that his “not guilty” verdict wasn’t a pronouncement of innocence.  

The word that strongly binds the two stories together is niti, which has become relevant today under a Hindu nationalist government. For BJP, this is like a mantra, a tenet which is more sacred than the relatively advanced and progressive constitution of India.  

Whatever was done to the Sikhs in 1984 under a different regime was clearly aimed at pleasing the Hindu majority for short term electoral gains, but benefited the BJP in the long run.  If the so called secular Congress government under Indira and her son-the late Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded her as the next Prime Minister, could behave in a sectarian manner to target the Sikh minority, what can stop Modi from pursuing a divisive agenda far more aggressively? Thanks to Modi's use of niti by the think tanks sitting in New Delhi, the capital of crows stands exposed.  

 

*** 

 

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Last modified on Friday, 17 June 2022 15:49
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Gurpreet Singh

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