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Gurpreet Singh   

Authored by a former Indian spy, the latest book tells how then-ruling Congress party of India engineered a pogrom against the minority Sikh community during the month of November, 1984.  

Thousands of innocent Sikhs were slaughtered across India by mobs led by Congress party activists following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh body guards, who were seeking revenge for the military invasion on their holiest shrine in Amritsar in June that year. 

The ill-conceived army operation, which left many pilgrims dead and enraged the Sikhs worldwide, was avoidable, according to author G.B.S. Sidhu, a former Sikh officer of India’s intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).  

He explains in detail how the attack was planned and executed to suppress the Sikh struggle for the right to self-determination and autonomy of their home state of Punjab, to polarize the Hindu majority for the so called secularist Congress party to win the upcoming general election.  

He gives first-hand information of how Indira Gandhi’s son Rajiv Gandhi - who succeeded her as the next Prime Minister - and his close associates were directly involved in the Sikh massacre, which helped him gain a brute majority in the election that followed.  

Significantly, he puts on record how the police force in the national capital of New Delhi was helping the mobs going after Sikhs. He himself had to briefly take refuge in a Hindu colleague's house. 

This memoir is important to read, to put the movement for a separate Sikh state of Khalistan in perspective, and to see how repression of the Sikhs strengthened that movement, rather than blaming Sikh activists in places like Canada alone for instigating violence and bloodshed in Punjab.  

Sidhu makes us understand that Khalistan was never a popular demand. It was the creation of the Congress leadership, which deliberately wanted to discredit and weaken a genuine Sikh movement in Punjab, for more autonomy to the state and several religious concessions, by othering Sikhs to gain the sympathy of Hindu voters. Its calculation failed completely. The extremist elements they wished to prop up against moderate Sikh leaders went out of control, and Punjab was pushed into turmoil during a decade long militancy.  

He rightly observes that neighbouring Pakistan had only taken advantage of the domestic crisis, for which the blame lies squarely with the Congress party. He warns that if India fails to bring closure to 1984, Pakistan and Khalistan supporters outside India will continue to precipitate their agenda.  

However, Sidhu has conveniently overlooked the involvement of the currently ruling right wing Hindu nationalist government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  

That the supporters of Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) also participated in the Sikh massacre is well documented. Yet that part is missing in the book. So much so, Modi’s government gave Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, to the late Nanaji Deshmukh, a Hindu supremacist leader who had justified the violence against Sikhs. But Sidhu is silent about this.  On the contrary, he tries to paint a rosy picture of Modi's government by claiming that is has removed the names of Sikh expatriates from a blacklist prepared by the previous Congress government, to deny entry to those who had been raising voices against state repression abroad and creating an environment for reinvestigating the massacre of 1984.  

How could he gloss over all this, especially when the attacks on religious minorities, especially Muslims, have grown under Modi? It is pertinent to mention that Modi had repeated what happened in 1984 back in 2002, when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, which witnessed Muslim genocide after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire leaving more than 50 people dead. Although one commission of enquiry found that it was an accident, Modi blamed it on Muslims and incited violence against them. Because of that, he was denied a visa by the US and other western countries until he became the Prime Minister in 2014.  

Even in 2019, Modi supporters targeted Kashmiri Muslims across India, following a militant attack that left forty soldiers dead in Kashmir.   

Interestingly, while claiming to be an authority on Sikh history, Sidhu does not take pains to look into the BJP agenda of assimilating Sikhs into the dominant Hindu society, which is a great source of worry among the Sikhs and has been at the root of the conflict between the community and the Indian establishment. It is not surprising to see how this anxiety has grown under Modi, who remains highly unpopular among the Sikhs in spite of the opportunistic political alliance between trhe BJP and Akali Dal, the party that claims to represent Sikh interests in Punjab.

The jailed scholar and activist, who is being incarcerated by the world's so called largest democracy, has been recognized as this year’s person by a Vancouver-based online magazine that covers alternative politics.  

Radical Desi has declared Anand Teltumbde as Person of the Year 2020 for being in the news after his arrest on trumped up charges.  

Teltumbde has authored many books, and has written columns critical of the Indian state and the way it has been treating religious minorities and oppressed groups. He was taken in custody on April 14, 2020.  

Ironically, he was arrested on the birth anniversary of the towering Indian intellectual and Dalit icon Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Teltumbde happens to be the grandson-in-law of Amebdkar, who was the architect of the Indian constitution.  

Teltumbde has been courageously speaking out against state violence and repression. He was being hounded by the Indian authorities for questioning the power. His arrest is a clear attempt to muzzle any voice of dissent by the currently ruling right wing Hindu nationalist regime, which has already imprisoned many other political activists and scholars under draconian laws.  

 

 

Raise Your Hands Against Racism, which was launched in January 2015, on the birth anniversary of African American civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr., has received a Community Service Award from the apex body of broadcasters in BC.  

The campaign, which has been recognized by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and BC premier John Horgan, was given this year’s fall award by BC Association of Broadcasters.  

Started by Burnaby-based Spice Radio CEO Shuhsma Datt, Raise Your Hands Against Racism continues to trend across the province.  

The campaign picked up in the post-Trump political environment in North America. In the light of recent attacks on people of Asian heritage following the outbreak of COVID 19 in China, the campaign has become even more relevant.  

It encourages the participants to dip their hands in colour and leave their palm prints alongside a message against bigotry. The annual event coincides with Holi, the Indian festival of colours.   

This year’s event was cancelled because of the pandemic.  

Over the years, many prominent political and apolitical figures have joined the campaign, and several individuals who have stood up against racism and discrimination have been awarded as part of the initiative.  

 

 

Gurpreet Singh  

On Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a statement to congratulate Sikhs on the auspicious occasion to mark the return of their sixth master Guru Hargobind after being released from jail. 

He was imprisoned by the Moghul emperor for resisting against injustice and repression in the early 17th century. However, upon his release he insisted that another 52 kings detained alongside him on trumped up charges must also be freed.    

Since then the Sikhs celebrate the event as Bandi Chhor Divas, which literally means the day of liberation of prisoners.  

Significantly, Trudeau’s statement mentions the story behind the occasion.    

“Today, we join Sikh communities in Canada and around the world to celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas. On this day, Sikhs recall the story of Guru Hargobind Sahib and his release from prison. According to Sikh history, the Guru had refused to be released unless 52 innocent kings were also freed. Like the Guru who believed that the freedom and rights of others were more important than his own, Bandi Chhor Divas reminds us of the importance of respect, freedom, and inclusion”. 

Well said, Mr. Trudeau. But the statement means nothing without much action on the ground.  

After all, his government remains silent about what has been going on in India under a right wing Hindu nationalist regime led by Narendra Modi.  

Ever since Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014, attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown.  

Those opposed to his intolerant and fascist ideology continue to be arrested and thrown in jails.  

Early this year in April, a prominent scholar Anand Teltumbde, who had previously visited Canada, was forced to surrender after being booked on malicious charges. His only fault was that he has been writing against state violence and defending the rights of the minorities and the oppressed groups.  

He is not alone. Others being incarcerated include disabled Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba, and prominent female lawyer Sudha Bhardawaj, besides an aged revolutionary poet, Varavara Rao.  

Then there are Sikh activists such as Jaggi Johal from UK and Muslim activists like Umar Khalid who are being held under draconian laws for raising their voices for human rights.  

The list is long and I can keep going.  

All through this, Modi's government has been selectively releasing on compassionate grounds right wing Hindu extremists who were arrested and put behind bars on serious charges of being involved in mass murders of Muslims. But there is absolutely no sympathy for the leftists, the Sikhs and the Muslim political prisoners, even as the threat of COVID 19 is hovering over overcrowded Indian jails.  

If Canada really cares about its own image as a human rights leader in the world, and if Trudeau genuinely respects the spirit behind Bandi Chhor Divas, he needs to tell Modi to free all these individuals. His silence on these matters leaves us with no doubt that his statement is a mere token to please his Sikh constituents, and nothing more than that.

 

The Surrey City Councillor whose efforts led to the recognition of state sponsored massacre of Sikhs in India was presented with medal by members of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India on Tuesday, November 10.  

Mandeep Nagra was instrumental behind the Sikh Genocide Remembrance Month proclamation read out by Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum on Monday night.  

Thirty-six years after the well-organized violence against Sikhs all over India, the City of Surrey has officially declared November 2020 as “Sikh Genocide Remembrance Month”.    

Thousands of innocent Sikhs were slaughtered by political goons following the assassination of then-prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards at her official residence on October 31, 1984.   

In the first week of November that year, close to 3,000 Sikhs were murdered in the national capital of New Delhi alone by mobs supported by the police.   

Sikhs in Canada have been holding commemorative events and an annual blood drive in memory of the victims every year during the month of November.   

This has been a longstanding demand of Sikhs, who have a sizeable population in Surrey. 

On Tuesday, IAPI President Parshotam Dosanjh presented Nagra with the Radical Desi medal of courage at a brief event held at Channel Punjabi studios in Surrey. The medal was established by Radical Desi online magazine, which covers alternative politics and remains a media partner of IAPI.  

Nagra was honoured for standing up for human rights and bravely advocating for the proclamation, which was opposed by right wing pro-India groups. IAPI was formed in response to growing attacks on religious minorities under the currently ruling fascist and intolerant Hindu nationalist regime. It has also kept alive the issue of Sikh Genocide, which began an era of majoritarian violence with impunity in India.    

Due to COVID 19 restrictions, the event was planned on a low scale and held in the presence of Channel Punjabi team, besides two other IAPI members, Amrit Diwana and Gurpreet Singh. 

Diwana, a progressive Punjabi poet, presented a copy of one of his recent books to Nagra.     

Nagra also played a pivotal role in a proclamation in memory of the towering Punjabi human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra, who was abducted and killed by the Indian police in 1995. 

Human-rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra researched 25,000 extrajudicial killings and cremations involving police in Punjab in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Khalra was investigating cases of Sikh political activists who were murdered by police in an extra-judicial manner to suppress a movement for the right to self-determination. This year marked the 25th anniversary of his disappearance and murder.   

Incidentally, Khalra’s grandfather was aboard Komagata Maru in 1914. At that time, the Canadian government forced this Japanese vessel carrying more than 350 South Asian passengers to leave Vancouver's harbour and return to India, under a discriminatory immigration policy designed to keep Canada as a “white man’s land.” 

Last year, Nagra helped rename a stretch of 75A Street in Surrey as Komagata Maru Way. 

Apart from that, he was in the forefront of the drive to encourage Surrey residents to plant 550 trees on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion.  

 

*** 

 

Members of the South Asian community came together to raise their voices for justice to the survivors of state sponsored violence against Sikhs in the first week of November, 1984.  

Organized by Indians Abroad for Pluralist India, the vigil was opened by Indigenous activist Jenifer Allen, at Holland Park in Surrey, on the evening of Sunday, November 1. 

She tried to make connections between the cultural genocide of the First Nations in Canada with the ongoing genocide of minorities elsewhere in the world.  

Thousands of innocent Sikhs were slaughtered all across India by the political goons, following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, seeking revenge for the military attack on their holiest shrine in June that year. 

Many senior politicians and police officers who were complicit in the massacre remain unpunished. Not only were the slain leader’s Congress party involved, but also members of the currently ruling right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party. 

This was done to polarize the Hindu majority by demonizing Sikhs in the ensuing general election. The pattern has repeated under BJP rule because of the culture of impunity.  

The speakers were unanimous in their criticism of the Indian state for allowing systemic violence against religious minorities, including Sikhs, Muslims and Christians, and the oppressed communities such as Dalits, in the garb of secularism and democracy.   

Those who addressed the gathering included Member of Parliament Randeep Singh Sarai, besides Sikh activists Tejinder Kaur, Gian Singh Gill, Inderjit Singh Bains, Harbans Singh Aujla, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, Charanjit Singh Sujjon, Dr. Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal and Gurmukh Singh Deol. 

Two Muslim activists, Imtiaz Popat and Sayed Wajahat, also spoke on the occasion. Preet Manpreet and Parminder Swaich recited poems in memory of the victims of 1984 pogrom.    

The participants raised slogans against ongoing state repression in India against minorities and political dissidents. 

 

October 28 marks the 25th anniversary of the custodial murder of Jaswant Singh Khalra.  

The towering human rights defender laid down his life, fighting tirelessly for justice to those killed in an extra judicial manner in the name of the "war against terrorism."

Khalra was abducted by the Indian police from his home in Amritsar on September 6, 1995, and was never seen after that. While an eyewitness testified that he was murdered by the police fifty-two days after being kidnapped, his body wasn't recovered.  

Khalra was among thousands of Sikhs who were abducted and killed by Indian police and security forces in Punjab between the 1980s and 1990s. Most of these people remain untraced and presumed dead. There has been no accountability for senior police officers involved in these illegal operations to deal with an armed insurgency by Sikh separatists who were seeking an independent homeland. 

Sikh men were frequently kidnapped, tortured, and killed in faked encounters with impunity, as perpetrators in uniforms were rewarded with out-of-turn promotions and gallantry awards. In almost all cases, the victims' bodies were disposed of unceremoniously. 

Khalra’s only fault was that he started an investigation into the enforced disappearances. At the time, he was collecting records of those who were cremated secretly in Amritsar. 

Prior to being kidnapped and murdered, Khalra came to Canada in 1995 to raise international awareness about this issue. Even though he was offered a chance to apply for asylum, true to his convictions, he chose to return and continue his unfinished task in the face of threats coming from senior police officers.  

Interestingly, Khalra’s grandfather, Harnam Singh, was aboard the Komagata Maru, a Japanese vessel carrying more than 350 Indian passengers, who were forced to return from Vancouver in 1914 under a racist immigration law. Singh later became involved in the struggle against British occupation of India.   

US-based teacher Gurmeet Kaur has published a book that makes many important revelations about his daring work.

The Valliant Jaswant Singh Khalracontains numerous documents and pictures that bring to life his activism. 

It helps in understanding how India’s claim of being the world’s largest democracy is flawed, since the minorities continue to live in fear in a Hindu-dominated nation. 

Despite being a practising Sikh, Khalra also stood for Hindus who were killed during the militancy in Punjab, and advocated against violence against them.  

He also denounced the demolition of an ancient mosque in 1992, and the subsequent violence against Muslims by the currently ruling right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Although he was the leader of the human rights wing of Akali Dal, an alliance partner of BJP, he pulled no punches while criticising them for remaining indifferent to an assault on the Muslim faith, and distanced himself from the party.  

Khalra was an exceptional hero who believed in the true values of Sikhism, which teaches its followers to stand up for others and rebel against any kind of oppression. He was a part of many pro-people movements before dedicating himself to the cause of Sikh rights. Among these was the revolutionary communist movement of the late 1960s.     

Khalra’s story remains relevant both in India and across the world, as security forces continue to use enforced disappearances as a tool to create terror and suppress any voice of dissent with impunity. Especially when citizens in North America are getting organized against systemic racism and police violence against Indigenous people and Blacks, Khalra’s story needs to be shared widely, to challenge the myth about the tolerance and transparency of the Indian government, which has too many skeletons in its cupboard.  

Kaur’s book is available from Surrey-based Sikhi Awareness Foundation for $20. For more information call Shamandeep Singh at 604 825 8464.   

 

Gurpreet Singh  

Days after a French teacher was brutally murdered by an Islamic extremist, Deepika Singh Rajawat is facing a backlash from right wing Hindu fanatics.  

Samuel Party was beheaded after he shared a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad in class.  

While the world has not recovered from the shock, an India-based human rights lawyer is facing threats on social media for tweeting a cartoon depicting the hypocrisy of those Hindus who worship goddesses, but sexually abuse women.   

The Hindus are celebrating Navratri these days. It’s a festival dedicated to female deities that embody women empowerment.  

Deepika Singh Rajawat, who is a known feminist, had questioned the irony of the society that reveres goddesses, but has no respect otherwise for the bodies of women. Her tweet was in response to growing sexual violence against women in India, describing it as ironic that the same set of people who are praying before deities are targeting women with impunity.  

Violence against religious minorities and their women has spiked under the current ruling right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government. Back in 2018, an eight-year-old Muslim nomad girl, Asifa Bano, was raped and murdered inside a temple in Kathua. This was done to terrorise the Muslim community and force them to flee. So much so, the BJP supporters came out in support of those involved.  

Rajawat had stepped forward to take up the case of the victim’s family. Since then, she has been facing death and rape threats.  

Her tweet of Navratri has once again outraged the supporters of Hindu Right. They are seeking her arrest for hurting religious sentiments, despite the fact that she is a practising Hindu, and the tweet was not offensive toward deities at all. It was rather directed at the double faced worshippers.  

It’s time that the global community takes notice of what is happening in India under the BJP government as well.  The silence over what is happening with Rajawat and the anguish over the murder of Party is selective and dishonest.  

Considering the recent murders of free thinkers and rationalists in India, allegedly by the Hindu extremists who have become emboldened under the BJP rule, threats against Rajawat cannot be taken lightly. 

 

A Canadian activist who has been branded as a “terrorist” by the Indian government was honoured at a special event held at Abbotsford Gurdwara on Saturday, October 10.  

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who is associated with Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), a group that was recently banned by the Indian establishment for campaigning for a separate homeland of Khalistan, was presented with a medal by officials of the Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Society.  

SFJ is seeking a referendum on Khalistan, which has already led to many arrests of Sikh activists in India. The Indian authorities recently designated Nijjar as a terrorist, and have decided to attach his property in Punjab.  

In order to show their solidarity with Nijjar, Sikh societies in BC came together to honour him on the weekend. Nijjar, who is also the President of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, Surrey-Delta, is outspoken against racism and social injustice anywhere in the world.    

Indian officials have been trying to get Nijjar extradited, based on criminal cases filed against him in absentia. The Indian police have constantly accused him of running an arms training camp in BC, and working in collusion with Pakistan to create Khalistan through violent means. However, SFJ has been asking to hold a referendum on the question of Khalistan, and insists that it believes in achieving its goal through a democratic process.  

The pro-Khalistan outfits in Canada feel that the current right wing Hindu nationalist government in India is trying to demonize their movement and suppress any voice of resistance from minority communities.  

 

 

 

*** 

 

South Asians activists came together on the evening of Friday, October 2, to raise voices against the recent gang rape of a Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh, India 

Manisha died after struggling for life for two weeks.  

She was brutally assaulted and raped by people belonging to the upper caste.  

Her death has outraged the community of so-called untouchables who have been facing caste-based oppression for centuries. Under the current ruling right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government, such atrocities have grown. Not only religious minorities, especially Muslims, Dalits also continue to be targeted with impunity by the right wing goons.  

On the call given by Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI), two dozen people showed up at the candlelight vigil and rally right outside the Indian passport and visa office in Surrey.  

The participants, the majority of who were from the Dalit background, held signs asking for justice to Manisha and lit candles in her memory. They also raised slogans against the BJP government.  

The speakers were unanimous in their criticism of the BJP government which is openly shielding the suspects and patronizing violence against Dalits and Muslims to transform India into a Hindu theocracy.  

Incidentally, October 2 is also the birth anniversary of MK Gandhi, the towering leader of the passive resistance movement against British occupation of India. Gandhi was assassinated for standing up against atrocities on Muslims and for denouncing untouchability by the Hindu fundamentalists. It is a separate matter that he was not opposed to the caste system, because of which Dalit activists find him as an extremely problematic figure. The followers of the ideology of his killers are presently governing the country.  

Among those who addressed the gathering were Dalit activists Roop Lal Gaddu, Surinder Sandhu, Ajmer Singh, Sukhwinder Kaur and Anita, besides Sikh activist Ranjit Singh Khalsa and anti racism educator Annie Ohana. 

IAPI members Tejinder Sharma and Gurpreet Singh also spoke on the occasion, which began with a poem by Amrit Diwana, a well known progressive poet and writer in the Punjabi community. His poem was based on the systemic sexual abuse Dalit women endure in the Indian society.   

 

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