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The local South Asian activists came together to hold demonstration against the gruesome murder of Gauri Lankesh at the Holland Park in Surrey on Wednesday evening.     


                 
Lankesh was a famous journalist who was fatally shot outside her house in Benguluru, India on September 5. She was a well known critic of growing violence by Hindu fundamentalists in India under a right wing Modi government.  She has been receiving threats from the extremist groups and as soon as the news of her assassination spread, the supporters of Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi started maligning her on the social media. Her murder follows spate of killings of other liberal and democratic activists and thinkers in India over the last several years.           


           
The speakers at the rally unanimously condemned the murder of Lankesh and denounced violence by Hindu fanatics who continue to enjoy the patronage of the Modi government. Slogans against religious sectarianism were raised by the participants who carried banners and placards denouncing Hindutva terror. Organized by the Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI), the rally was attended by people from different communities and progressive organizations.  Among those who spoke on the occasion was Surrey Greentimbers MLA Rachna Singh.



She was the only elected official to be present at the rally. The others included Dashmesh Darbar Gurdwara Spokesman Gian Singh Gill, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Society founder Ranjit Singh Khalsa, Akali Dal (Amritsar) leader Sarabjit Singh, visiting Dravid activist from India Waman Meshram, Muslim activist Sayyad Wajahat, Dalit activist Kamlesh Ahir, secularist activist Sunil Kumar and Indian RationalIst Society Leader Avtar Gill. Since the day of the rally coincided with the anniversary of Jaswant Singh Khalra 's abduction he was also remembered by the speakers. Khalra was investigating the human rights abuse by the Punjab police during Sikh militancy. He was abducted on September 6, 1995 from his Amritsar home and later murdered by the police. A moment of silence was observed for Lankesh at the opening of the event. This was the latest event organized by IAPI. On August 27, the  IAPI supporters held a denomination outside the Indian consulate in Vancouver.         

Tuesday (September 5) marks the 103rd anniversary of the assassination of Bhaag Singh, a towering leader in the Vancouver Sikh community who fought against racism and colonialism. 

Bhaag Singh was born in British India. He had previously served in the British army before immigrating to Canada to earn a better livelihood. India was under British occupation back then and Canada was a dominion with close ties to the British Empire. 

When people of Bhaag Singh's generation started coming to Vancouver, they believed that being British subjects, they would be treated fairly in Canada. But they were soon disillusioned after facing blatant racism and discrimination in North America.

After any event of racial violence they never received any help from British consulates. So much so, they were left to fight on their own when Canadian authorities passed laws that disfranchised them and barred them from bringing their families from India. Canadian officials wanted to discourage them from permanent settlement. 

Under these circumstances, Bhaag Singh and his comrades started getting organized. They established the Khalsa Diwan Society, the oldest Sikh body, and opened a gurdwara that also provided space for political activism. Bhaag Singh eventually became a leader of the Khalsa Diwan Society and was in the forefront of all the movements and political actions.

He encouraged his compatriots who had previously served in British armies to burn their medals and certificates, an event that laid the foundation of a long struggle against racism abroad and freedom from foreign rule back home. They realized that unless India became free they wouldn't get much respect anywhere in the world.

They wanted to establish a secular and egalitarian society in post-British India. It is important to mention here that while the gurdwara was established in Vancouver because Sikhs vastly outnumbered other South Asian immigrants, Bhaag Singh took along with him the members of other communities to accomplish their goal. An injury to one was seen as injury to all. 

In 1912, Bhaag Singh rejected an invitation from the British Empire to participate in the celebrations of the coronation of King George V. This act of defiance was equally important.

Bhaag Singh also mobilized support for passengers on the Komagata Maru, a Japanese vessel carrying more than 300 people from India. The ship was forced to leave Vancouver's harbour and return to India in July 1914 under discriminatory immigration laws, galvanizing the movement for a free India. 

These ugly events led to a bloody fight between two rival factions in the Sikh community. The radical faction was led by Bhaag Singh, while the other was created by a controversial immigration inspector, William Hopkinson. Hopkinson, an Anglo-Indian, had infiltrated his spies in the Sikh community to keep a watch on Bhaag Singh and his associates. On the fateful day of September 5, one of Hopkinson's agents, Bela Singh, went inside the gurdwara and fatally shot Bhaag Singh and another activist, Badan Singh. 

These killings led to the murder of Hopkinson by Bhaag Singh's associate, Mewa Singh, who was executed in January 1915. Mewa Singh faced the gallows with courage and conviction. 

A century later, Bhaag Singh and his legacy remain even more relevant. Not only has racism grown once again in North America under Donald Trump's presidency in the U.S., but the Indigenous peoples continue to face structural violence in Canada. 

Repression in India, the country Bhaag Singh wanted to see liberated, refuses to end. Especially under the current right-wing Hindu nationalist government led by Narendra Modi, the attacks on religious minorities have sharply increased. Secularism that was dear to men like Bhaag Singh is under threat.  

What could be more shameful that those now in control of the Khalsa Diwan Society hosted Modi in 2015 when he came here after being elected as prime minister of India? No questions were raised about his controversial past. The state of Gujarat had witnessed its worst anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002 when Modi was its chief minister. Human rights activists and survivors continue to allege his complicity in the violence against Muslims.

Indian investigative journalist Rana Ayyub conducted a sting operation to expose the involvement of officials involved in the carnage in Gujarat. Yet when she was here in Vancouver last month, the Khalsa Diwan Society denied her the opportunity to address the congregation, citing her "controversial past". 

Nothing surprising though as this body has also been welcoming the officials of the previous right-wing Conservative government in spite of their racist and discriminatory immigration policies and attacks on Muslim community.

It is easier to talk about the sacrifices of men like Bhaag Singh and organize memorials, but a real tribute can be paid to him only through meaningful actions. Rather than remaining silent to racism and repression and rubbing shoulders with those in power—or behaving like agents of the Indian consulate—the so-called community gatekeepers trying to take mileage from his legacy should stand up for justice and fairness.

Had Bhaag Singh been alive and part of the Khalsa Diwan Society today he would not have let Modi step into the gurdwara. Rather he would have welcomed Ayyub with open arms and honoured her for her courage . If we really care for what Bhaag Singh stood for, we need to stop the gimmickry of customary memorials and raise our voice against tyrants. 

 

While activists across India observed August 25 as Kandhmal Day in commemoration of the victims of anti Christian pogrom in 2008, a conversation was held at the University of British Columbia (UBC) on growing attacks on religious minorities under Modi government.

Held at the CK Choi Building in UBC, the conversation was between visiting journalist from India Rana Ayyub and the Vancouver-based researcher Kamal Arora. While Ayyub has authored Gujarat Files, a book based on her investigation of the complicity of the government in violence against Muslims in Gujarat, Arora has done Phd. on the widows of the anti Sikh carnage of 1984. Both the incidents were engineered by the ruling parties to target minorities.

The Gujarat massacre of Muslims in 2002 started after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire under mysterious circumstances. The incident that left more than 50 passengers dead was blamed on the Muslims by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). The current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat back then. The surviovors of the violence and human rights activists continue to maintain that he was directly involved in the bloodshed.

The technique used to target Muslims was similar to the one used by the so called secularist Congress government in Delhi in 1984 to attack Sikhs. The anti Sikh massacre was followed by the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The Congress leaders were seen inciting the mobs to “teach Sikhs a lesson”.

Following both massacres, the BJP and the Congress benefited during the elections that followed ugly political events by polarizing Hindu majority against Muslims and Sikhs respectively.

Both Ayyub and Arora agreed that there were striking similarities between the two episodes and reflects badly on India that is otherwise known as world’s largest secular democracy. Ayyub insisted that if justice was done to the Sikhs in 1984, 2002 would not have happened.

The impunity enjoyed by those involved in these crimes gave encouragement to similar pogroms in the years to come. In August 2008, anti Christian violence broke out in Kandhmal, Odisha following the assassination of a Hindu seer by the Maoists. Yet, the BJP supporters targeted innocent Christians after falsely accusing the Christian missionaries for the murder.

Ayyub acknowledged the significance of the Kandhmal Day on the occasion and reminded the audience of the growing attacks on minorities in India ever since Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014. Both panelists emphasized that the minorities need to join hands to fight back against majoritarianism and the process of othering minority communities in India by a government that was determined to transform a pluralist nation into Hindu theocracy.

A Walk for Pluralist India against growing attacks on religious minorities under Modi government was held here on Sunday evening.

Organized by the Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI), the walk started from the Simon Fraser University Harbour Center and went up to the Komagata Maru Memorial. The participants stopped by at the Indian consulate for sloganeering and dropped some flyers at its doorstep. They chanted slogans against Hindutuva terrorism and saffronisation.

Later, the march culminated at the Komagata Maru ,memorial where speakers unanimously expressed their concern over attempts to transform India into Hindu theocracy. They also condemned the Khalsa Diwan Society the oldest Sikh body that helped the Komagata Maru passengers and fought against racism and stood for a secular and egalitarian India after the British left for denying an opportunity to visiting Indian journalist Rana Ayyub to address the congregation.

More than 300 South Asian passengers aboard Komagata Maru ship were denied entry into Canada under the discriminatory immigration laws in 1914. The passengers who belonged to different faith groups came to Canada as potential immigrants from India that was under British occupation. Some of them later joined a radical freedom movement that was aimed at establishing a secular and egalitarian republic.

Khalsa Diwan Society had recently denied an opportunity to Ayyub to speak to the congregation citing her “controversial background.” Ayyub has authored a book based on her investigation of complicity of the government in anti Muslim violence in Gujarat when Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of the state. Modi was hosted by the Khalsa Diwan Society in 2015 when he came here as the Prime Minister of India.

The speakers made a connection between the history of Komagata Maru and growing racism and bigotry both in North America and India.

Among those who participated were Radical Desi Director Gurpreet Singh, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy leader Chinmoy Banerjee, Sikh Nation activist Sunil Kumar, Muslim activist Imtiaz Popat, Naujawan Bharat Sabha leader , Kulwinder Singh and Sikh activist Kesar Singh Kooner.

 

Gurpreet Singh 

When former Punjab Police Chief KPS Gill passed away in May, the leaders of almost all the mainstream political parties of India paid rich tributes to the deceased and described him as a national hero who according to them had decimated terrorism in Punjab.

At an event organized in his memory, the leaders from both the left and the right side of the political spectrum spoke passionately for Gill. These included Maninderjit Singh Bitta- a self styled anti terrorism activist who vowed to keep Gill’s fight against terrorism alive and those associated with the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and a Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury.

Gill was the Director General of Police in Punjab that witnessed bloody conflict between early 1980s to early 1990s. It was a time when a movement for Khalistan, an imaginary Sikh homeland was at its peak. The Sikh extremists were involved in large scale violence against Hindus and their liberal critics within the Sikh community. In response, the Indian state gave free hand to officers like Gill to deal with the militants who were often killed by using extra judicial means. The ruthless policemen were duly rewarded with out of turn promotions. Thus, the militancy ended partly because of losing popular support due to excesses committed by the extremists and partly because of police repression.

Those blinded by nationalism continue to see Gill as a saviour, but they won’t see another dedicated police officer who had smashed the network of a terrorism of different kind with the same lens.

The late Hemant Karkare had died during a terror attack on Mumbai in 2008. The attack was blamed on Islamic extremists who had come from Pakistan and tried to take the entire city hostage.

Karkare had created headlines that year after he uncovered the activities of terrorists seeking to turn India into a Hindu theocracy in the state of Maharashtra. In one of the bombings done by the Hindu militants in Malegaon in September 2008, eight people had died and close to 100 people were injured. Though the attack was targeted at the Muslim community, the police had initially suspected the involvement of Jihadist extremists. Thanks to an honest investigation of Karkare who was with the Anti Terrorism Squad, the police were able to arrest the actual culprits.

However, Karkare had to face humiliation for arresting the extremists who belonged to the right wing Hindu organizations. He came under constant attack from the BJP and its supporters. The current Prime Minister Narendra Modi who used to be the Chief Minister of Gujarat back then too came to the defence of the Hindu extremists. Since the Congress party was in power in New Delhi, the BJP and other Hindu organizations tried to discredit Karkare by suggesting that the cases against Hindu extremists was a complete fabrication done under political pressure. This was despite the fact that Karkare was a practicing Hindu and was only trying to do his job professionally.

In November 2008 when Karkare died while fighting against Islamic extremists; though some believe that he was killed as part of a conspiracy, he became martyr for the BJP. Modi had offered a huge monetary award to his family that was turned down by Karkare’s widow.

In 2014 when Modi became the Prime Minister and the BJP grabbed the power in the center with a brute majority, the pressure started building up on the prosecutors pursuing the Melgaon case and similar other cases of terrorism. They were told to go slow and as was being apprehended some of those involved got bail as the National Investigation Agency began questioning the merits of Karkare’s investigation in the courts. The judges were told that the evidence was ascertained through coercion.

When one of the suspects, a serving army officer Lt. Colonel Srikant Purohit got the bail recently, the BJP began maligning Karkare in public.

This only reflects the double standards of the Indian nationalism which is in fact based on the principles of secularism and equality, but under the BJP its narrative has changed completely. Anyone who dares to challenge the majoritarian terrorism in a Hindu dominated India won’t get a similar respect that was received by police officers like Gill who were used to eliminate the threat of Sikh extremists who represented a minority community that makes only two percent of the Indian population.

But the BJP alone cannot be blamed as other political forces are no different when it comes to satisfy either the majority community or the collective conscience of the society.

 

Will Yechury dare to come out with a strong statement against calculated attempt to discredit Karkare, who stood against Hindu extremists? Will Biita utter a word against terrorism in the name of Hindu state? Aren’t Hindu extremists too a threat to the peace and unity of the country? Isn’t what they are doing unconstitutional and against national interest? The way Hindu extremism has grown in India under Modi and minorities continue to be attacked everyday can we expect the state to give free hand to the police to deal with the Hindu fanatics in a similar manner that was applied in Punjab to deal with the Sikh extremists? Why not kill the Hindu extremists also in staged shootouts and let the police pocket rewards to restore peace in India? Can we ask for another so called national hero like Gill who could take this challenge and use ruthless means to end terrorism of Hindu militants? If not, then India should acknowledge what it truly is – a Hindu state under the garb of secular democracy which has two different laws for terrorists belonging to two different communities.

Courageous author and journalist Rana Ayyub – who exposed the involvement of the Indian officials in the systematic killings of Muslims was honoured by Radical Desi in Surrey on Saturday.

She was presented with Courage in Journalism Award at a well attended event held at Dr. Ambedkar room in the Surrey Central Library. Those who presented her the award included Amandeep Singh- a lawyer and a human rights activist who was recently honoured by Radical Desi for drafting the petition seeking release of disabled Delhi University Professor G.N. Saibaba who continues to be persecuted by the Indian state for standing up for minorities and the oppressed communities. Others who joined Singh for presenting the award were one of the Radical Desi founders Parshottam Dosanjh and the leader of the Prof. Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation Sahib Thind.

Ayyub is the author and publisher of Gujarat Files – based on her undercover investigation of the administrative and police officers who were responsible for the murders of the members of the minority community had risked her life by taking part in sting operation for Tehlka magazine.

She was sent to Gujarat following the anti Muslim pogrom of 2002 and spate of murders of Muslim men by the police in staged shootouts.

Thousands of Muslims were targeted by the goons led by BJP activists. Human rights activists and survivours continue to allege the complicity of the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi in the mass murders. The bloodshed was followed by series of murders of Muslim men by the police in fake encounters. The slain men were frequently branded as Jihadist extremists.

Ayyub told the gathering how she posed herself as a Hindu woman with strong family affiliations with the BJP and befriended people in the police and administration. She later spoke to them about the violence against Muslims and found how thickly the BJP government and Modi were involved in these crimes. Being a Muslim woman,she was playing with the fire by secretly recording these conversations in an extremely hostile environment.

She added that the event being held in Dr. Ambedkar room was a fitting tribute to the author of the Indian constitution that is under attack by the BJP government and also because her book brings out the fact that how Dalits or so called untouchables were used for getting the dirty job done by the Hindutva forces.

She called upon the members of Indian diaspora to break silence over the growing threat of Hindutva extremism under Modi and urged all minorities to join hands to fight back against repression.

 

There was a pin drop silence in the room as she shared her story. Her speech was followed by a Questions and Answers session after which she signed the copies of her book.
Those in attendance included well known community activists, such as Chinmoy Banerjee of South Asian Network of Secularism and Democracy, former BC Human Rights Commissioner Harinder Mahil, Indians Abroad for Pluralist India founder and documentary filmmaker Ajay Bhardwaj, Sikh Nation volunteer Sunil Kumar, research scholar and activist Kamal Arora, besides Progressive Pakistani activists Shahzad Nazir Khan, Saif Khalid, Masood Punjabi and Fauzia Rafique.

Just ask yourselves this: if Krishna was to be born today would he not stand up against these (evil) acts by a government that is using religion for ulterior motives -- to divide people-- and stick to power?

It is time that Hindus stand up against the new avatar of the arrogant Kauravas whose ideals are people like Godse and not Karkare who was a far better Hindu than Modi. 

 

 On the auspicious occasion of Janamashtami,  our Hindu friends, brothers and sisters need to revisit the story of one of their most adorable and adored gods. Especially because India is presently ruled by a right wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government that claims to be the defender of the Hindu faith. 

Ever since the BJP came to power with a brute majority in 2014 under Prime Minister Narendra Modi - the attacks on religious minorities have grown, while there is no end to sexual violence and state repression either. 

Lord Krishna who grew up in the backward community of cattle raisers had finished off the tyrannical Kans, broke gender barriers by mingling with girls, fought for the five Pandavs and their small family unit against the powerful Kauravas, stepped in to save Draupdi from sexual assault and preached to the world through Bhagwad Gita the time-tested words: we must focus on our duty rather than worrying about the consequences. 

Yet, under the BJP rule and those who wish to see India turned into a Hindu theocracy, who have also been trying to make Gita a national text an entirely different kind of value system from that espoused by Krishna, is being imposed. The actions of Modi supporters (or bhakts) resemble more the deeds of Kans and the Kauravas while nothing seems to be in line with the teachings of Lord Krishna. 

The backward classes and Dalits -- so called untouchables -- continue to be oppressed through structural violence. Their lands are being taken in the name of development and are being given away to the extraction industry. The BJP government is more inclined to safeguard the corporate interest over people's interest.  

If Kans enjoys a reputation of being one of the worst tyrants, the BJP government has proved to be even worse. This government has been persecuting political prisoners, throwing dissidents in jails, charging them for sedition and muzzling any voice of reason. The killings of political activists through extra judicial means is another addition to the long list of excesses this establishment is known for. 

Whereas, Krishna introduced modernity to Hinduism and allowed an open relationship between men and women, BJP supporters have been indulging in moral policing and attacking and shaming dating couples. 

Unlike Krishna who chose to side with Pandavas over the powerful Kauravas, the BJP government is giving patronage to majoritarian extremist groups and suppressing activists from minority communities with an iron fist. It remains a mute spectator to the continuous violence against Muslims, Christians and Dalits, unleashed by goons owing allegience to Hindutva. 

While Draupadi was fortunate to have been saved from disgrace by Krishna, there are many like her who have been subjected to sexual harassment and violence under the BJP rule. Only recently, the son of a BJP leader from Haryana was caught stalking a woman in Chandigarh. A few months earlier, a young woman Gurmehar Kaur was threatened with rape by the BJP supporters for questioning right wing politics on social media, and even speaking up for peace, not war, with Pakistan. Not only that, the BJP supporters are known to have been involved in anti Muslim and anti Christian violence during which the women from the minority communities were raped in the past. 

What can be more hypocritical than asking for Gita to be adopted as national text, when you do not follow its principles in practice?

One of the values that the Gita teached us is to focus on our Karma or the duty without worrying about the consequences.

The BJP wants the intelligentsia, the judiciary, the police and the intelligence to behave in a manner that suits their agenda. It does not want the protectors of the law to work independently and that's why the penetration of prejudiced officials have increased under the current government. This has made the lives of the minorities miserable. Most of the time its the Muslims or the tribals who are at the receiving end. They can be easily branded as Jihadists or Maoists and charged under false cases.

On the other hand, there is no action against Hindutva terrorists. Rather, the late Hemant Karkare, a police officer who had smashed the Hindutva terror network was hounded by the BJP. Though Karkare was a practicing Hindu who drew inspiration from Gita and was only doing his karma he was constantly harassed by the BJP until he died during a terror attack in Mumbai.

Modi himself came to the defence of the Hindutva extremists back then. As a Chief Minister of Gujarat at that time, he was responsible for anti Muslim pogrom in 2002 when the police was made to protect the BJP activists involved in the violence against the very spirit of Gita. Likewise, the appointments of scholars and judges who agree with the ideology of the BJP isn't something surprising. 

This is not to suggest that the previous governments were perfect. State violence and sexual abuse have also been happening during other regimes, but what is unique about the BJP is that due to its Hindu nationalist (supremacist) mandate the attacks on minorities have grown. More importantly, the BJP has always been playing the card of religion and has been using the Hindu gods as political icons to further their agenda.

It has to be therefore challenged for its double speak and only devout Hindus whose brand of Hinduism is more open can do that.

Courageous author and journalist Rana Ayyub - who exposed the involvement of the Indian officials in the systematic killings of Muslims will be honoured by Radical Desi in Surrey this Saturday. 

The writer of Gujarat Files - based on her undercover investigation of the administrative and police officers who were responsible for the murders of the members of the minority community had risked her life by taking part in sting operation for Tehlka magazine. 

 She was sent to Gujarat following the anti Muslim pogrom of 2002 and spate of murders of Muslim men by the police in staged shootouts. 

 The violence against Muslims was followed by the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims leaving more than 50 people dead. The Gujarat government under right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) had blamed the Muslim fundamentalists for the incident.

 Thousands of Muslims were targeted by the goons led by BJP activists. Human rights activists and survivours continue to allege the complicity of the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi in the mass murders. The bloodshed was followed by series of murders of Muslim men by the police in fake encounters. The slain men were frequently branded as Jihadist extremists. 

Rana posed herself as a Hindu woman with strong family affiliations with the BJP and befriended people in the police and administration. She later spoke to them about the violence against Muslims and found how thickly the BJP government and Modi were involved in these crimes. Being a Muslim woman,she was playing with the fire by secretly recording these conversations in an extremely hostile environment. 

The first challenge came to her from none other than Tehlka that chickened out as she was close to secretly interviewing Modi- who became the Prime Minister of India in 2014.  She was told by her bosses that they cannot afford to get into any trouble with the future Prime Minister. 

Later, she unsuccessfully tried to get her book published, but due to political pressure nobody dared to publish her work. Finally she had to go for self publishing. Rana took personal bank loan to get her book printed and circulated. Until now she has published more than 1,50,000 prints in different languages. 

But her fight did not end there. She was unable to get a full time job in the media as most potential employers wanted her not to talk against Modi. So much so, the Indian officials tried to get her event cancelled in Doha while on many occasions she got threats from the BJP supporters.  

Rana believes that the history of Gujarat episode remains relevant today as the violence against minorities, particularly Muslims has now spread across India under Modi government. 

She feels that the majoritarianism is the root cause of the problem as the previous Congress government also tried to divide people on the basis of religion. She never forgets to make a connection between the 1984 and 2002. Thousands of Sikhs were murdered by the mobs led by the so called secularist Congress party in India in 1984 after the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.  

Rana was only nine when she experienced first hand the pain of sectarian killings in 1993. She lived in Mumbai that was rocked with anti Muslim violence by Hindu fanatics. She still remembers how a Sikh family came to their rescue and saved her family from death when the Hindu fundamentalists targeted Muslims at the behest of the police that remained a mute spectator. 

She will be speaking at an event being organized by Radical Desi and Indians Abroad for Pluralist India on Saturday August 12 at 2pm in Dr. Amebdkar room of the Surrey Central Library. Following her talk,she will be presented with Courageous Journalism Award. Both English and Punjabi editions of her book will be available at the event and Rana will be present for book signing. 

***

Human Rights activist and lawyer Amandeep Singh was honoured by Radical Desi at an event held at Surrey Central Library on July 30. 

Singh who had unsuccessfully contested the May provincial election as New Democratic Party candidate from Richmond Queensborough had drafted the petition seeking Canadian intervention for the release of Prof. G.N. Saibaba was presented with Radical Activism Award for 2017. 

Prof. Saibaba is a Delhi University lecturer who is 90 percent disabled below waist and is being persecuted for standing up for oppressed communities in India. He was sentenced to life after being branded as Maoist sympathizer by an Indian court. His medical condition continues to deteriorate as his wife fears for his life. 

The petition that was signed by almost 1,000 Canadians seeks intervention of the Canadian government in his case on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. At least two MPs Sukh Dhaliwal and Peter Julian have accepted the petition that is likely to be tabled in the house of commons this fall. Dhaliwal has already submitted it in the parliament. 

Singh had taken out time from his hectic election campaign to look into the matter and draft a petition without fearing for backlash. 

The award was given to him by the founders of Radical Desi magazine Chinmoy Banerjee and Parshotam Dosanjh and the Dashmesh Darbar Gurdwara Spokesman Gian Singh Gill - who was instrumental in getting signatures for the petition through the temple congregation. 

Among those who spoke on the occasion were former BC Human Rights Commissioner Harinder Mahil, a progressive documentary filmmaker Ajay Bhardawaj and Radical Desi Director Gurpreet Singh. 

A small video on the case of Saibaba was presented while Banerjee threw light on his story. Gill pointed out that under a right wing Hindu nationalist government in India attacks on the left and minorities have grown. 

Boojha Singh, a revolutionary communist activist whose death anniversary falls on July 28 was also remembered at the event. He was killed in a fake encounter in 1970. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gurpreet Singh

Breaking the myth about the passive involvement of Sikhs in the liberation movement of India, The Black Prince gives a fresh perspective on the struggle against the British occupation of their homeland.

It's based on the story of last Sikh emperor Maharaja Ranjit Singh's son Duleep Singh, who was exiled to England following the annexation of Punjab in the mid-19th century.

Until now it has been widely believed that Sikhs were largely loyal to the British, who ruled India until 1947. 

This is despite the fact that the British were only able to occupy Punjab in 1849, 10 years after Ranjit Singh died. Since then there have been two Anglo-Sikh wars.

Yet many historians influenced by European schools of thought have tried to make us believe that Sikhs were one of Britain's most favoured communities in India—and that Sikhs helped the colonial power suppress the first rebellion in 1857.

This movie, written and directed by former St. Elsewhere cast member Kavi Raz, sets the record straight, challenging this history that's been told through a Eurocentric lens.

The Sikh empire eventually fell as the British took over Punjab. In the film young Duleep Singh is separated from his mother, Maharani Jindan, and exiled to England.

In this English environment, Duleep Singh is forced to give up his religion and become Christian. As he grows older, he realizes that England is not where he belongs and insists on meeting his mother.

Once he reconnects with Jindan, Singh—played by Satinder Sartaaj—gradually comes to understand more about the theft of their homeland by the British and starts talking back against colonialism and racism.

Inspired by his mother, Singh reconverts to Sikhism and, with the help of other nations, makes a failed attempt to overthrow British rule. Years later, other political activists tried to follow the same route.

It's sad that Duleep Singh's contribution to the freedom struggle remains unacknowledged.

Undoubtedly, he wanted his kingdom back. His father Maharaja Ranjit Singh's state was very progressive and secular. The father abolished capital punishment and treated non-Sikhs fairly.

Duleep Singh's fight needs to be situated in the broader context of the struggle against foreign occupation of India. Jindan, for instance, never accepted British rule and despised their deception. Her reference to Ranjit Singh as sarkar (ruler) still resonates with many Sikh elders.

Writer Gurpreet Singh's great-grandfather, Sham Singh, was in Ranjit Singh's army.

 

My own great-grandfather, Sham Singh, was in Ranjit Singh's army and he and other Sikhs refused to work under the British when this was offered. I learned from my father that they clearly told the British that they could not work for anyone other than sarkar as they considered him the real ruler.

In the film Jindan is played by famous Bollywood actor Shabana Azmi. As the story suggests, she inspired her son to give up the Christian identity that was forced upon him and to see how their valuables, including the Kohinoor diamond donned by Queen Victoria, was robbed from the Sikh kingdom under the guise of justice and fairness.

It is important for those who want to understand the perspective of a colonized nation to watch The Black Prince. It's a good attempt to bring to light a truth hidden under the shadows of history and created by the builders of an empire that not only suppressed resistance, but also the reality of it.

 Gurpreet Singh is an independent journalist and one of the founders of Radical Desi.

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