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Canada-based Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI), established in response to growing attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents under a right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government in India, was honoured in absentia at a public event held in Ludhiana on Sunday, February 9. 

A Punjabi media outlet Suhi Saver, that covers alternative politics, presented a plaque to the organization during their annual event. 

The award was received by social justice activist Buta Singh on behalf of the group whose members could not make it.

Singh is an ally of IAPI and was instrumental behind the drafting of the policy paper of the organization that continues to raise its voice against repression and state violence in India ever since BJP came to power in 2014. However, IAPI is equally critical of other parties that indulge in majoritarianism and try to stifle freedom and democracy. It's members have also been raising voices against racism in Canada.   

Suhi Saver also announced a monetary award to IAPI. The group unanimously declined the award, but decided to double the figure and donate the entire amount to student union leader Aishe Ghosh of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi who was recently assaulted by supporters of the ruling BJP. 

IAPI had resolved to extend its solidarity with Ghosh and her outfit to send a strong message to the apologists of the Indian government. 

The student unions, owing to affiliation with the left parties, are under constant attack by the right wing goons.  

In the meantime, Suhi Saver also honoured a brave Kashmiri journalist Jalil Rathore on the occasion. 

Kashmir has been under lockdown since August 5. The Indian authorities have suspended civil liberties in Kashmir on the pretext of fighting a war on terror to suppress the ongoing struggle for the right to self determination in the disputed territory. 

Rathore is the first Kashmiri journalist to travel outside the region to shed light on the current state of affairs in his home state, where media is not being allowed by the government to function freely. 

 

***    

 

As tensions between the First Nations and Canadian establishment escalate over controversial pipeline projects, Kwitsel Tatel called for “civil unrest” on Thursday morning.

An Indigenous Land Defender and Water Protector, Tatel was speaking with Spice Radio where she had gone to participate in their campaign against racism started in 2015.  

Responding to a question about the recent Federal Court of Appeal’s decision in favour of building Trans Mountain Pipeline and the RCMP arrests of Indigenous activists camping against Coastal GasLink's LNG Pipeline in north-central BC, she categorically said, “We need unrest, civil unrest, because so called British Columbia will not be beautiful anymore.”

Tatel has been in the forefront of grassroots movement against the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion that many indigenous communities believe is being pushed through their traditional lands without informed consent, carrying the potential to pollute water and destroy their livelihood.

The LNG pipeline in Unistoten territory is also being opposed for similar reasons. The arrest of the activists in that region comes shortly after the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision that has enraged several First Nations. It is pertinent to mention that a recent report by the United Nations Committee on Racial Discrimination had asked Canada to abandon these projects, as well as the Site C dam.

Ironically, the BC NDP government, which last year adopted legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, remains adamant on building Site C, which will flood First Nation lands. The provincial government is likely to invite the wrath of Indigenous communities following the arrests made in Unistoten. This has triggered ugly memories of the Gustafsen Lake episode of 1995, when the then-Attorney General in BC's NDP government, Ujjal Dosanjh, sent an RCMP contingent to arrest Indigenous peoples who had gathered to organize Sun Dance ceremonies on their traditional territory, to protect the interests of ranchers.  

Launched by Spice Radio, #HandsAgainstRacism encourages people to dip their hands in colour and leave a handprint on a white sheet alongside a message against bigotry as part of the campaign which entered its sixth year in January.

Tatel wrote beneath her coloured handprint, “Really, water will find its place!” before she left the studio.

***

 

Gurpreet Singh

A motion highly critical of a discriminatory citizenship law brought by a right wing Hindu nationalist government in India was passed by Seattle City Council on Monday.

Moved by Indo-American city Councillor Kshama Sawant, the motion was unanimously passed amidst tension between its supporters and opponents.

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India recently adopted the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). that discriminates against Muslim refugees coming from neighbouring countries on the pretext of giving shelter to non-Muslims facing religious persecution in those places. The law blatantly ignores Muslims and only encourages non-Muslims to come to India from Muslim-dominated Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This is despite the fact that not only non-Muslims, but even some sects of Muslims and atheists have been facing oppression in these countries. 

The CAA violates the principle of secularism enshrined in the Indian constitution. The BJP is determined to transform India into a Hindu theocracy, and attacks on religious minorities, especially Muslims, have grown under the BJP government ever since it came to power in 2014.

There have been angry protests against CAA all over the world. In Canada, which has a history of the racist Continuous Journey Regulation passed against South Asians in 1908 to discourage their permanent settlement in this country, politicians have mainly remained silent. While Canada has already apologized for the Continuous Journey Regulation, it remains indifferent to the CAA which is repeating that history in worst form. 

Unlike Sawant, Canadian leaders have largely remained unmoved to these demonstrations. Barring a statement from Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh against CAA, and Vancouver City Councillor Jean Swanson’s presence at one of the anti-CAA rallies outside the Indian Consulate on January 26, no such motion has been passed in any municipal councils or provincial legislatures, let alone in the House of Commons.

Even though BC is a next door neighbour to Seattle, and has no dearth of MPs and MLAs of Indian origin, hardly any statement has been made by them against CAA in Parliament or the provincial legislature.

In BC,  where the ruling NDP has six Indo-Canadian MLAs who claim to be progressives, coming from a labour background that morally binds them with international solidarity movement, we are still waiting for such a thing to happen. It’s a shame that they miss no opportunity to wine and dine with Indian agents and attend their official events, but continue to ignore rallies being held against the CAA for the past several weeks.  

On January 26, when the Indian consulate was holding its Republic Day celebrations, they stayed away to avoid demonstrators who were protesting outside, but some could not stop themselves from going to the evening party hosted by the Indian officials that night. Among them were Labour Minister Harry Bains, Deputy Speaker Raj Chouhan, former Minister Jinny Sims and MLA Jagrup Brar. 

While Sims is known for her proximity to the Indian consulate, others need to explain to the voters: why have they remained silent to the persecution of minorities in India, but choose to please the Indian diplomats under these difficult times? Especially Bains and Chouhan will be at pains to defend themselves considering their labour background and “strong left leanings”.

It is pertinent to mention that when Sims and Brar went to attend another event inside the Indian consulate on the night of January 9, a young female activist and anti-CAA protester Riya Talitha, who was protesting outside, chanted slogans to shame them publicly. Those chants were widely circulated on Facebook, and yet these politicians remain unapologetic. Maybe they need to be taught a much harder lesson during the next election. For now, Seattle’s slap on these spineless Canadian politicians is enough to expose their double speak on human rights and social justice.

 

***   

The assault on Bhupinder Singh, a journalist in Punjab, by supporters of the ruling right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has been unanimously condemned by the members of Punjabi Press Club of British Columbia.

The motion was passed during the monthly meeting of the club in Surrey on Tuesday afternoon.  

Singh, who is a turbaned Sikh, feels that he was unfairly targeted by the BJP supporters because of his identity, for merely asking tough questions.

The incident happened in Hoshiarpur on January 26, when the BJP leaders were trying to stop Sikh activists from organizing a peaceful business shutdown in protest against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Brought by the BJP government recently, CAA is a divisive law that welcomes to India only non-Muslim refugees from the neighbouring Muslim-dominated countries. Aimed at polarizing the Hindu majority against Muslims by excluding Muslim refugees from these countries, CAA has sparked angry protests all over India, especially from those who think that it violates the Indian constitution based on the principle of secularism that does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of religion.

More than 20 people have died during violent demonstrations all over India.

The Sikh organizations, including Dal Khalsa, had given a call for business shutdown against CAA in Punjab, to which the BJP supporters responded aggressively. Dal Khalsa has been consistently supporting Muslims and other minority groups who have come under attack ever since BJP government came to power with a brute majority in 2014.

The members of Punjabi Press Club of BC believe that the incident involving Singh was a blatant attack on press freedom and reflects very poorly on a so-called democratic country.     

***

 

 

#HandsAgainstRacism got a major boost when a retired teacher and long-time peace activist joined the campaign on Thursday, January 30.

Susan Ruzic, who had initiated a peace project aimed at discouraging kids from playing with toys of violence, went to Spice Radio on the occasion of the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Launched by the Burnaby-based radio station in January 2015 on the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., #HandsAgainstRacism encourages participants to dip their hands in colour and leave a handprint on a white sheet with a message against bigotry. 

With Gandhi in mind, Ruzic wrote alongside her handprint, “Peace Begins With Me” adding a peace sign. 

Gandhi was a towering leader of the passive resistance movement against British occupation of India and a global peace icon. He was assassinated by Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse on January 30, 1948.  Although Gandhi was a devout Hindu, he was opposed to Hindu theocracy. He had vehemently denounced the religious partition of India between Hindus and Muslims in 1947 and stood against sectarian violence directed at Muslims by Hindu fundamentalists.

Godse and his associates wanted to establish a Hindu state and saw Gandhi as threat to their objective, because of which he was shot to death.

Likewise, Martin Luther King Jr. was also murdered by a white supremacist. Much like Gandhi, he was also an advocate of peace and was despised by chauvinists.   Ironically, both India and the United States are currently governed by forces that were responsible for the killings of these two men. Many of the leaders of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in India glorify Godse. He belonged to the Hindu supremacist organization Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) of which BJP is a political wing. Notably, RSS was banned for sometime following the death of Gandhi.

Ruzic told Spice Radio that the legacy of the two men has become even more relevant today due to rise in hate and violence all over the world.

 

 

Raise Your Hands Against Racism, launched by a Burnaby-based radio station, today formally entered its sixth year.

Started by Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt on the birth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. in January, 2015, this year’s campaign was flagged off by New Westminster City Councillor Chuck Puchmayr.

Puchmayr, a vocal activist for social justice, was instrumental behind a recent proclamation recognizing January 11 as Bhai Mewa Singh Day in commemoration of a Sikh political activist who was hanged in 1915.

Jonathan Cote, the Mayor of New Westminster where Singh was executed, created history by reading the proclamation on January 13 in the presence of members of the South Asian community.  

Mewa Singh was part of a radical movement launched by the Indian immigrants in North America against the British occupation of India and racism abroad.  

A devout Sikh, Singh assassinated controversial Immigration Inspector William Hopkinson in Vancouver in 1914. The incident was the culmination of infamous Komagata Maru episode.

The Japanese vessel carrying more than 300 South Asian passengers was forced to return under a discriminatory immigration law that was enacted to keep Canada as a “white man’s country”.  This had led to bloody clashes between the political activists and a pro-establishment faction of the community.  As a result, Bela Singh, a mole of the Canadian authorities within the Sikh community, went inside a gurdwara and shot to death a revolutionary community leader Bhaag Singh and his associate Badan Singh.

Since Bela Singh was patronised by Hopkinson, who had precipitated the conflict among the local South Asians through his spies, Mewa Singh murdered him and courted arrest soon after. Hopkinson had been keeping an eye on the activists and tried to weaken the movement to serve the interests of the British Empire.

Mewa Singh faced his trial with courage and conviction, and chanted prayers while being taken to the gallows in New Westminster jail. His testimony establishes that he had taken such an extreme step in response to racism and sacrilege of the temple.  

As a fitting tribute to Mewa Singh, who laid down his life fighting against racism, the City of New Westminster decided to proclaim January 11, 2020 as “Bhai Mewa Singh Day”.  

Puchmayr admitted that this was a difficult thing to do and the city had to face some backlash from those who see Singh as a killer without acknowledging the history of extreme racism.

Spice Radio had invited the entire city council to start this year’s campaign, to reciprocate this important gesture on behalf of the South Asian community. While Cote could not make it, Puchmayr along with his colleague Jaimie McEvoy came to Burnaby to participate in the campaign that encourages people to dip their hands in colour and leave behind their handprints on a white sheet with messages against bigotry.    

The city of New Westminster had earlier removed the statue of controversial colonial era Judge Mathew Begbie, who had ordered the execution of six Chilcotin Chiefs in 1864 for the murder of 14 white road construction workers who were harassing the indigenous peoples and their women. Likewise, the City had previously displayed leadership by apologizing to the Chinese Canadians for injustices of the past. 

 

***      

 

 

The City of New Westminster has officially declared January 11‬ as Bhai Mewa Singh Day in commemoration of a Sikh political activist who was hanged in 1915.

Right before the meeting of City Council on Monday evening, Mayor Jonathan Cote read out the proclamation that was later presented to officials of the Sukh Sagar Sahib Sikh temple, which has kept the history of Mewa Singh alive. Temple president Harbhajan Singh Atwal gave Cote the sword of honour as a token of gratitude on behalf of the Sikh community. Among those present was Surrey-Greentimbers MLA Rachna Singh, whose constituency office had unveiled the portrait of Mewa Singh last year. Also in attendance were members of the East India Defence Committee which has launched a petition asking for the recognition of Mewa Singh as a hero, and playwright Paneet Singh, who has been raising awareness about Mewa Singh through theatre. The event followed a brief presentation on the relevance of Mewa Singh by Gurpreet Singh from Radical Desi magazine, which had made the request for a proclamation to the City Council. 

Mewa Singh was part of a radical movement launched by Indian immigrants in North America against British occupation of India and racism abroad. Singh was a devout Sikh, who had assassinated a controversial Immigration Inspector William Hopkinson in Vancouver in 1914. The incident was the culmination of infamous Komagata Maru episode.

The Japanese vessel carrying more than 300 South Asian passengers was forced to return under a discriminatory immigration law enacted to keep Canada as a “white man’s country”.  This had led to bloody clashes between the political activists and a pro-establishment faction of the community.  As a result of this, Bela Singh, a mole of the Canadian authorities within the Sikh community, went inside a gurdwara and shot to death a revolutionary community leader, Bhaag Singh, and his associate Badan Singh.

Since Bela Singh was patronised by Hopkinson, who had precipitated the conflict among the local South Asians through his spies, Mewa Singh murdered him and courted arrest soon after. Hopkinson was keeping an eye on the activists and tried to weaken their movement, to serve the interests of the British Empire.

Mewa Singh faced the trial with courage and conviction and chanted prayers while being taken to the gallows in New Westminster jail. His testimony establishes that he had taken such an extreme step in response to racism and sacrilege of the temple.  

City councillor Chuck Puchmayr was instrumental behind the proclamation. He had earlier moved a motion to remove the statue of controversial colonial era Judge Mathew Begbie, who had ordered the execution of six Tsilhqot'in Chiefs in 1864 for the murder of 14 white road construction workers who were harassing the Indigenous peoples including women.

 

 

Gurpreet Singh 

Today marks the 112th year of the passage of a racist law adopted by Canada to discourage permanent settlement of Indian immigrants.

The Continuous Journey Law, as it was called, required immigrants to come to Canada only through direct passage from the country of their birth or citizenship. It was aimed at keeping Canada as a "white man's land" and discourage Indians from making Canada their home. 

The Indians had started migrating to this part of the world for a better livelihood as their home country was under British occupation that had caused many economic hardships. Since BC was part of the British dominion, they came here as British subjects. However, many white workers saw them as a threat to their survival, since most of them worked for lesser wages. Buckling under the pressure of white supremacy, the Canadian government began applying measures to stop the immigration. As a result of this, the Indian immigrants began organizing against racism abroad and foreign occupation back home. The confrontation culminated into the Komagata Maru episode.   

The Japanese vessel carrying more than 300 South Asian passengers from British India arrived at Vancouver on May 23, 1914. Under the Continuous Journey Law, the ship was forced to return after remaining stranded in the waters of Burrard Inlet for two months. This injustice galvanized freedom movement and inspired many to join the struggle. They could see that this was done so blatantly because their homeland was not free and the world saw them as "slaves". 

The current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already apologized for the episode in the House of Commons. But more than a century later, the history is being repeated by the Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

The BJP, which wants to transform India into a majoritarian Hindu state, recently passed a controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that openly discourages Muslims coming to India as refugees from neighbouring countries. Among these are Muslim-dominated Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The act is intended to ensure smooth immigration to India of non-Muslims, especially Hindus. The BJP claims that these groups have been facing religious persecution in these countries, although it goes against the spirit of the Indian constitution, which is based on the principles of secularism and diversity. Being a secular democracy, India cannot discriminate so shamelessly and blatantly against any religious group.

It goes without saying that some Muslim groups, such as Shias, Ahemdiyas or even Mohajirs, face inequality in Pakistan, besides atheists. How can one deny refuge to them? Today's situation constantly brings climate refugees to India, irrespective of their religious beliefs, which nothing to do with the socio-political environment in these countries. One does not need a PhD to guess what the motivations of this government are. They have clearly picked on countries that are frequently demonized by the BJP government as exporters of Islamic extremism to polarize Hindus against Muslims. 

It is worth mentioning that attacks on Muslims have grown under Modi ever since he became the Prime Minister in 2014, and got re-elected last year with more seats. The state of Gujarat witnessed anti-Muslim pogroms in 2002 under his watch. Modi, who was the Chief Minister of the state back then, had alleged Pakistan-based Islamic extremists were responsible for burning a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. More than 50 people died in the incident, which was instantly blamed on Pakistan, following which thousands of Muslims were killed by mobs across Gujarat.  

It’s a shame that the Indian officials in Canada continue to celebrate the history of Komagata Maru, and are not shy to stake claims in the story, while in their own home country they raise walls against refugees in the name of religion. Their attitude is no different than the British, who wanted to keep India divided on religious lines to prolong their rule. Ironically, Gurdit Singh, who charted the Komagata Maru, shared in his memoir that the British were partly upset for giving space to everyone on the vessel, including Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, to practise their religions. The founding fathers of modern India tried to build an inclusive society, by taking everyone along in their fight against colonialism and racism, and yet the present day Indian leadership is bent upon destroying that dream. 

Maybe it's time to launch another liberation movement against Modi. It is worth mentioning that the very first rally against CAA in Vancouver was held right outside the Indian Consulate on December 20, the death anniversary of Sohan Singh Bhakna, a towering freedom fighter from Punjab. Bhakna had continued fighting against social injustice even after India became free from British rule in 1947. He was incarcerated for his participation in agitations in the post-British India, which left a bend in his back. He often said that this bend was caused by the native rulers. This shows that the struggle isn't over yet, We need to pursue it to rid India of the fascists. For the record, the founding fathers of BJP had no role in the freedom movement. On the contrary, they compromised with the British and kept a distance from the freedom movement. Their only aim was to create a Hindu state, where everyone except Hindus would be treated as second class citizens , in sharp contrast to the secularist vision of Bhakna and Gurdit Singh.   

It’s also time for Canada to wake up and see what’s going on in India. If Trudeau really cares for the Komagata Maru, he should intervene and let Modi know that this is not going to be tolerated. If Modi doesn’t listen, then Trudeau must think of slapping sanctions against the Indian government. 

***

Riya Talitha 

On October 6, 2019 in an auditorium at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, a crowd of roughly 40 people gathered for four hours to watch the screening of Reason -an eight-part documentary - about the current political climate of India. This mammoth project took renowned filmmaker Anand Patwardhan almost four years to complete it.  

It may have been a small crowd, but they were expressive - gasping, flinching, laughing and during the post-movie hour-long discussion, asking incisive questions to Patwardhan, who had made the trip all the way from Mumbai, India where he is based, while it was also screened next day at Toronto International Film Festival.

Patwardhan, a member of the Oscar Academy, and an alumnus of McGill University, has an intimidating number of films under his belt - nearly all of which have faced censorship from the Indian government, and have been the nexus of controversy and even violence in many cases.

The most recent example being the protests at Jadavpur University, that were most likely kickstarted when students of the Department of film studies screened Ram ke Naam (trans. In the Name of God; an explosively truthful account of the demolition of the Babri Masjid). 

India is often proclaimed to be the “largest democracy in the world”, but for the past few years has been undergoing an undeniably tumultuous shift in its political and public spheres - some would argue for the worse. 

Ever since the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party) came into power in 2014, there has been an increase in mob lynching of Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities, as well those of lower-caste communities (https://www.dotodatabase.com/?fbclid=IwAR30jEUY52_ZFi_EgJVyZa3dnN7J448Fcjmzf40TngpTuYejbiqNbm7UCT0).

This is what Reason attempts to showcase, and through a barrage of news headlines from papers big and small, heart-rending interviews of the families of victims of communal and casteist violence, and penetrating questions posed by Patwardhan to ideologues of various shades, it largely succeeds in putting together a coherent narrative that attempts to explain what many see as the chaotic state of Indian politics right now.

There has been an unprecedented surge of popular support for right-wing and capitalist policies that is strikingly similar to the rise of political right in many places around the world. 

According to Patwardhan, in an interview with The Ubyssey, "India is not a full-blown fascist state, but it's going towards that direction". 

Patwardhan hails from a family of Indian freedom fighters but his political awakening took place far from home. 

“I went to jail in America before I went to jail anywhere else, fighting the Vietnam War” said Patwardhan of his anti-war efforts as a student at Brandeis University in Boston. After completing an MA in Communication Studies at McGill, he went back to an India in the throes of the Emergency - a 21-month period from 1974 to 1975, of intense censorship, political repression, and curtailment of democracy. His 1975 documentary about this period Waves of Revolution was made in secret, smuggled abroad to raise awareness and sound the alarm internationally, and within India was screened at underground gatherings.

“People accuse me of being pro-Congress, but I spent most of my life fighting the Congress” says Patwardhan ruefully. 

The Congress is India’s centre-left party, akin to the Liberal Party of Canada, that spearheaded the Independence struggle, but it was under a Congress Prime Minister that the Emergency was declared. 

Now in India, the party whose structure and ideology that Patwardhan is focusing on in his work is the BJP and its parent organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

According to Patwardhan, the RSS and its various affiliated organisations have either engineered or been the prime instigators of most instances of communalist violence in modern India. Graphic shots of the burnt and mutilated bodies of Muslim and Dalit victims of these groups are depicted throughout Reason. 

The RSS is a right-wing paramilitary Hindu-nationalist organisation that has been banned thrice in India, and whose top leadership has openly admitted to admiring and following Hitler’s ideologies and methods. 

The RSS heads multiple organisations collectively known as the Sangh Parivar. One of these, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, aims to organise and mobilize Hindus living abroad, ostensibly to collects funds for charity or social work operations both in India and abroad. HSS chapters or Vibhags also tend to function as centres of cultural and religious education and community. 

In British Columbia, there is a HSS B.C Vibhag (https://www.facebook.com/HSSBC/) that has in fact, hosted several semi-religious events with the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir or temple, in Surrey. 

In fact, just this last year, Saumitra Gokhale, the global coordinator of the HSS and a former RSS pracharak was invited to be the speaker at an event titled “Know HSS.”

Patwardhan said “I've also lived in North America for a while when I was a student...and I know for sure that a lot of the damage is done by the NRIs (Non Resident Indians)...the Hindutva NRIs have sent money and stuff for militancy and for their own organizations like the RSS into India” (https://www.ofbjp.org/).

‘Hindutva’ is the term for describing the Hindu-nationalist ideology espoused by the Sangh Parivar and has a long history of being compared to nazism and fascism, in academia and media, both in India and abroad.

Although many might disagree with Patwardhan’s political opinions, his commitment and bravery are undeniable. 

Reason has many nerve-wracking scenes of him walking into violent situations and asking questions - police stations in dangerous areas, mobs yelling Islamaphobic slogans on streets, neighbourhoods under curfew - all for the sake of the documentary. 

“I do nothing to protect myself and so far, I haven't been beaten up” he said in response to an audience member inquiring about the risks he takes. 

“…if something happens to me I'm sure my films will be seen a lot more” said Patwardhan with a smile.

Riya Talitha is from New Delhi and is a political science major at University of British Columbia. 

Kulbir Singh Sidhu

We have one of the richest legacies in respect of our heritage, history and culture of our Guru Sahiban, martyrs and great patriots who have left behind unique traditions of selfless service and supreme sacrifice for the sake of humanity.

Our Gurus, saints and scholars have enunciated excellent covenants, high ideals and noble principles. Likewise, our great ancestors and soldiers have set the exemplary ways to serve the mankind. But it is a sad story that we have not been able to imbibe and follow their philosophy and teachings as a nation. Consequently, we seem to have lost the fine instincts and great virtues taught by our noble forefathers. Rather we have developed, unfortunately the insensitivities apropos the legacy of bravery and supreme sacrifices. We have apparently put our sense and sensibilities in hibernation to elude the high spirits, willpower and passion to pursue the traditions of customary courage and bravery of our illustrious Saint- Soldiers like Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and Baba Dip Singh ji.

Due to our time old slavery, we developed a mentality with the perversions like deceit, hypocrisy and sycophancy. Further ungratefulness and an element of ignorance in our character has taken us to the dismal level where we stopped well neigh to see and recognize the footprints left by our national heroes and sons of the soil on the sands of time.

This whole sad scenario may find its elaboration in the history of Punjab itself.  Where the two most significant, but tragic events took place more particularly in second fortnight of the month of December though after 140 years from each other.

One is wonderstruck to mark the irony of Time & History that the first event occurred as the completion of Sarbans- Daan by Dasmesh-Pita Guru Gobind Singh between 20th to 27th December in 1705; whereas the Second event happened on 18th and 22nd December in 1845 with the beginning of two battles at Mudki and Ferushehar of the first Anglo-Sikh war.

Therefore, December is a month of most sanguine and ever unheard of “Sarbans-Daan” in the world history and also of unparalleled bravery and sacrifices of thousands of unsung heroes like S. Sham Singh Attariwala who attained martyrdom on February 10, 1846.

In the context of significance of December in our history, we must not ever forget that when the battle of Chamkaur was fought on Dec 22, 1705, it happened to be the 39th Birthday of Siri Guru Gobind Singh ji.

It is pertinent to mention here that on this day Sahibzada Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh, besides beloved soldiers and again on December 27, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh laid down their lives to present the most unique gift to Guru-Pita’s mission of bestowing upon honour, dignity and sovereignty to the downtrodden.  

Thus, a grand journey which started with Baba Nanak’s Kalam (pen) writing Babar-Bani against tyranny was completed by the Talwar (Sword) of Guru Gobind Singh.

In this connection at this point in time, we must hear the voice of our conscience and accordingly confess our ingratitude, indifference and insensitivity towards our supreme martyrs. More especially when we almost go berserk in a mood of festivities during this most tragic period of our history.

Of course, Christmas celebrations also chronologically come in these days which, admittedly, relate to the epoch-maker Yug-Purakh Jesus- the Massiah, ie The Savior of mankind. But at the same time forgetting about the supreme sacrifices of our own “Massiahs” in a total festive mood and bonhomie can never be justified.

Rather during these particular days the wayward “Glassy” indulgence and fanfare with an attitude of “Begaani Shaadi mein Abdulla Diwana” on the Punjab soil is most regretful.

In continuity with the same ethos; another soulful stance may be cited here relating to our history of “The last sunset of first and last Sikh Empire".

It was in the year 2005-06 that I ventured with a sense of national pride as a Commissioner at Ferozepur to get back the Status of “National Monuments” to the battle fields of Mudki, Ferushehar, Aliwal and Sabhraon, those being the war theatres of first Anglo-Sikh war fought in Dec-Jan 1845-1846.

In the meanwhile, I thought of including the memorials of our bravest of brave soldiers of Saragarhi, martyrs and patriots to pay a humble homage. Therefore, with all the reverence and gratitude the following Samaraks were also inducted to be declared as national monuments. These were the Shaheedi Samaraks, like the Saragarhi Gurdwara, Shaheed- E -Azam S.Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev Memorial at Hussainiwala; Shelter Place of Bhagat Singh and his comrades in Ferozepur city besides, railway line going to Kasur, especially the bridge at Hussainiwala which stands as an eye witness to the bravery of our officers like Major SPS Waraich and Capt. KJS Sandhu and other jawans of 1965 and 1971 wars.

In this running reference, it may be disheartening and very sad to know that national status of Anglo-Sikh war monuments; being no more of national importance was withdrawn actually in our Independent India Vide Notification—1962; with the logic and reasons best known to the then decision makers. Anyway, I could only have the copies of earlier notification of 1918 and de-notification of year 1962. But I could never reach out the hidden wisdom or truth on the deep-dumped papers.

It is pertinent to mention here that by the official patronage of then Chief Minister-Capt. Amrinder Singh, I could invite and host a very high-powered central team from departments of Cultural affairs, National Archives and National Museum under the supervision of Secretary General Sh. K. K. Chakravorty. The team visited and surveyed all the sites with relevant records to further recommend in principle the status of “National Monuments” to these historical sites in September 2006.

This “Pilgrim’s Progress” however ended for me at least with my retirement on August 31, 2006.

But in spite of the genuine handicap of retired life, I did try to continue for couple of months to follow and keep up the track of my passionate endeavour with the next government under S. Parkash Singh Badal, but all in vain.

Finally, on seeing and believing that “Love’s labour’s lost”; I tried to be at peace with myself by agreeing with the practical wisdom of Ustad Saqib Lakhnavi ; “Zamāna barhey shauq se sun rahā thā ; hameeñ so gaye dāstāñ kahte kahte”

Ultimately, I realised, that in our system of governmental functioning, more often, the files with the abstract issues of heritage and culture are branded obsolete and irrelevant and swept long under the carpet with cryptic “Seen & File” observation.

Anyhow, now a million dollar question remains there as to when the “fortunate one” will dig and do the dusting of such important files pertaining to the bravery and sacrifices of our ancestral generations. It is to be further seen that in official hierarchy who will come up with the instinctive aptitude, besides required will and skill to pursue this case to the logical end.

More precisely, again at the competent level in the government, who would have the courage or conviction and more importantly “time” to take appropriate decision with regard to the national pride and glory. Unfortunately, in our Vote-Raj, it seems all the more horrendous because of the fact that “Shaheedan diyan taan votan hi nahi hundian”

Will any government or organisation or else we as a nation ever offer an explanation in view of the soulful query that why our selfless supreme martyrs, great patriots and teeming soldiers made sacrifices for such ungrateful people? Perhaps only God knows!!  

Kulbir Singh Sidhu is a retired IAS officer, who currently lives in Brampton, Canada. 

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