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


The Dec. 11 approval by the BC government of the Site C dam is seen by many as a monumental error, and there are already plans for grassroots resistance and ongoing legal and political efforts to block this project. There are also fears that this announcement reflects more than just a difficult decision forced by the previous government's determination to push it past "the point of no return" - it also indicates that Premier Horgan's NDP will refrain from any serious challenge to the underlying fundamentals of decision making in British Columbia, preferring to focus on incremental reforms within the framework of the taxation structure and overall economic priorities set by the defeated Liberals.


No doubt Premier Horgan and his MLAs, many of whom had been sharply critical of Site C, did find this decision heartbreaking. There is considerable truth to their argument that the Liberals had made scrapping the project incredibly difficult. Christy Clark's parting gift to our province was a ten billion dollar boondoggle. But their decision also shows a reluctance to show visionary leadership and to consider other options.


Critics of Site C have emphasized protecting the inherent rights of First Nations peoples, preserving valuable agricultural land and the natural environment, and the need to take account of both the inflated projections of future revenues and the consistently underestimated construction costs. The Dec. 11 decision fails on all these criteria.


For example, the approval of Site C is much worse than a "disappointment" for indigenous peoples, using the Premier's term. It is a blatant violation of the letter and spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation report's recommendations, and also of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Rather than signal a true commitment to these historic documents by cancelling Site C, the provincial government chose to green-light the ongoing colonization of indigenous lands and resources, which are being extracted for the profit of big corporations. This government chose to break their hard-earned trust with First Nations, rather than incur the wrath of the big resource corporations, business groups, and the corporate media.


The government argues that cancelling Site C would force a big increase in Hydro rates, violating the NDP's pledge to make life more affordable for British Columbians. This logic essentially means that the huge and still growing costs of completing Site C will be paid by future generations, sparing the current government the political pain inflicted by higher Hydro bills for the next several years. Well, such calculations are inherent to political decisions, but we are not doing our children and grandchildren any favours by passing down enormous and unnecessary debts, especially if markets for Site C power never reach the levels speculated by its backers.


Another key element in this debate has been "employment," and unfortunately, some have accused the trade union movement of being a key player on the pro-Site C side. In fact, most unions in British Columbia did not take pro-Site C positions, and many public sector labour activists argued strongly that far more jobs could be created by spending $10 billion (or whatever the final amount comes to) on social housing, improving the crumbling urban infrastructure and public transit systems, expanding social programs, and providing adequate funding for schools and hospitals. The point has been made by many progressive economists that politicians and decision-makers are often influenced by the patriarchal myth that only building trades jobs (mainly held by men) are "real," while public sector employment (largely female) is by implication less worthy. To be blunt, the Horgan government appears to have swallowed the assumption that boy jobs are better than girl jobs.


One final point has been ignored by almost everyone in this debate, reflecting the unfortunate fact that neoliberal austerity arguments are deeply embedded into the fabric of almost every public policy discussion in our society.


The truth is that tax policies are not eternal and unalterable. Tax rates are set by elected politicians, and can indeed be changed. Here in British Columbia, as groups like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have pointed out, the tax break for upper income earners and corporations, granted back in 2001 by the newly-elected Campbell Liberals, has cost the provincial treasury well over $2 billion annually for the past 16 years. Christy Clark tinkered briefly with this tax break when she wanted to appear "populist," and the Horgan government is taking a similar approach; we'll see exactly how much or how little when the next budget is announced early in 2018.


Here's my point: yes, it would cost several billion dollars to cancel Site C. That amount could be covered within a very few years simply by removing half of the annual tax break which the rich and the corporations are still getting in British Columbia. Why has this option never been raised in the arguments around Site C? The project's backers don't go in that direction, of course, since their own interests would be affected. But I find it disappointing that most critics of the dam also fail to raise this option, which would make it possible to begin a decisive shift away from economic policies based on corporate-driven resource extraction megaprojects.


It's time to think outside the box in British Columbia, time to put the needs of people and the environment ahead of the greed of millionaires and corporations. The Site C announcement leaves us firmly inside the box, and that has to change.

Kimball Cariou is the Editor of People's Voice, a social justice activist, and a member of the Radical Desi Editorial Team. 


Braving cold weather, dedicated South Asian activists gathered at the Holland Park in Surrey on Saturday, Dec. 9 to hold a rally in commemoration of the 25 years of the demolition of Babri Mosque.

On December 6, 1992 the Hindu extremists razed the ancient Muslim shrine at the behest of the right wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) which currently governs India.The BJP continues to claim that the mosque was built by Babur – an Islamist ruler - after destroying a temple made at the birthplace of Lord Ram. The party has once again intensified its campaign for building a Ram temple at the disputed site.

Organized by the Indians Abroad for Pluralist India and Radical Desi, the rally was started by a moment of silence in memory of a Muslim labourer brutally murdered by a Hindu fanatic in Rajasthan, India this past week. Shambhu Lal, the main suspect not only hacked the Muslim man to death but set him alight. The video of his violent action went viral on social media. Lal justified the murder accusing Muslims of Jihad in India. Such incidents have grown ever since BJP came to power with brute majority in 2014. 

The speakers felt that on the 25th anniversary of the Babri episode not just the Muslims but all minorities feel insecure under a BJP government. They unanimously denounced attempts to turn India into a Hindu state and demanded that the Babri Mosque be rebuilt and handed over to the Muslim community.

Among those who addressed the gathering were Dalit activist and poet Amrit Diwana, Al Ameen newspaper publisher Jaffer Bhamji, the founder of the Coalition Against Bigotry, Imtiaz Popat, Dashmesh Darbar Gurdwara spokesman Gian Singh Gill, Marxist activist Hardev Singh, independent leftist activist Rakesh Kumar, Miracle newspaper publisher Naseer Pirzada, veteran Sikh activist Kesar Singh Baghi and Radical Desi Director Gurpreet Singh.

The Babri episode date coincided with the death anniversary of Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar – a towering Indian scholar who had coauthored the constitution that guarantees religious freedom. A poem dedicated to Ambedkar was read by Diwana.  

Gian Singh Gill warned that India will soon become a Hindu nation if all minorities did not join hands.

Bhamji said that India ‘s diversity is under constant attack from the Hindu right, while Popat said that bigotry and Islamophobia have also increased in other parts of the world giving further given legitimacy to the violence against Muslims in India. 

Hardev Singh called upon for unity among all secularist and progressive forces to defeat the designs of the BJP.

Notably, no Indo-Canadian politician turned up for the rally despite being invited by the organizers. Gurpreet Singh demanded that community members should write to their MPs to break their silence on the Babri episode and growing threat of Hindu extremism. 

The participants also raised slogans against Hindu fanaticism and distributed flyers carrying the brief history of the incident to raise awareness.

The largest labour group of British Columbia has raised its voice for the physically disabled Delhi University professor who has been incarcerated in the Indian jail since March this year.

On Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, the BC Fed issued a statement calling upon Canadians to sign a petition seeking the release of wheelchair-bound Prof. G.N. Saibaba who was sentenced to life after being branded as a supporter of Maoist insurgents. 

The statement, which also encourages Canadians to stand up for Rohingya Muslims and the LGBTQ community, described Saibaba as an “indigenous rights activist” who has been raising awareness about the repression of tribal people, Dalits or the so-called untouchables and religious minorities in India.

BC Fed President Irene Lanzinger mentioned in the statement that there are many issues happening both locally and globally that the Federation would like to highlight. She acknowledged that the imprisonment of Saibaba has gained attention internationally. The statement provides a link to an online petition for Saibaba.

Saibaba was first arrested in 2014, but was released on bail following an outcry at the world level. In March he was given a life sentence and sent back to jail, where he continues to face inhuman conditions.

He has been instrumental in mobilizing political actions in Delhi against the eviction of tribal people from their traditional lands by the extraction industry with the backing of the Indian state. Due to police high handedness, many indigenous men and women have been forced to join Maoist insurgents who are active in the tribal belt of the country.  

The BC Fed is the first labour group in BC to come out in support of Saibaba.

Earlier, Federal New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh took to the social media to condemn the mistreatment of Saibaba by the Indian authorities.

In the meantime, Radical Desi held an emergency rally in Surrey for Saibaba on Saturday, Dec. 2, on the eve of International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Those who spoke on the occasion included Human Rights activist and a practicing lawyer Amandeep Singh. Singh had drafted a petition launched by Radical Desi asking for the intervention of the Canadian government into the matter. It has received more than 1,000 signatures. Dashmesh Darbar Gurdwara Spokesman Gian Singh Gill, who encouraged the temple congregation to sign the petition, also spoke on the occasion.

So far two Canadian MPs, Sukh Dhaliwal and Peter Julian have accepted the petition. Responding to Dhaliwal who has already submitted the petition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has only acknowledged that it is aware of the case and encourages India to protect human rights.  

Gurpreet Singh 

This year marks 25th anniversary of the demolition of Babri mosque by the Hindu extremists in India.

On December 6, 1992, religious fundamentalists razed an ancient Muslim shrine in the city of Ayodhya in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

The attack on the Muslim shrine was instigated by leaders of the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which is currently in power in India. BJP leaders continue to claim that the mosque was built by Babur—an Islamist ruler in 1528-29, after destroying a temple constructed at the site of birthplace of Lord Ram, one of the most revered Hindu gods.

During 1980s, the BJP intensified its vicious campaign for the reconstruction of the Ram temple with an aim to polarize the Hindu majority for electoral gains. The matter was further complicated by the so-called secular Congress party that was in the power back then.

It began pandering to Hindu fundamentalists and allowed Hindu priests to perform rituals at the disputed site. The Congress government even launched Ramayan—a TV serial based on the Hindu epic of Lord Ram—on public broadcast.

During the years that followed, all actors playing the main characters, including Ram and Raavan, the villain of the story, joined the BJP. These ugly developments culminated in the demolition of the mosque by mobs who had gathered there after a call given by the BJP. 

Notably, the then Congress prime minister P.V. Narsimha Rao could not muster courage to stop the mobs from assembling in Ayodhya despite warning signs of an impending danger to the mosque.

Rao was previously a home minister of India during 1984 when an anti-Sikh massacre was engineered by his party following the assassination of the prime minister, Indira Gandhi, by her Sikh bodyguards.

Thousands of Sikhs were targeted all over India by the mobs led by Congress party activists with the active help of the police. Rao failed to prevent both tragedies. 

As a budding journalist back then I was in Chandigarh, the joint capital of the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana. I still remember seeing Hindu activists gathering at various temples under the command of BJP leaders in the city to be recruited and sent to Ayodhya on December 6.

They frequently raised provocative slogans and the public walls were smeared with inflammatory and hateful graffiti asking Hindus to be ready for the bloodshed in Ayodhya.

Those were the times when a draconian anti-terror law, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act (TADA), was in use. The law was primarily formulated to deal with Sikh extremists who were running a violent campaign for a separate state in Punjab.

Although everyone could see that Hindu fanatics were also indulging in terrorism and violence, TADA was only used to suppress the Sikh militancy in the region and the government never found it necessary to detain those gearing up to destroy Babri mosque.

Babri episode therefore needs to be understood in the broader context of sectarian politics being played in India by the ruling classes with impunity.

Ever since the mosque was destroyed, the communal environment of India has turned highly sensitive. The incident was followed by anti-Muslim pogrom in Mumbai by Hindu extremists.

In 2002, anti- Muslim carnage was instigated by the BJP government in Gujarat after a train bringing Hindu pilgrims from Ayodhya caught fire, leaving more than 50 passengers dead.

The current Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, was the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat back then. The Modi government blamed Islamic extremists for the incident following which Muslims were targeted across Gujarat by mobs led by BJP supporters. They used techniques similar to those applied against the Sikhs in 1984.

For all these bloody events, the Indian state—whose constitution guarantees religious freedom—needs to be held accountable. Such practices have given space to the BJP to grow over these years.

The ascendancy of BJP to power in 2014 under Modi with a brute majority cannot be delinked from these incidents, which represent a clear pattern of using the might of the state to keep minorities under the boot.

Twenty-five years later we see how attacks on religious minorities in India have grown and with the BJP in power, sectarian forces have gained undue legitimacy. So much so, Ram temple rhetoric has also increased, as calls are being made to construct the temple soon at the disputed site.

The courts have also failed to intervene and do justice to Muslims who feel insecure and alienated in the current environment.

Attacks on Muslims suspected of carrying beef have increased. The self-styled cow vigilantes continue to haunt Muslim travellers, particularly in BJP-ruled states, with the backing of the police.

Since Hindus consider the cow as a sacred animal, the sale and consumption of beef have been outlawed in these states. On the 25th anniversary of the Babri incident, a Muslim labourer was lynched and then set on fire by a Hindu fanatic in the BJP-ruled province of Rajasthan.

If this were not enough, he made a video of this violent act and posted it on social media. The main suspect in the crime, Shambhu Lal, openly justified his action on social media, accusing Muslims of conspiring Jihad in India.

Ironically, the Babri mosque was destroyed on the death anniversary of great Indian scholar Bhim Rao Amebdkar—who predicted the threat of Hindu nationalism to the secular fabric of society much before India gained official independence from the British in 1947. 

His prophecy was proven right when the Babri mosque was pulled down in 1992. The assault on the mosque was a direct challenge to the secular constitution of the country that Ambedkar coauthored. 

Western powers need to open their eyes to recognize the growing threat of Hindu supremacy. It's hypocritical of the United States and Canada to go after Taliban in Afghanistan—following an outcry over the bombing of iconic Buddha statues by Islamic extremists in 2001—while continuing to ignore the misdeeds of the BJP so as to maintain cozy and diplomatic relations with India.

This is not to justify the actions of Taliban. Whether it was the demolition of Babri mosque or the bombing of Buddha statues, both actions were unacceptable and sacrilegious. But the outrage over one and silence over the other speaks volumes about the selective approach of the world leaders.

The BJP government in particular and the Indian state in general must be made accountable for the crimes against minorities in that part of the world.


Gurpreet Singh is cofounder of Radical Desi magazine. 

A calendar dedicated to 200 years of the birth of Karl Marx was released in Surrey on December 2. 


Marx, who was born in 1818, stood for the rights of the less privileged and tirelessly worked for an egalitarian society. 


Released by Radical Desi in partnership with People's Voice, Mehak Punjab Dee TV and Spice Radio, the calendar bears important historical dates associated with the radical history of India and Canada. It recognizes the date of the first uprising against British occupation of India in 1857, which Marx described as the first war of independence. 


Those who unveiled the calendar included People's Voice Editor Kimball Cariou, anti poverty activist Dave Diewert, Marxist activist Navtej Johal, anti racism activists Avtar Singh Dhillon and Mehak Punjab, Dee TV producer Kamaljit Thind.  


Speaking at the event, Cariou explained why it is important to remember Marx, whose legacy remains relevant because of growing racism and social inequalities in today's world. 

Radical Desi held an emergency rally for Prof. GN Saibaba on the eve of International Day of Persons with Disabilities in Surrey. 


Saibaba, who is ninety percent disabled below the waist, is incarcerated in an Indian jail for standing up for the oppressed communities, especially indigenous peoples whose lands are being taken away by the extraction industry with the backing of the Indian state. He was given a life sentence early this year after being framed as a supporter of Maoist insurgents. 


Wheelchair bound Saibaba  used to teach at Delhi University, and has been instrumental in organizing political actions against the repression of indigenous communities.


The participants at the rally unanimously demanded his release on compassionate grounds. Those who spoke at the rally included Human Rights advocate Amandeep Singh, who had drafted a petition asking for the intervention of the Canadian government into the matter. The petition launched by Radical Desi was signed by more than 1,000 people and presented to two MPs. 


Gian Singh Gill, the spokesperson of Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar, also addressed the rally. He had encouraged the gurdwara congregation to sign the petition during the annual Vaisakhi parade.


Others in attendance were Ranjit Singh Khalsa of Banda Singh Bahadar Society, Canadian Pressure Group leader Goldie Deol, Marxist activists Navtej Johal and Hardev Singh, besides Radical Desi cofounders Parshottam Dosanjh and Gurpreet Singh. 

As the world is gearing up to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities this Sunday (December 3), the issue of a physically challenged social justice activist being incarcerated in India has gained momentum in Canada.

Prof. G.N. Saibaba is a Delhi University professor who is 90 percent disabled below the waist. Currently in jail where he is serving life sentence for supporting Maoist insurgents in the tribal areas of India, Saibaba is dependent on a wheelchair for his mobility and suffers from several ailments. 

His supporters both in India and Canada believe that he is being persecuted for standing up for the Indigenous communities whose lands are being taken away by the extraction industry with the help of the Indian state. The high-handedness of the government has forced the Indigenous population to turn to Maoist insurgents for support. Saibaba therefore has become a victim for advocating for the rights of the Indigenous peoples being subjected to the state violence.

While the Canadian government is aware of the case, it's yet to be seen if it will intervene into the matter effectively.  

Vancouver-based Radical Desi launched a petition seeking the release of Saibaba on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

The petition was signed by close to 1,000 people and was presented to two MPs, Sukh Dhaliwal (Liberal Party) and Peter Julian (New Democratic Party), before the fall session.

The petition was drafted by former B.C. NDP candidate and human rights activist Amandeep Singh. 

In response to the petition submitted to the house by Dhaliwal, the first Canadian MP to accept it, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has acknowledged that it is aware of Prof. Saibaba’s case and continues to encourage India, with its “vibrant and diverse civil society, to guarantee freedom of expression and association”.

Though Dhaliwal helped the petitioners in arranging a meeting with the staff of the former minister for people with disabilities Carla Qualtrough, the Liberal government has been ambivalent on the demand.

Separately, a letter signed by 100 residents of Delta was also presented to Qualtrough asking for immediate action. Now the minister of public services and procurement, she is also the member of Parliament for Delta. Her staff categorically said that the government wants to remain neutral in this case.

However, the New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh raised the issue through social media after remaining silent on it for several months.

Singh is the only national leader to come out in support of more humanity, describing the Indian government’s treatment of Saibaba as “shameful” on Twitter.


Saibaba was first arrested in 2014 and locked up in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Following a series of protests, including some in Canada, he was released on bail. 

In March he landed back in jail after being given a life sentence, in spite of his poor medical condition. His recent letter to his wife has raised serious concerns over his health that continues to deteriorate.

This past Sunday, November 19 Vikram Kapur’s novel based on the anti-Sikh massacre was released in New Delhi.

The Assassinations: A Novel of 1984 was unveiled by famous Indian journalist Hartosh Singh Bal at an event held at the city’s Habitat Centre.

The unveiling ceremony coincided with 33rd anniversary of the anti-Sikh pogrom across India following the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.

Gandhi had ordered a military assault on the Golden Temple Complex, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs in Amritsar in June that year to flush out extremists who had fortified the place of worship. The military operation that left many pilgrims dead had enraged Sikhs all over the world.

Thousands of innocent Sikhs were slaughtered by the mobs instigated by the leaders of Gandhis’ self-proclaimed secular Congress party during the violence in the aftermath of her murder.  No senior leader involved in the bloodshed was ever convicted. Bal who is currently the Political Editor ofCaravan magazine has extensively written on the subject.  

Bal and Kapur also held conversation on the issue that was followed by questions from the audience.

Among those present were renowned Punjabi author Ajeet Caur and her daughter and a prominent painter Arpana Caur. The mother and daughter have kept the issue of 1984 alive through expression.  Former Chief Election Commissioner Manohar Singh Gill was also in attendance. Ironically, Gill is associated with the Congress Party.

Though New Delhi alone witnessed more than 3,000 murders during 1984, no prominent Sikh leader was present.

Kapur revealed that he will donate all the proceeds from the sale of his novel to the victims’ families.

Despite being a Hindu, Kapur is passionate about the subject and has published another book on 1984 in the past. During his discussion with Bal, he acknowledged that being born and brought up in a secular environment of his family he was pained with the events of 1984. He insisted that the 1984 is more relevant today because of growing religious sectarianism under a right wing Hindu nationalist government.

The Assassinations is the story of two families, one Hindu and another Sikh. It revolves around the relationship between a Sikh man and a Hindu woman who fall in love during 1980s when social ties between the two communities are strained because of Sikh militancy and the brutality of the Indian state.  The love story ends in tragedy due to ugly developments of 1984 as the hero Prem Singh ends up becoming a militant after enduring violence targeting Sikh community.

The novel powerfully depicts the alienation of the Sikh minority and their mistreatment by the fanatical Hindus and the government, besides empathy of the Punjabi Hindus toward their Sikh compatriots. Through the character of Prem Singh’s would be father –in- law, Kapur portrays the dilemma of Punjabi Hindus who despite all their anxieties about the Sikh separatists feel sorry for the state sponsored violence against ordinary Sikhs.  The story also puts in perspective the efforts of the Sikhs who fled to counties like US for safety to keep the horrific memories alive in the absence of justice.

Months have passed since a petition asking the Canadian government to intervene on behalf of a jailed social justice activist in India was presented by two members of Parliament.

Prof. G.N. Saibaba is a Delhi University professor who is 90 percent disabled below the waist. Currently in jail where he is serving life sentence for supporting Maoist insurgents in the tribal areas of India, Saibaba is dependent on a wheelchair for his mobility and suffers from several ailments.  

He recently wrote to his wife, Vasantha, from jail, saying that as winter sets in, he may not survive due to the inhuman conditions in his cell. He says he does not have a blanket or a sweater and is complaining of constant muscle pain.

Radical Desi launched a petition seeking the release of Saibaba on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

The petition was signed by close to 1,000 people and was presented to two MPs, Sukh Dhaliwal (Liberal Party) and Peter Julian (New Democratic Party), before the fall session.

These have not yet been tabled in Parliament, though they were submitted to the house clerk for verification, according to Dhaliwal and Julian.

Separately, a letter signed by 100 residents of Delta was presented to the then minister for people with disabilities, Carla Qualtrough, asking for immediate action. Qualtrough, the MP for Delta, has since become public services and procurement minister.

Poorest of the poor have Saibaba's enduring support

Saibaba was first arrested in 2014 and incarcerated in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Following a series of protests, including some in Canada, he was released on bail. 

Saibaba has been raising his voice against repression of minorities, particularly tribal people and Dalits, or the so-called untouchables. The Indigenous peoples in tribal belt of India continue to face persecution at the hands of the extraction industry and security forces. It's all in the name of a war on terror against Maoist insurgents active in the area.

Many Indigenous peoples have seen no alternative but to support the Maoists due to the barbarity of the state, which is bent upon evicting them from their traditional lands for mining.

Saibaba has been instrumental in organizing actions in Indian cities against these atrocities. His supporters feel that he is being punished for standing up for the underdog and that he was slapped with baseless charges with an intention to eliminate him.

In March he landed back in jail after being given a life sentence, in spite of his poor medical condition.

Canadian politicians send mixed messages on human rights

Ironically, Canadian politicians did not forget to wish their South Asian constituents Happy Bandi Chhorh Diwas on October 19, while leaving the issue of Saibaba unaddressed.

Bandi Chhorh Diwas is celebrated every year to mark the return of the sixth master of the Sikhs, Guru Hargobind, from the Gwalior jail where he was detained for raising his voice against injustice.

He managed to secure the release 52 kings detained separately along with him and thus became a symbol of human rights.


If our politicians really care for Bandi Chhorh Diwas, they must step in for political prisoners like Saibaba urgently.

Gurpreet Singh 

The troubles for the newly elected federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh aren’t over yet. His critics have now found a new weapon to beat him with. This time he has come under attack for not denouncing the alleged mastermind in the Air India bombings.  

The late Talwinder Singh Parmar was the leader of the banned Sikh extremist group Babbar Khalsa that is blamed for the June 23, 1985, Air India bombings that left 331 people dead. The incident followed ugly political events in India in 1984.

In June of that year, the Indian government ordered a military invasion of the Golden Temple Complex, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs in Amritsar in the northwestern Indian state of Punjab. "Operation Blue Star" was intended to flush out militants who had stockpiled weapons inside the place of worship.

The Indian army operation resulted in the loss of many innocent lives and damage to many important buildings inside the complex. The entire exercise was avoidable and alienated the Sikh community from the Indian mainstream.

There were angry protests in Vancouver. These developments culminated in the assassination of then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi at her residence in New Delhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Following her murder, her Congress party organized an anti-Sikh pogrom across the country. Thousands of Sikhs were slaughtered and Sikh women were gang raped as police remained mute spectators.  

A year later Air India Flight 182 was blown up above the Irish Sea, killing all 329 people aboard. Around the same time a blast at the Narita Airport in Tokyo left two baggage handlers dead. The investigators later found that the bombs used in the crime had originated from Vancouver International Airport. Police believed that these bombings were planned and executed by Babbar Khalsa to avenge the repression of Sikhs in India.

Babbar Khalsa wanted to create Khalistan—a separate Sikh homeland in Punjab. Parmar was a potential suspect in the conspiracy but was never convicted. A resident of Burnaby, he returned to India to continue his struggle for Khalistan when he died at the hands of Indian police in 1992 under mysterious circumstances.

It's believed that he was captured and tortured before being killed in a staged shootout. Two former suspects in the conspiracy, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, were charged but later acquitted. This came when the judge ruled that several Crown witnesses weren't credible and therefore the accused could not be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The bomb maker, Inderjit Singh Reyat, was the only one convicted and who has served time for Air India Flight 182 tragedy and the Narita episode.

Jagmeet Singh, who is a baptised Sikh MPP from Ontario, has raised the issue of 1984 Sikh genocide in the Ontario legislature. As a social justice activist in the past he has also been raising the issue of Sikh political prisoners. For his outspokenness on these inconvenient matters, the Indian government denied him a visitor's visa. Later during Singh's leadership campaign, those owing allegiance to the pro-India lobby had reportedly tried to discourage people within the South Asian community from donating money to his team or voting for him. 

Now that he has been elected NDP leader with a huge mandate, he is being attacked for something he is not even remotely associated with. It all started with his interview with CBC journalist Terry Milewski, who asked him whether he denounces Parmar, who is often glorified by the supporters of Khalistan as “martyr”.

Singh only said that he denounces violence against ordinary people and that he doesn’t know who is responsible for the bombings. He added, “I think we need to find out who’s responsible, we need to make sure that the investigation results in a conviction of someone who is actually responsible.”

Based on this conversation Milewski tweeted that the NDP leader declines to denounce the displaying of “martyr” posters of Air India bombers. Several pro-India commentators promptly picked up the issue and began accusing Singh of not being honest.

Throughout the leadership campaign, these commentators tried to force Singh to clarify his position on Khalistan. An India-based daily—Hindustan Times—published a misleading headline suggesting that Singh had in fact glorified Parmar, although he never did that. This was despite the fact that the HT story was based on his interview with Milewski.

Like it or not, a Sikh is being targeted mainly because of his race and religious belief.

He is a turbaned Sikh who has made a history after being elected as leader of a federal party of Canada. He was under constant attack from right-wing forces both in India and Canada. India is currently under a right-wing Hindu nationalist government whose supporters have been targeting him on social media. Similarly, white supremacists in Canada too have been targeting him. In one particular case, he was verbally attacked by a white woman.

It is completely unfair to drag him into the Air India story. This is obviously being done to silence him for raising the genuine issue of the 1984 massacres in India. Let’s face it, no justice was delivered to the sufferers of state-sponsored violence against the Sikhs.

On the contrary, those involved have enjoyed ministerial positions in India for several years. As against the 1984 tragedy, the alleged Air India mastermind was killed in a cold-blooded murder by the police. There has never been an instant justice for the victims of 1984. Hopefully, this stops the media commentators from equating the two different tragedies without going into the complexities of the Indian state and its justice system.

Besides, what many are not trying to understand is that Singh is a lawyer by profession and activist because of his strong belief in social justice. How can you expect a person like him to brand Parmar as somebody responsible for the Air India when he died without conviction and long before the Air India trial started?

Going by Singh's conversation with Milewski, it is very clear that he never glorified anyone. Rather, he denounced the Air India tragedy. Just because he did not answer a close-ended question of Milewski with a yes or no, does not make him guilty.

Also, there is a section of Sikh activists that strongly believes that the Air India bombings were part of a much larger conspiracy involving Indian intelligence agencies that wanted to discredit the Khalistan movement in Canada. Until now, the investigation remains inconclusive and there are no complete answers.

The killing of Parmar by the Indian police despite knowing about his alleged hand in the Air India bombings is seen as a cover-up by many. So it is understandable that Singh may not like to accept the version of the Air India story that is frequently offered by the governments of India and Canada. 

What we need to recognize is that there is a pattern behind tarnishing exceptional political figures like Singh, who stand up for human rights. Also we need to question the media industry in Canada and its commentators.

How many times are white politicians asked to clarify their position on white supremacy that continues to grow after the emergence of Donald Trump in U.S.? Why are only men like Singh are expected to prove all the time that they are good Canadians and could be better politicians than others?  

Yes, the glorification of Parmar or anyone involved in acts of violence against innocent people is wrong, but then what about the continued glorification of Nathuram Godse—a Hindu extremist who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in India? What about the mainstream Canadian and American politicians who remain silent to the acts of terrorism committed by white nationalists?

The whole situation reveals that the entire Sikh community remains under the microscope for an unholy act committed by a few people. Several years ago, a Sikh former MP, Gurmant Grewal, was also unfairly targeted by the mainstream media for handing over a personal package to a passenger boarding a flight at the airport. The Air India story and flight safety was dragged into the story merely because of his heritage.

The practice of trying to paint the whole community with one brush is offensive and racist and must stop. Politics over the Air India tragedy is completely unacceptable. If anyone owes answers for the tragedy, it's the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service for botched investigations or the Indian establishment that created the circumstances leading up to the incident. And, of course, those who were actually involved rather than Singh or Grewal. 

Let Singh focus on things that matter. There will be time when he will be held accountable if he fails to deliver on issues such as homelessness, economic inequality, climate change, electoral reform, health care and of course human rights and racism. After all, he is not going to represent only the Sikhs and other South Asian communities but the whole country. Instead of dragging him into unwanted controversies, he should be given a chance to fulfill his promises.

Gurpreet Singh is cofounder of Radical Desi magazine.

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