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Close to the Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the officials of the Surrey-Delta Sikh temple came together to help out a youth whose lower limbs had stopped working.

After becoming disabled below the waist following an accident, international student Amritpal Singh was dependent on fellow students.

The members of Guru Nanak Singh Gurdwara, which continues to provide free food to the needy during the pandemic, bought a battery-operated wheelchair for him.

According to temple President Hardeep Singh Nijjar, service to everyone irrespective of caste and creed is the duty of every Sikh.

Nijjar and his team have been helping international students, who face isolation and many other challenges in Canada.

Being a strong advocate for human rights and social justice, he had earlier extended his support to Prof. G.N. Saibaba, a disabled Indian scholar incarcerated under trumped up charges.

Saibaba is a former Delhi University Lecturer who was arrested and convicted for being a Maoist sympathizer, for merely standing up against repression of the poor and marginalized in the world’s so called largest democracy.

The wheelchair bound Saibaba, who is suffering multiple ailments, is being held under inhuman conditions.

Nijjar had publicly announced that he and others at the gurdwara will continue to raise their voices for his release, and for the freedom of all political prisoners under detention in Indian jails.

 

The members of Spice Radio team presented a special gift to the Parliamentary Secretary for anti-racism initiatives, at her constituency office in Surrey on Monday, May 17. 

As part of their Hands Against Racism campaign, the hosts of Spice Radio had prepared a collage of green hand prints, with a message of solidarity with the Indian peasants who have been struggling for their rights since last November.  

The on-air team at the Burnaby-based radio station had painted their hands in green and left their palm prints on a white sheet, alongside messages of support for the agitating farmers who have taken to the streets in opposition to controversial farm laws passed by the Indian government. 

Among them is Vishaljeet Kaur, whose recent Punjabi song dedicated to the farmers' protest has gone viral on social media. Except Kaur, who looks after administrative work at the station, all others whose handprints are on the collage are either entertainment or news-based talk show hosts. These include Noni Kaur and Gaurav Shah. Both are actors and performance artists, who host famous musical shows. The other three hosts, Mankiran Aujla, Suzanne Pasch and Gurpreet Singh are news casters and produce programs based on current affairs.   

Participants in the annual campaign, which was started in 2015, are encouraged to dip their hands in colours and leave a palm print alongside a message against bigotry. Launched on the birth anniversary of the late Martin Luther King Jr., the campaign coincides with Holi, an Indian festival of colours.  

Rachna Singh, who represents Surrey-Greentimbers, is the Parliamentary Secretary for anti-racism initiatives in the BC government. She has not only been vocal against racism in Canada, but has spoken out in support of Indian farmers. Singh is a former trade unionist. 

Her office will be a permanent home for the collage, which reads #FarmersProtest and #HandsAgainstRacism. 

Those present on the occasion on behalf of Spice Radio were Noni Kaur, Gaurav Shah, Vishaljeet Kaur and Gurpreet Singh. 

***

 

On World Press Freedom day, Radical Desi has announced a new award for the daring journalists who have stood up for the oppressed and questioned the power.  

Named after the newspaper started by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar – an undisputed leader of the so-called untouchables in India - the Mooknayak journalism award will be given annually to exceptional media personalities.  

The announcement coincides with the 130th birth anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar.  

Mooknayak, which literally means "leader of the voiceless," was launched in January, 1920 and gave a platform to the Dalit community that continues to suffer caste-based oppression within the Hindu society.  

The first award will be given to Hartosh Singh Bal, a New Delhi-based political editor of The Caravan magazine, which has done many challenging stories under a right wing Hindu fascist regime. Press freedom is under great risk in the current political environment in the world’s so called largest democracy.  

The award will be presented to Bal at an appropriate time and location once the COVID 19 restrictions are over.  

Radical Desi is an online magazine that covers alternative politics.  

 

 

Activists came together on the international workers’ day outside the Indian Visa and Passport Application Center in Surrey, to remember more than 300 farmers who have laid down their lives during the ongoing agitation.  

Indian farmers have been camping on the borders of New Delhi since November against controversial farm laws which have been passed by the ruling right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government.  

The farmers believe that these laws are going to harm their livelihood and increase corporate control over the agro industry.  

Organized by Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI), the vigil was held on Saturday, May 1.  

The event began with a moment of silence for not only the Indian farmers who have lost their lives during the struggle, but also thousands of healthcare workers who have died in the line of duty all over the world because of the pandemic.  

The speakers unanimously called for the repeal of Indian farm laws and raised slogans in solidarity with the Indian farmers. They also expressed their apprehension over how COVID 19 is being used by the Indian government to push the whole issue under the rug.  

Among those who spoke on the occasion were famous poet Sherry Duggal, social justice activists Imtiaz Popat, Annie Ohana and Dupinder Kaur Saran, besides IAPI spokesman Gurpreet Singh.   

Sherry recited one of her two poems dedicated to the farmers on the occasion.  

Annie Ohana, an anti-racism educator who was instrumental behind the statement made by BC Teachers Federation in support of Indian farmers, honoured Sherry, Imtiaz and Dupinder with Radical Desi medals of courage on behalf of IAPI.  

Radical Desi is an online magazine that covers alternative politics and is a media partner of IAPI. Annie is the past recipient of the Radical Desi medal.  

The three individuals were honoured for standing up for the farmers. Imtiaz had spoken in support of a motion that was passed by the Vancouver City Council in solidarity with Indian farmers, while Dupinder had mobilized people to write letters to the Council, asking it to adopt the motion and hold peaceful demonstrations all over Greater Vancouver.  

While Imtiaz is associated with Coalition Against Bigotry, Dupinder is part of Guru Nanak Free Kitchen and One Voice.  

IAPI wanted to send a strong message to the Indian government by honouring these three individuals from different faiths, and to let the world know that it is not a religious issue, as the Indian establishment is trying to make everyone believe. The BJP government has portrayed the farmers' movement as "separatist and anti-national", by polarizing the Hindu majority against the Sikhs, whereas people from all the religious communities are united and together in this issue.  

Likewise, the IAPI believes that the supporters in Canada of Khalistan, an imaginary separate Sikh state, were also hurting the cause of Indian peasantry, by trying to appropriate the agitation.   

 

*** 

 

 

Hands Against Racism (HAR), which was launched on the birth anniversary of the late Martin Luther King Jr. in 2015 has now been by acknowledged by the fastest growing municipality with a sizable population of South Asians and other minority groups.  

Started by the Burnaby-based Spice Radio, the campaign encourages participants to dip their hands in colour and leave a palm print on a white sheet of paper alongside a message against bigotry. It coincides with Holi, an Indian festival of colours. Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt, who is of Indian origin, initiated the campaign to raise awareness about the growing hate in North America.  

This year saw a spike in anti-Asian racism in the light of COVID 19 that started from China and eventually spread to other parts of the world.  

The notice of motion recognizing HAR was unanimously passed by the City of Surrey.   

Jack Singh Hundial, the South Asian councillor, was instrumental behind the motion. Hundial, who is a strong voice for social justice, had moved a motion asking the city to formally acknowledge that it sits on indigenous land. However, the motion was rejected by the Mayor much to the dismay of the First Nations.  

Early this year, Hundial and his council teammate Brenda Locke had gone to the Spice Radio station to participate in HAR.  

Locke, too, has stood against a controversial anti-religion bill passed by Quebec National Assembly. Bill 21 bars public employees from wearing religious symbols. This has hit hard turbaned Sikhs and Muslim women with head coverings, and has intensified hate attacks against them in a charged political environment.  

Surrey follows the cities of Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster, which have already recognized HAR. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and BC Premier John Horgan have also participated in the campaign that continues to grow with each passing year.

Gurpreet Singh  

 

The recent incident of a hate crime at a grocery store in Surrey, involving a nine-year-old Muslim girl, has devastated everyone.  

An unidentified man wearing “Make America Great Again” called the child a “terrorist”. 

What was more heartbreaking was that the girl was out there doing shopping for an auspicious occasion of Ramadan with her family.  

While Canadian politicians were making statements to congratulate Muslims gearing up for Ramadan, a man wearing a hat inspired by the slogan of former US President Donald Trump, who gave legitimacy to anti-Muslim and anti-Asian hatred, left Aliyah and her family shocked.  

This incident coincides with growing hate against people of Asian heritage in Greater Vancouver, in the wake of COVID 19 that first broke out in China and eventually spread to other parts of the world.  

Trump, who was elected in November 2016, ran a nasty campaign by stirring up hatred against Muslims and immigrants. While in office, he constantly spewed venom against China and polarized already divided US society on racial lines, taking advantage of the pandemic and its after effects on the economy.  

However, Trump was just a symptom, and not the cause of the systemic racism that is deeply entrenched in society across North America. He was just stoking the basest emotions of fear and anger to sustain power otherwise, why  have racist incidents like these been occurring in the more open and liberal political environment of Canada?  

Why would racists in our country be following him? This incident should open our minds and eyes to the reality of racism being prevalent in our neighbourhood, and not just across the border. After all, Canada has a long history of racism against people of colour, including the indigenous peoples, whose lands were stolen to build the Canadian nation state, the Blacks, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Sikhs, the Hindus and the Muslims, besides  the Jewish community.    

The person who called Aliyah “terrorist” must be charged for this hate crime. How can he be allowed to get away with making such a statement? How can one particular religion be associated with terrorism, since terrorists are in all the communities, including the white Christian society in US and Canada.  

The suspect and his mentor Donald Trump represent the face of white supremacy, which too is responsible for violence and murders. If anyone was a terrorist at that moment, it was not her, but the individual who called Aliyah that word, because his action was aimed at creating fear in the mind of the little soul and her community. 

The root of the problem is majoritarianism. Why do only the minorities suffer in an event of a terror attack or a crisis? Why are they conveniently painted with one brush and scapegoated for the actions of a few? Why isn't the white majority seen that way if anyone from the dominant society does something terrible? Why is an entire group of people punished when it comes to any minority community? That is the question the privileged groups should be forced to ask themselves to fix this.  

 

Vancouver City Councillor Jean Swanson was presented with the Radical Desi medal of courage by members of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) on Thursday, April 15. 

Swanson had recently brought a motion in support of the Indian farmers who have been camping outside New Delhi for the past several months.  

The agitating farmers are opposing the controversial laws passed by the right wing Hindu nationalist government, which many believe threaten the livelihood of the peasantry.  

The motion that strongly expressed solidarity with the Indian farmers was passed by a majority vote.  

Partly due to pressure from the pro-India lobby, the motion was watered down and directed the Mayor of Vancouver to write to the federal and provincial governments asking them to intervene.  

Swanson, who is a well-known social justice advocate, had earlier brought a motion against India’s infamous Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that discriminates against Muslim refugees coming from the neighbouring countries.  

However, she was forced to withdraw that motion because of a backlash from the Indian consulate and lack of support from others in the city council. Even the Khalsa Diwan Society, the oldest Sikh body in the city, known for its loyalties toward the Indian government, and which had vehemently opposed Swanson's motion against the CAA, supported her motion in solidarity with the farmers .   

Formed in response to growing attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents in India, IAPI believes that Swanson has shown courage by standing up for those suffering repression in the world’s so-called largest democracy.   

Radical Desi is an online magazine that covers alternative politics and a media partner of IAPI. It had established the medal of courage back in 2018 to honour those who have stood up for the oppressed.   

Due to COVID 19 restrictions, the ceremony was kept brief and small. IAPI President Parshotam Dosanjh presented her with the medal right outside the Vancouver City Hall, in the presence of two other members of the group, Rakesh Kumar and Gurpreet Singh.  

*** 

An annual vigil was held on Tuesday evening at Surrey’s Holland Park in commemoration of those killed by the troops in British India 102 years ago.  

Close to 1,000 peaceful demonstrators died in the indiscriminate firing at Jallianwala Bagh, a public park in Amritsar, on April 13, 1919.  

The agitators had gathered to oppose draconian laws passed by the British government to suppress the freedom movement.  

Organized by Mehak Punjab Di TV, the vigil attracts scores of people every year. This year however, the gathering was kept small due to COVID 19 restrictions.  

The event was started with a moment of silence for protesters killed during the ongoing farmers’ agitation in India and pro-democracy campaign in Myanmar.  

The participants also remembered the Black victims of police violence in the US, and the late Sarwan Singh Aujla, a renowned Punjabi scholar who passed away recently. Aujla had written extensively about the heroes of the Indian liberation movement. 

Pictures related to the history of the Jallianwala Bagh episode were also displayed on the occasion.  

The speakers were unanimous in their demand for rolling back controversial farm legislations in India, the scrapping of anti-democratic laws, and an unconditional release of political prisoners fighting against the policies of the current right wing Hindu nationalist government in New Delhi.  

They raised slogans in support of the agitating farmers and those jailed for questioning the Indian state.  

Among those who addressed the gathering were Mehak Punjab Di TV host Kamaljit Singh Thind, Prof. Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation leader Sahib Singh Thind, prominent social justice activist Imtiaz Popat, community activist Amritpal Singh Gill, a well-known broadcaster Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal, and the director of Radical Desi publications, Gurpreet Singh.   

 

 

In a major jolt to the Indian government, the City of Vancouver has passed a motion to show support with the farmers agitating for their rights outside New Delhi since November, 2020.  

Moved by councillor Jean Swanson, the motion was passed by a majority vote on Wednesday, March 31. While four councillors voted in its support, four others abstained.  

The motion says that Council stands in solidarity with the Indian farmers, and directs the Mayor of Vancouver to write to the provincial and federal governments asking them to support Indian citizens’ rights to expression and liberty.  

Thousands of Indian farmers have been camping on the border of the national capital asking the right wing Hindu nationalist government to roll back controversial farm laws that threaten their livelihood. They believe that the laws, which have been passed without debate and due consultations, are aimed to ensurecorporate control over the agro industry. After the protesting farmers had to face police violence, angry demonstrations have been held across Canada by members of the Indian diaspora. A rally was held outside Vancouver City Hall on Monday, March 29. The organizers displayed more than 200 shoes on the steps leading to the building as a mark of respect to hundreds of farmers who have lost their lives during the struggle.  

Swanson’s original motion went into the details of these laws and urged the Indian government to revoke them.  

First presented on the night of March 10, the motion covered a lot of layers associated with the issue. However, in the absence of unanimity on part of the city councillors, the vote was delayed and the motion was watered down.  

Notably, the council was under pressure from the pro-India lobby groups. A majority of the speakers from the community opposed the motion and supported the position of the Indian government, which is trying to down play these concerns and continues to resist international criticism because of the mistreatment of farmers.  

Barring Imtiaz Popat, a well-known social justice activist, nobody came in support of the motion.  

Swanson had previously brought a motion against India’s discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act that discouraged Muslim refugees coming to the country from neighbouring nations. She had to eventually withdraw it after backlash from the supporters of the Indian government and its consulate in Vancouver.  

Interestingly, that motion was opposed by Khalsa Diwan Society (KDS), the oldest Sikh body of Vancouver, which welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015. This time the KDS supported Swanson’s motion though.  

 

The seventh annual event against racism started by Spice Radio was held online this year on Saturday, March 27 due to COVID 19 restrictions. 

Launched in 2015 by the Burnaby-based radio station, on the birth anniversary of the towering civil rights movement leader the late Martin Luther King Jr,. this year’s campaign culminated with the participation of Justin Trudeau and the Chief Medical Officer of British Columbia.    

In their powerful video messages, both Trudeau and Henry underlined the need to fight back against growing racism, especially the one directed against people of Asian origin in the wake of the pandemic that broke out in China and eventually spread across the globe.   

Most speakers, including recipients of the annual Hands Against Racism awards, were unanimous in their criticism of anti-Asian racism.  

In fact, one of the two recipients of this year’s awards is Tammy Hu, a young Chinese woman, who spearheaded a campaign against controversial media headlines describing COVID 19 as “China virus” that fuelled hatred against people of Asian descent.  

The announcement came close to the killings of six Asian women in Atlanta, US.    

While introducing this year’s recipients of Spice Radio’s awards, the BC Parliamentary Secretary for anti-racism initiatives, Rachna Singh, recognized the challenge in Greater Vancouver which has seen a huge spike in anti-Asian racism. 

The second recipient is Kamika Williams, a former member of Anti-Racism Coalition. She had started a campaign to recognize the birth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. as Black Shirt Day to raise awareness about Black history in schools.  

The campaign, flagged off by Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt, coincides with Holi, the Indian festival of colours and the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination.   

Participants are encouraged to dip their hands in colour and leave a palm print on a white sheet of paper alongside a message against racism and intolerance.  

Both Hu and Williams had participated in Hands Against Racism this year. They have now joined the list of trailblazers and strong voices for change who have been honoured by Spice Radio in the past.  

The very first recipient of the Hands Against Racism award was Baltej Singh Dhillon. He was the first turbaned Sikh RCMP officer, who had to face a racist backlash from both within and outside the force.  

The second annual award went to Sunera Thobani, a Muslim academic who had to face hostility for questioning US foreign policies following the 9/11 terror attacks. Her award was given to challenge growing Islamophobia under Donald Trump.  

The following year in 2018, Georgia Straight Editor Charlie Smith and anti-racism educator Alan Dutton were honoured for standing up for minorities and for amplifying the stories of white allies in an ongoing struggle against intolerance. Dutton has been receiving serious threats from white supremacists.  

In 2019, indigenous activist Cecilia Point and South Asian activist Niki Sharma, who is now a member of the BC Legislature, were presented the awards for breaking many barriers and facing racism and sexism. Point has been in the forefront of the annual marches in memory of the missing and murdered indigenous women, whereas Sharma, who has been present in many rallies in support of refugees, had to face blatant racism while running for office in the city of Vancouver.   

In 2020, a police officer-turned activist, Kal Dosanjh, and author and social justice activist Harsha Walia were honoured. Dosanjh is running a group called Kidsplay Foundation that educates youngsters to stay away from racism, while Walia is a die-hard grassroots level activist who has published two books.  

Most of these recipients joined the Saturday event, along with other well-known anti-racism activists, such as Annie Ohana, Suresh Kurl and Dr. Arun Garg.  

Among those who joined this year’s campaign that began in January were Kiran Sidhu, a South Asian teacher who was assaulted by the wife of a white police officer in Delta, Surrey City Councillor Jack Hundial, who brought a motion asking for the recognition of indigenous lands, the first turbaned Sikh MLA in the BC legislature Aman Singh, Black activist Kombii Nanjalah, prison justice and anti-poverty activist Minakshi Mannoe, Surrey City Councillor Brenda Locke, who brought a motion against Quebec’s law that discriminates against religious symbols, Yasmin Ullah, a hijab-wearing Muslim woman who has been raising a voice against Islamophobia, Dupinder Kaur Saran, a Sikh activist, who has been raising her voice against repression of minorities in India and elsewhere, and Global TV anchor Neetu Garcha, besides Bhupinder Singh Hundal, the news director and station manager of the same channel. Both Garcha and Hundal have broken the glass ceiling. 

Anita Lal, an exceptional activist who has stood up for the rights and dignity of the so called untouchables within the caste ridden South Asian community, besides other marginalised groups, joined the campaign and left a handprint with a tribute to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a revered Indian scholar and the architect of the Indian constitution.  

Former Spice Radio host and cultural activist Safeeya Pirani opened and closed the  event.   

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