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On the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination, the members of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) presented a medal to Shusma Datt.  

The CEO of Spice Radio 1200 AM had launched "Hands Against Racism" on the birth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. in January, 2015.  

The campaign, which has entered its seventh year, coincides with Holi, the Indian festival of colours. Participants are encouraged to colour their hands and leave a palm print on a white sheet of paper, alongside a message against bigotry. Every year, individuals who have fought against racism are also honoured as part of this campaign.   

On Sunday, March 21, IAPI President Parshotam Dosanjh honoured Datt with the Radical Desi medal of courage, at the Spice Radio station located in Burnaby.  

Radical Desi is an online magazine that covers alternative politics, and is a media partner of IAPI, which was established in response to growing religious intolerance in India under a right wing Hindu nationalist government. IAPI is also vocal against racism in North America.  

Datt has stood up against chauvinism of every shade, and has been vocal against violence against minorities in India and anywhere else in the world. Being a woman of colour, she has faced numerous challenges from both within and outside the community because of her gender and ethnic background. She had received serious threats from Sikh extremists in the past for her criticism of their violent actions. Nevertheless, she has also been critical of Hindu fanatics who have become emboldened under the current Indian regime.    

The other IAPI members present on the occasion were Amrit Diwana, Tejinder Sharma, Rakesh Kumar and Gurpreet Singh.  



Gurpreet Singh   

As we are all anxiously waiting for our turn to get a vaccine to prevent COVID 19, one of the many challenges before the people would be to which shot they prefer to be injected into their bodies.   

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has already said that residents of his province will have a choice not to get AstraZeneca, but many of our political leaders have remained silent on this issue.  

The majority of those opposed to AstraZeneca in Alberta have concerns about it being prepared with material from fetal cells - although this is not factual. Since anti-abortion voices are stronger in that region, Kenney has spelt out clearly that such choice will be given to the people based on their ethical values.  

However, not much is being discussed in the media about the anxiety among the Canadians of Indian origin whose ethical concerns are much bigger than those of anti-abortionists and science deniers.  

By now, we are all familiar with the fact that close to 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca are destined to arrive here from India. After all, our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to provide them to deal with the shortage of vaccine in Canada.  

This is despite the fact that Modi is a tyrant, under whose watch attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown ever since he became the Prime Minister in 2014.  

Modi belongs to the Hindu supremacist group RSS, which aspires to turn India into a Hindu theocracy. As part of his right wing pro corporate agenda, he has already introduced controversial farming laws that threaten the livelihood of small farmers and those living in rural India. Since these laws were passed without much consultation and debate, the farmers continued to protest for the past several months. Even Trudeau had condemned the police barbarity on the agitating farmers, only to make a U turn later to ask for the vaccine, which has disappointed many of us.   

This reflects poorly on Canada for two reasons. First, how can Canada claim to be a human rights leader in the world, but overlook the crimes of Modi and seek his help? This has given him undue legitimacy and emboldened his supporters in Canada, who are bent upon discrediting those showing their solidarity with the farmers of India.  

Second, Canada being a champion of the public health care system, should have rather produced its own vaccine rather than asking India for help.  

I have nothing against the scientists and the health experts who are behind AstraZeneca, and I don’t agree with anti-abortionists or science deniers, but I am deeply concerned with the fact that this whole vaccine deal has helped Modi in rehabilitating his image in the eyes of Canadians.  

We therefore should have a choice to refuse to accept AstraZeneca and instead get any other vaccine, to send a strong message to both Trudeau and Modi that human rights are not something that can take a back seat for the sake of your relations.  




Tammy Hu and Kamika Williams are going to receive this year's annual awards from the Burnaby-based Spice Radio station as part of its campaign Hands Against Racism.  

Started by Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt in January, 2015, the campaign has entered its seventh year and coincides with Holi, the Indian festival of colours and the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination which falls this Sunday. 

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. 

The virtual event scheduled for March 27 will see Hu and Williams  presented with the awards for their tireless work against bigotry. 

Hu had spearheaded a fight against offensive news headlines describing COVID 19 as a "China virus". Ever since the pandemic broke out in China, hate crimes against people of Asian heritage have increased in Metro Vancouver. Hu believes that irresponsible news reporting has contributed to such madness. Spice Radio wanted to send a strong message to those involved in anti- Asian racism by honouring Hu. The announcement came at a time when at least six Asian women were murdered in Georgia, US. A suspect has been arrested following a series of shootings targeting three spas in and around Atlanta. 

Williams is being honoured for her efforts behind Black Shirt Day campaign. The day was recognized to honour the giant leader of the civil rights movement Martin Luther King Jr. 

King, who laid down his life fighting for the rights of African Americans, was born on January 15, 1929. Williams had started a petition asking for January 15 to be declared as Black Shirt Day in schools to raise awareness among youth about systemic racism against Black people. 

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 9/11 terror attacks. This was done 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 to amplify 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. 






On the eve of International Women’s Day, South Asian activists came together to raise their voices against gendered repression in the world’s so called largest democracy.  

Organized by the Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) on Sunday, March 7, the rally was held outside the Indian Visa and Passport Application Center in Surrey.   

The demonstration was mainly focussed on the 30th anniversary of the infamous Kunan Poshpora gang rapes of Kashmiri women by the Indian soldiers.  

Close to 100 women were sexually abused by the Indian forces on the night of February 23, 1991 in the name of  "war on terror". Years have passed but the victims have not been given justice. 

The speakers were unanimous in their criticism of the Indian government for shielding the accused and repeatedly perpetuating sexual violence against women, and allowing rape to be used as a weapon to instil fear in the minds of minority communities. The pattern has grown under the present right wing Hindu nationalist government.  

They also spoke out against the recent arrests of female activists by Indian police on trumped up charges during the ongoing farmers’ agitation, and held placards asking for the release of prominent human rights defender Sudha Bhardawaj and others, who are being incarcerated for their advocacy of the poor and marginalized.  

Among those who addressed the gathering were Rohingya Muslim activist Yasmin Ullah, Sikh activist Dupinder Kaur Saran, and anti-racism educator Annie Ohana. Besides these three women, others who spoke on the occasion were IAPI members Rakesh Kumar and Gurpreet Singh.  

The participants raised slogans in support of Sudha Bhardawaj and the victims of Kunan Poshpora gang rapes.  

The event was started with a moment of silence for three female farm workers who died in a road accident in Abbotsford on March 7, 2007, and all those farmers who have laid down their lives during the current peasantry movement in India.  

 A collage of green handprints added a new dimension to an anti-racism initiative launched by Burnaby-based Spice Radio this week.  

The broadcasters and other team members at the station, came together to raise their voices for Indian farmers in a unique way.  

They not only left their handprints in green on a white sheet, but also scribbled their greetings to show respect to the farmers agitating against controversial laws passed by the right wing and pro corporate government in India.  

The farmers have been camping near New Delhi for the past 100 days now, asking to roll back the ordinances that threaten their livelihood.  

As part of their annual Hands Against Racism campaign, the team members dipped their hands in green colour and left a palm print on a white sheet laid outside the studio.  

Among them was Vishaljeet Kaur, who recently sang Kissan Di Vaar (a heroic ode of farmer). Kaur is a well-known Punjabi singer, whose recent song video focussing on the farmers’ struggle has received a lot of attention. “I support farmers”, she wrote right beneath her handprint.  

While Kaur works on the administrative side of the radio station, those doing on-air news and entertainment programs were in the forefront of the decision to show solidarity with the farmers. 

The morning talk show host Mankiran Aujla wrote, "Power to the farmers!" 

Likewise, Noni Kaur, another seasoned broadcaster, wrote in Punjabi, "We are indebted to the farmers."  

Hands Against Racism has entered its seventh year. It was started in 2015 on the birth anniversary of towering civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. by Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt. It coincides with Holi, a Hindu festival of colours and encourages participants to dip their hands in colours and leave a handprint alongside a message against bigotry.  

Datt has provided the radio platform to different groups and speakers advocating for the rights of the agitating farmers.  

Not to be left behind, Gaurav Shah, who has a popular musical show at Spice Radio, talks about the farmers' movement almost every day and has been consistently showing his empathy with those protesting in India on social media. 



Members of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) came together on Sunday, February 14, to raise their voices for the jailed Indian scholar who is being incarcerated despite being disabled below the waist, and having been tested positive for COVID 19.  

A well-known human rights defender, former Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba is currently serving a life term after having been convicted on trumped up charges for merely standing up for the oppressed groups and religious minorities.  

He was arrested after being branded as a Maoist sympathiser for mobilizing public rallies against the state violence on Adivasis, or the indigenous peoples of India, who are being evicted from their traditional lands by the corporates with the backing of the Indian establishment in the name of development. Since Maoist insurgents are active in the tribal belt of India, Saibaba was accused of being a sympathizer of the radical left.  

The right wing Hindu nationalist government refuses to release him on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, in spite of his deteriorating health on account of several ailments, and increasing global pressure. So much so, he was denied an opportunity to meet his mother who passed away recently because of cancer.   

The news of his having been tested positive for COVID 19 has sparked fear and apprehension among his admirers both within and outside India.  

The IAPI held an emergency rally seeking his release, outside Indian Visa and Passport Application Center in Surrey.  

Braving snow and cold weather, members of the group showed up at the demonstration holding signs and raising slogans against the draconian laws being used to supress any voice of dissent and to keep political activists behind bars. They also glued a sign asking for his release near the entrance of the office.  

IAPI was instrumental behind a petition for Saibaba in the past that attracted thousands of signatures from the residents of Canada.  



Members of the South Asian media fraternity came together on Monday, February 8, to raise their voices against ongoing suppression of freedom of the press in the world’s so called largest democracy.  

The demonstration was held right outside the Indian Consulate in Vancouver, by the Punjabi Press Club of British Columbia (PPCBC).  

This was in response to the recent arrests and filing of criminal charges against journalists who have been covering the ongoing agitation by farmers near New Delhi. Not only were some journalists detained after being booked on trumped up charges, but female journalists were subjected to abuse and rape threats on social media by supporters of the ruling right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government.  

The farmers have been protesting against controversial farming laws that threaten their livelihood.  

The PPCBC believes there is a pattern behind the spike in attacks on free expression in India under a totalitarian regime. Ever since the BJP came to power in 2014, attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown. Apart from journalists, scholars and activists are also being arrested under draconian laws to instil fear.  

They demanded that not only motivated charges against journalists be revoked, but an impartial investigation be launched into the murders of journalists, such as Gauri Lankesh, by suspected Hindu extremists.  

They also asked for the unconditional release of all activists and scholars being incarcerated in the Indian jails, and the scrapping of black laws.    

Among those who addressed the rally was the PPCBC President Navjot Kaur Dhillon. She is the first female president of the club.  

Dhillon read out the charter of demands that was to be presented to the office of Consul General of India. However, the staff at the Indian consulate refused to accept it.  

One of the demands in the memorandum asked the Indian government to stop meddling in media affairs abroad through its diplomatic channels, and stop denying visas to the journalists raising critical questions. 

Others who spoke on the occasion included the club Vice President Gurpreet Singh, former President Jarnail Singh, besides senior members Khushpal Gill, Bakshinder Singh, Harkirat Singh Kular and Amarpal Singh.  

The rally began with a moment of silence in memory of Charanpal Gill, a community elder and a towering human rights activist from Canada, who passed away recently. Gill had fought against racism and dedicated his entire life to the rights of farm workers.  


Members of the South Asian media fraternity came together  on Monday, February 1, outside Indian visa and passport center in Surrey, to raise their voices against suppression of the free press in the world’s so called largest democracy.   

Organized by the Punjabi Press Club of British Columbia, the rally was called in response to the recent arrests of Indian journalists covering the ongoing farmers’ agitation and the slapping of fabricated charges against media persons by the police. 

The participants raised slogans against injustice, and held placards and signs denouncing the lapdog media of India, which is feeding false information against the protesting farmers to discredit them at the behest of those in power. 

They unanimously passed resolutions read out on the occasion by the former President of the Club, Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal. These resolutions called for an unconditional release of those arrested and revocation of criminal cases against other journalists, as well as immediate international intervention into the matter by the Canadian government and United Nations, and scrapping of draconian laws being used to terrorise political dissidents and journalists. 

The farmers are camping near the Indian capital of New Delhi for the past few months to protest against the controversial laws passed by the right wing Hindu nationalist government, as part of their agenda to put agro-industry in the hands of corporate control, which many believe will adversely affect the livelihood of tillers and marginal farmers. 

However, the lapdog media has frequently branded the protesting farmers as “extremists” and “anti-nationals”. This is despite the fact that the agitators have come under vicious attack from right wing goons and the police, who have been trying to chase them away from the protest sites.

Journalists who have tried to uncover such high handedness are facing constant backlash and seditious charges. Some have been detained on trumped up charges for merely doing their duty with objectivity.  

Those who spoke on the occasion included the club President Navjot Kaur Dhillon, vice president Gurpreet Singh and other members - Khuspal Gill, Harkirat Singh Kular and Amarpal Singh. 

Others who spoke on the occasion as community allies were Parminder Kaur Swaich, Harbir Singh Rathi and Kuljinder Singh Gill.  




Members of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) came together on Saturday January 30,to mark the birth anniversary of a slain journalist, outside the Indian visa and passport center in Surrey

Gauri Lankesh was a critic of the current right wing Hindu nationalist government.  

Born on January 29, 1962, she was assassinated in 2017 by suspected Hindu extremists. Her murder was rejoiced by supporters of the ruling party.  

The IAPI members held placards and signs carrying her picture, and raised slogans against the fascist regime and the Godi Media (lapdog media) that continues to feed false narratives set by the Indian government to suppress any voice of dissent. They were outraged by the recent events in which the Godi Media tried to paint a distorted image of the agitating farmers, who are seeking the rollback of controversial farming laws that threaten their livelihood. The media has frequently branded the protesting farmers as extremists and anti-nationals.    

IAPI believes that Lankesh’s legacy of courageous journalism has become even more relevant under these dark times, when a large section of the mainstream media in India is toeing the line of an intolerant government, under which attacks on religious minorities and political opponents have grown. 

They also broke the piñata of Godi Media on the occasion, blaming it for giving legitimacy to majoritarian extremism, unlike Lankesh, who laid down her life in the line of her duty as a journalist.  

The Saturday event coincided with the death anniversary of M.K. Gandh, who was shot to death by a Hindu supremacist in 1948. Gandhi was the leader of the passive resistance movement against the British occupation of India. He was killed because of his opposition to Hindu theocracy and solidarity with minority Muslim community. The silence of the media over the constant threat of Hindu fanaticism has enabled ultranationalist groups to become much more emboldened over the years. Lankesh’s murder was the culmination of this, as similar forces silenced her voice with a gun.

The event was started with a moment of silence in memory of six Muslim worshippers killed by a white nationalist in a Quebec City mosque on January 29, 2017. The Hindu nationalists are driven by the same ideology that inspires white supremacists.

A poem dedicated to Lankesh by IAPI member Amrit Diwana was recited by him at the beginning of the demonstration, that was kept small due to COVID 19 restrictions.

Among those in attendance were IAPI President Parshotam Dosanjh, Treasurer Navtej Johal, and IAPI spokesman Gurpreet Singh.


Gurpreet Singh  

When Doug McCallum and his team opposed a motion seeking recognition of Coast Salish territory on which Surrey City Hall is located, they were not only being insensitive toward the First Nations of Canada, but they also let down many South Asians like me, who believe in building bridges with the original stewards of the land.  

This happened when a South Asian City Councillor, Jack Hundail, brought a motion asking for such recognition as part of reconciliation and decolonizing efforts in light of cultural genocide of the indigenous peoples.  

Recently, another prominent South Asian voice, Anita Huberman of Surrey Board of Trade, also wrote an open letter to McCallum to respect that reality.   

We don’t need rocket science to understand why such acknowledgement is important.  

After all, the indigenous peoples have been subjected to systemic racism for years. Canada as a nation state has been built on their stolen lands. That’s the minimum McCallum could have done by accepting the motion with an open mind.   

Although we are thankful to him and his team for recognizing the Sikh Genocide that occurred in India in the first week of November, 1984, following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, by ignoring the aspirations of the indigenous peoples of Canada he has set a very bad example. This reflects poorly on McCallum and speaks volumes about his double speak and hypocrisy on social justice. If you can be considerate for what happened to the Sikhs in India, why would you lack empathy for the indigenous peoples in your own backyard?  

It is pertinent to mention that even the Sikh activists are respectful of the indigenous communities and their rights. Dashmesh Darbar Gurdwara, which organizes the Vaisakhi parade every year in Surrey, also acknowledges the indigenous land we are sitting on. So much so, they invite indigenous peoples to their annual Sikh Genocide commemorative events. How come the Mayor cannot see this?  

Since South Asians and the Indigenous peoples in Canada share a history of resistance against colonialism and racism, we stand in support of the First Nations and call upon the Mayor to rethink his decision.   


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