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This Christmas, world leaders need to wake up and recognize growing violence against the Christian minority in the world’s so-called largest secular democracy.

Ever since a Hindu right-wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government came to power in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, the country's social environment has become toxic for all religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians.

Modi himself belongs to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu supremacist group of which the BJP is a political wing. It wants to transform India into Hindu theocracy.

The RSS believes that India, which in its terminology is Hindustan, truly belongs to Hindus, while Islam and Christianity are viewed as alien religions. RSS leaders consider Sikhism and Buddhism as part of the Hindu fold, an idea that is vehemently denounced by Sikhs and Buddhists.

Then there are other oppressed communities, like Dalits (considered untouchables by the orthodox Hindus) and Adivasis, or tribal people, who have their distinct identities. Yet the RSS tries to project them as part of the Hindu mainstream.

Much like Sikhs and Buddhists, these groups have also been trying to resist attempts of assimilation either through religious conversions or mere false propaganda, by claiming that anyone whose ancestors were born in India is Hindu.

Tensions between all these groups and the BJP government have grown rapidly.

Meanwhile, the World Watch List 2017 ranks India 15th worst among nations where Christians are persecuted. Four years ago, India ranked 31st on the list.

In addition to the lynching of Muslims following accusations of eating beef—Hindus consider the cow a sacred animal—Christians are being frequently targeted by BJP supporters. More than 700 cases of attacks on Christians were reported on the United Christians Forum helpline since 2014.

Only recently, those out singing Christmas carols in the state of Madhya Pradesh (MP) were attacked by the Hindu fundamentalists. Not only were their cars burned but a criminal case was filed against them, accusing them of forced religious conversions, an allegation often made by BJP supporters against Christian missionaries.

As if this was not enough, threatening letters were sent to various schools in another state, Uttar Pradesh (UP), asking them not to allow Christmas celebrations.

Both MP and UP are governed by the BJP and it is not surprising that the surveillance of churches has increased under the Modi government in the name of checking religious conversions, a practice also done freely by Hindu groups to bring Muslims and Christians into Hindu faith.

The situation is no different in other BJP-ruled states where anticonversion laws targeting Christians have been enforced even as the Indian constitution guarantees religious freedom.  

The RSS has a track record of being involved in anti-Christian violence. In 2008, an anti-Christian pogrom was organized by the RSS in the state of Odisha following the assassination of a Hindu preacher by Maoist insurgents.

Even though Maoists claimed responsibility for the murder as they considered the slain preacher a class enemy creating fear among tribal Christians, the RSS goons went after innocent Christians to settle a score for the killing.

It is the same state where in 1999 an Australian Christian missionary, Graham Staines, and his two sons, aged 10 and six, were burned to death by Hindu extremists.

Staines’s murder followed well organized anti-Christian violence in the state of Gujarat in 1998. Gujarat has been under BJP rule since then.

In 2002 when Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, an anti-Muslim massacre was organized after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire, leaving more than 50 Hindu passengers dead.

The BJP government at the time blamed Muslim fundamentalists for torching the train, after which innocent Muslims were targeted across Gujarat. Human rights activists continue to allege Modi’s complicity in the bloodshed though he was never charged.

Global leaders celebrating Christmas and sending out greetings to everyone on such an auspicious occasion must take a moment to find more about what is happening in India, which is becoming a favoured destination of many countries, like Canada and the U.S., for future investments and business transactions.

If world leaders are really concerned about the growing threat of terrorism, they must also keep on Hindu extremists in India on their radar. They are trying to create a Taliban like regime in a land that has always been known for its pluralism and diversity.

This week marks 312th anniversary of the martyrdom of the two young sons of Guru Gobind Singh and his mother.

 
The tenth master of the Sikhs had laid the foundation of the Khalsa, a sect that was dedicated to fight against state oppression of the Mughal rule and determined to challenge the caste-based divisions practiced by orthodox Hindus.
 
Guru Gobind Singh was born 350 years ago to father Guru Teg Bahadar and mother Mata Gujri. Teg Bahadar was the ninth Guru of the Sikh faith that was founded by Nanak. Sikhism is based on the principles of egalitarianism and social justice. Guru Gobind Singh was very young when he lost his father, who laid down his life for human rights and religious freedom by coming to the defence of Kashmiri Hindus who were being forcibly converted to Islam by the Mughal Empire.
 
Mata Gujri brought up young Gobind Singh with courage following the execution of her husband. Guru Gobind Singh who led the community as the tenth Guru had resolved to fight against state violence by raising a force of committed men who ended caste barriers to give a united challenge to the enemy. For this Guru Gobind Singh had to face the dual threat from the Mughal government and Hindu kings who could not tolerate people from the so called low castes being empowered with the formation of Khalsa army. So great was this perceived threat that they even tried to incite the Mughals against Guru Gobind Singh.
 
During the year 1705 he had to fight a very tough battle in which he lost his two elder sons, Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh, while Mata Gujri and his two younger sons Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh were separated from the entire family. The three of them were handed over to a Muslim governor of Sirhind state by a treacherous Hindu servant who deceived them after being bought over by the enemies. Mata Gujri was thrown into jail alongside her grandsons.
 
Both Zorawar Singh aged nine and Fateh Singh aged seven were pressurised by the Mughals to embrace Islam to save their lives. Undeterred by these warnings, they accepted death with dignity and were bricked alive. Upon receiving the news of the merciless killings of her grandsons, Mata Gujri also died in the prison.
 
Today when state repression spreads everywhere and we see no end to bigotry, the episode of the great sacrifices made by Guru Gobind Singh, his parents and sons has become even more relevant.
 
All we need to understand is the real message behind this powerful story rather than letting communal forces misinterpret this history for their ulterior motives. It’s a shame that right wing political parties such as the Hindu supremacist BJP that governs India continues to appropriate the Sikh history in an attempt to polarise Hindus and Sikhs against Muslims, whereas the Sikh gurus and their families fought against repression and not any particular religion. Rather they had some good Muslims on their side as several hostile Hindus joined hands with the Mughal Empire.
 
The growing incidents of violence against Muslims and Christians under the BJP government(s) would instead have forced the gurus to revolt against the current regime if they were still among us. They would never have compromised with a government whose supporters frequently  terrorise minorities with impunity and force Muslims and Christians to embrace Hinduism in the name of Ghar Waapsi – which is nothing but a well-organised religious conversion (through force and intimidation).
 
Apart from this, the current regime is no different from the then tyrannical Mughal government that killed two small children and let their aging grandmother die in the jail. Activists like Prof. GN Saibaba who are being incarcerated despite being ninety percent disabled below waist for standing up for the oppressed people is a classic case of the brutality of the Indian state. The under- age Kashmiris continue to be arrested and attacked by the Indian forces in the name of war against terror in the valley where uprising for right to self-determination has been going on for years. Even in Punjab during the Sikh insurgency in 1980s the under age children on the militants and their parents were subjected to killings and torturers. Only recently, Jagtar Johal, a young Sikh activist from UK was detained and tortured in Punjab on the allegations of murdering of right wing leaders.  
 
The story is relevant internationally too as this week we saw the arrest of 16-year-old Ahed Tamini – a Palestinian activist who slapped an Israeli soldier for continued repression of her people and the occupation of her homeland by the state of Israel. The indigenous activists in North America also face highhandedness of the state for opposing extraction of natural resources from their traditional lands without informed consent.
 
Those who believe in the philosophy of Mata Gujri and her young grandsons must come together to raise voice for those who are being persecuted for showing resistance against repression anywhere in the world and defeat the forces of bigotry.
 

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.

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