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

The ongoing farmers’ agitation in India took a dramatic turn on January 26, when some protesters stormed the iconic heritage Red Fort building in New Delhi and raised Nishan Sahib to make a point.  

It being Republic Day of India, the incident left many political leaders outraged, while a section of the media has gone to the extent of describing those carrying the Sikh flag to the Red Fort as extremists.  

The farmers from mainly Sikh-dominated Punjab have been camping outside the national capital for weeks to protest against controversial farming laws brought by the right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government. 

The farmers complain that the laws which have been passed without debate and consultations are going to affect their livelihood. The movement has attracted the support of farmers from other regions of the country as well.  

They had resolved to enter New Delhi on Republic Day to take out a tractor rally. But a section of the protestors broke away from the planned demonstration to go and raise the Sikh religious flag or Nishan Sahib on Red Fort. Even though Nishan Sahib is not the same as the flag of Khalistan, an imaginary Sikh homeland, the right wing media has accused these people of acting at the behest of Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), a separatist group banned by the Indian state.  

With no huge following in Punjab, which has already seen the demise of an armed insurgency for Khalistan movement, SFJ often indulged in gimmickry and had announced a monetary reward to those who could hoist a Khalistan flag on Red Fort on January 26.  

And yet the right wing media commentators have tried to club the two flags together, while the BJP leaders have described these people as extremists.  

The BJP apologists in the Indian film industry, such as Kangana Ranautm have branded the supporters of agitating farmers as “terrorists.”   

The hysteria caused by this episode has also gripped the mood of many in the opposition and the frontline leadership of the farmers’ agitation.  

The farmers’ leaders have distanced themselves from the events at Red Fort, but a senior leader of the so called secular Congress party, Shashi Tharoor, has condemned the incident, saying that the Indian tricolour is the only flag that should be raised on Red Fort. 

Most opposition leaders have blamed the BJP government for allowing the situation to deteriorate by failing to listen to the farmers and refusing to roll back the problematic farming laws, but the Red Fort incident has captured the headlines.  

What could be more hypocritical than the fact that there was no outrage over the tableau of a Ram temple in the annual Republic Day parade? It was the grand model of an upcoming Hindu temple on a disputed site in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.   

An ancient mosque once stood on the same spot. In December, 1992, BJP supporters demolished it, claiming that it was built by a Muslim emperor after destroying a Hindu temple at the birthplace of Lord Ram. The incident, which followed months of conspiracy with the connivance of the establishment, had vitiated communal harmony in the country. The Red Fort incident of a symbolic protest was nothing in comparison to what happened in Ayodhya. Many violent incidents and anti-Muslim pogroms followed the demolition of the mosque while the BJP remained adamant to build a Hindu temple at the same place. Finally, under the current regime, the Indian Supreme Court gave its verdict in favour of the Hindu temple while refusing to restore the land back to the aggrieved Muslim community.  

The demolition of the mosque was an outright assault on the Indian constitution that guarantees religious freedom and equality, but by including a tableau of the Ram temple that is being built on the dead bodies of Muslims in the Republic Day parade, the present government has formally buried the future of an inclusive and secular India. 

The media and the opposition, which conveniently overlook this reality by squarely focussing on the Red Fort incident, also need to be held accountable for allowing majoritarianism to thrive under the garb of secularism and democracy, making life suffocating for everyone. Rather than investing more time and resources on questioning and weakening the continued growth of Hindu extremism, they are going after a perceived threat of Khalistan movement, which has lost its charm and poses a negligible threat to the security of the country. While SFJ was outlawed for merely asking for a right to referendum on Khalistan, Hindu extremist groups have been allowed to function openly and spread hatred and violence against minorities.    

If hoisting of Nishan Sahib from Red Fort is against Indian values, then why there is a silence about the display of Ram temple model in a national day parade? The Nishan Sahib, which was the flag of the Sikh warrior Banda Singh Bahadur, who had given the slogan of land to the tiller, should not alarm us, while the tableau of Ram temple, which reminds us of bloodshed,  should.  



The CEO of Burnaby-based Spice Radio turns 75 this Sunday, January 24.  

Shushma Datt, who is a pioneer in the Canadian broadcasting industry, and had started a campaign against racism in 2015, has faced many barriers and challenges because of her gender and ethnicity.  

Being a towering figure in the South Asian community, she received greetings from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and BC Premier John Horgan, besides congratulatory notes from the City of Burnaby, where she lives, and from the neighbouring city of New Westminster.  

New Westminster City Councillor Chuck Puchmayr, who is known for his stand on human rights and social justice, made a special announcement about her birthday and her work as an anti-racism campaigner during the council meeting on Monday night.  While Horgan called her directly on Friday to congratulate her, Trudeau sent his greetings through email. 

Datt started Raise Your Hands Against Racism on the birth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. in 2015. 

The campaign encourages participants to colour their hands and leave a palm print on a white sheet of paper, alongside a message against bigotry. She aimed to link the campaign which has already entered its seventh year with the Holi, an Indian festival of colours that bring people of different faiths and backgrounds together.  

The campaign has been recognised by the Prime Minister’s Office, the BC government, and several municipalities across the province. Horgan has also participated in it, as did other prominent elected officials, such as the first turbaned Sikh Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan and Chuck Puchmayr.  

Grassroots level anti-racism activists such as Harsha Walia, Sunera Thobani, Imtiaz Popat and many others have joined the campaign at different times. She had awarded Thobani as part of the campaign to send a message against growing Islamophobia under Donald Trump. Thobani had spoken out against discrimination against Muslims in the post 9/11 environment and received threats. 

The campaign provides an opportunity to Spice Radio broadcasters to speak out against racism and engage with people fighting against this menace. It has become even more relevant due to a noticeable spike in hate crimes against people of Asian origin in Vancouver because of COVID 19.   

At 75, Datt is still not giving up. She continues to lead the campaign with unwavering determination as the task to flatten the curve of rising hatred remains unfinished.  



On the night of Friday, January 15, the members of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) came together to reject controversial Indian laws .  

To mark the 92nd birth anniversary of the towering US civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr., they burnt copies of the contentious Indian farming law, besides Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) right outside the Indian visa and passport office in Surrey.  

Since King had advocated for defying unjust laws while fighting against racial segregation, the IAPI members resolved to denounce infamous laws passed by the right wing Hindu nationalist government on the occasion.  

Farmers are agitating in India against recently passed farming ordinances that threaten their livelihood, CAA discriminates against Muslim refugees coming from neighbouring countries, and UAPA is being frequently used to suppress any voice of dissent, especially coming from minorities and left wing critics. The Indian authorities are reportedly using UAPA to intimidate those raising voices against the disputed farming laws.  

The IAPI members chanted slogans against the Indian government and burnt copies of these laws at the event, which was kept small due to COVID 19 restrictions. They also cross-marked and glued copies of these three laws at the entrance door of the building.  

Those in attendance were IAPI President Parshotam Dosanjh, Organiser Rakesh Kumar, Treasurer Navtej Johal and two other members, Tejinder Sharma and Gurpreet Singh.  



Started on the birth anniversary of towering civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr. in 2015 by the Burnaby-based radio station, this year’s campaign was flagged off by the Parliamentary Secretary for anti-racism initiatives in the BC government on Thursday, January 14.  

Rachna Singh joined the Spice Radio’s famous morning buzz show to officially launch Hands Against Racism for 2021 on the eve of King’s 92nd birthday.  

The campaign encourages participants to dip their hands in colours and leave behind a hand print and a message against bigotry on a white sheet of paper.  

These handprints are later framed to be permanently displayed at the Spice Radio studio. Among the most prominent people who have joined the campaign so far are the BC Premier John Horgan, the first turbaned Sikh Defence Minister of Canada, Harjit Singh Sajjan, and former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, besides well-known and uncompromising grassroots level social justice activists such as Harsha Walia.  

Walia was one of the recipients of the annual Hands Against Racism award for 2020.   

“Let’s all strive to be anti racist”, wrote Rachna Singh after leaving her coloured palm print.   

Earlier, during a live interview with Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt - who is the brain behind Hands Against Racism - Singh spoke about her areas of responsibility and the direction the New Democratic government in Victoria has taken to address the problem of growing intolerance in the province.  

Datt had aimed to link this campaign with Holi, an Indian festival of colour that brings people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds together and breaks the barriers of discrimination.  

The campaign has been recognized by the Province of BC, besides several municipal governments in the province.  


South Asian activists came together on Sunday, January 10 in Surrey, to remember more than 60 farmers, who have laid down their lives during the ongoing agitation in India.  

Organized by Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI), the vigil was in protest against the recent deaths of farmers who have been holding a demonstration near New Delhi to press upon the right wing Hindu nationalist government to roll back controversial farming laws which are threatening their livelihood.   

The participants gathered outside the Indian Visa and Passport application center, carrying signs calling for justice to Baba Ram Singh and Amarjit Singh, and lit 60 candles for the dead farmers.  

Ram Singh was a Sikh sect leader, while Amarjit Singh was a lawyer. The two men committed suicide leaving notes blaming the government for their decisions during the demonstration in India. Many farmers have died either by suicide or by natural causes or accidents during the struggle.  

The speakers at the vigil not only raised slogans, but asked for action against those in government for the abetment of suicides by the agitators. They also denounced mistreatment being meted out to the protesting farmers and asked for the scrapping of “anti-farmer” laws without further delay.  

Among those present were IAPI President Parshotam Dosanjh, organizer Rakesh Kumar, Treasurer Navtej Johal, and other members of the group, Amrit Diwana, Tejinder Sharma and Gurpreet Singh.  

The gathering was kept small due to COVID 19 restrictions, and the participants wore masks and maintained physical distance.  

The family of a towering progressive poet and playwright, who fought for the freedom of India from British occupation and educated the toiling masses about their rights through theatre, was unveiled in Delta on Saturday, January 2.  

To mark the birth centenary of Tera Singh Chan, his descendants released the calendar at an online event due to COVID 19 restrictions, organized by Radical Desi, a Vancouver based online magazine.

Prepared in partnership with Mehak Punjab Di TV, Spice Radio and People’s Voice, the calendar was formally unveiled by his daughter Sulekha Raghbir and granddaughter Rachna Singh, who is currently the Parliamentary Secretary for anti-racism initiatives in the BC government.    

The event was started with a moment of silence in memory of about 50 farmers, who have laid down their lives during an ongoing agitation in India.  

The Indian farmers are holding a huge demonstration outside the national capital of New Delhi, in protest against controversial laws passed by the right wing Hindu nationalist government. The farmers have denounced the laws that will affect their livelihood and are being implemented to serve the corporate interests.   

The participants raised slogans to show their solidarity with the peasantry. Some of them shared poetry of Chan on the occasion.  

Those who spoke included renowned Punjabi scholar Dr. Raghbir Singh Sirjana, who is the son-in-law of Chan.  

Apart from other family members, those associated with Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA), a group co-founded by Chan also addressed the zoom meeting.  

While Rakesh Kumar and Vinod Kumar joined in remotely from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states of India respectively, Balkar Singh Sidhu called in from Chandigarh. Likewise, others such as Kamaljit Dhillon, Rajwant Maan and Noni Kaur zoomed in from across Canada.   

The speakers unanimously resolved to carry forward the struggle of Chan for a just society. They agreed that Chan’s poetry has become even more relevant under a fascist regime in India, where the rights of religious minorities and political dissidents are facing continuous assault.  

Chan, who passed away in 2009, left behind a diverse family, including a Muslim daughter-in-law Sultana Ameer, who pointed out that their family represents the true India which is based on the vision of inclusive and pluralist society. The present government is bent upon turning India into a Hindu theocracy. 

As a true secularist, Chan encouraged his children to marry outside caste and religion. Although he was born into a Sikh family, he remained an atheist. He spent the final years of his life with Ameer and her husband Dildar at their home in Mohali near Chandigarh. The zoom event brought together his descendants, including his grandchildren and great grandchildren spread across the world.     

The calendar is also dedicated to the scholars who continue to face repression for questioning those in power. It bears the birth dates of prominent Indian writers such as Anand Teltumbde and Varavara Rao, who are being incarcerated in Indian jails for standing up against state violence against the poor and marginalized. The birthdays of renowned author Arundhati Roy and the late film actor Girish Karnad are marked on the calendar as well. Both of them faced backlash for challenging ultra nationalist politics of the ruling party.     

The Saturday event coincided with the death anniversary of another progressive playwright, Safdar Hashmi, who was lynched by political goons in 1989, for raising awareness in the working class. His birthday is also included in the calendar.  


The South Asian media fraternity came together to denounce an incident involving Ravi Choudhary, whose iconic image of the ongoing farmers’ protest in India has gone viral.   

Choudhary works with Press Trust of India. He was attacked by several unidentified people in Uttar Pradesh, after clicking the famous picture of a Sikh farmer about to be hit by a security person during the agitation.  

The Punjab farmers, predominantly from the Sikh community, are currently camping in New Delhi, the national capital of India, to protest against controversial bills affecting their livelihood brought by the right wing Hindu nationalist government. The farmers are outraged over the way these bills were pushed through without debate by the ruling party, which has a brute majority in the house.  

The police recently used excessive force on the agitating farmers, sparking angry protests all over the world.  

Choudhary’s picture was circulated widely on social media.  

He has alleged that the police refused to act promptly on his complaint.  

On Tuesday, December 8, the members of Punjabi Press Club of British Columbia (PPCBC) resolved to show their solidarity with Choudhary and strongly condemned the attack on him.  

Earlier, the PPCBC also welcomed the Editors Guild of India (EGI) advisory against malicious coverage of the farmers’ agitation, by embedded journalists and the right wing media channels owing allegiance to the ruling party.  The EGI had sharply criticised the portrayal of protesting Sikh farmers as separatists and “anti-nationals” by a section of the media. It had urged the press not to delegitimize their protest without any evidence. The PPCBC also appealed to South Asian media outlets in Canada to act responsibly and not to distort facts while reporting about the farmers’ struggle.  


A Punjab-based journalist and former Information Commissioner has appealed to the Indian government to release a physically challenged scholar from jail on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.  

In no uncertain terms, Chander Parkash from Bathinda said in a live interview with Burnaby-based Spice Radio on December 3, the international day of persons with disabilities, the mistreatment of Professor G.N. Saibaba is both unfortunate and a blot on Indian democracy.  

His son Yashveer Goyal has established himself as a role model for Indian youth in sports and Information Technology, in spite of being born with a hearing disability. He had come to the support of a former Delhi University lecturer, who continues to face inhuman conditions in an Indian jail after being convicted in 2017.  

Saibaba was first arrested on trumped up charges in 2014, for merely speaking out against the repression of religious minorities, and the Adivasis (indigenous communities) being evicted from their traditional lands by the extraction industry with the backing of the Indian government. He was given a life sentence after being branded as a Maoist sympathiser. Notably, the Maoist insurgents are active in the areas inhabited by the Adivasis.    

Even though the United Nations has asked for his release due to his deteriorating health, the government remains adamant. So much so, he was neither even given parole to see his mother on the death bed, nor to attend her last rituals.   

Yashveer was born with a hearing disability in 1999. His father noticed it when his child remained unresponsive to the loud sounds of firecrackers in the neighbourhood on the night of Deewali - the Indian festival of lights. 

However, his undeterred parents brought him up with a lot of care, despite many challenges. Young Yashveer had to face discrimination in school in a conservative society, where ostracization of children with disabilities is very common. His parents made sure that he concentrated on education and extracurricular activities, that helped him to master badminton and chess, besides Information Technology.  

After winning many championships and competitions in these fields, both at the provincial and higher level, Yashveer was given a national award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in 2019, under the Role Model Hearing Impairments (Male) category. 

Yashveer had asked the Prime Minister of India to make arrangements for the release of wheelchair bound Saibaba.  

Since the outbreak of COVID 19, the vulnerability of inmates like Saibaba, locked up in overcrowded Indian jails, has grown.       

Yashveer had written on his Facebook page, “As I am a special child with absolute hearing impairment so I know the life of specially disabled persons. I have come to know about the plight of Saibaba, facing hellish conditions in jail and also under danger due to Covid-19”. 

Reiterating similar views on his son’s behalf who cannot speak, Chander Parkash told Spice Radio that natural justice demands that Saibaba must be released. He added that whatever may be the political ideology of Saibaba, his condition does not allow him to stay in jail anymore. He added that he and his family are ready to face any consequences for defending the human rights of someone who deserves sympathy. 


On the death anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar - the architect of the Indian constitution - South Asian activists came together to raise their voices against growing repression of religious minorities and political dissidents in the world’s so called largest democracy.   

Organized by the Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) on Sunday, December 6, the rally was called in response to the recent incident of police violence, involving protesting farmers in New Delhi.   

IAPI believes that the currently ruling right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trampling the Constitution that guarantees democracy and religious freedom.  

It was on December 6 that the BJP supporters demolished an ancient Muslim mosque in 1992 On the anniversary of the adoption of the constitution on November 26 this year, police assaulted the farmers agitating peacefully in the Indian capital. Both these acts years apart reflect the BJP’s disregard for the constitution and Dr. Ambedkar.   

The participants assembled outside the Indian Visa and Passport Application Center in Surrey, and raised slogans against the ongoing attacks on minorities and incarceration of political activists, including Dr. Ambedkar’s grand son-in-law Anand Teltumbde.  

Teltumbde is an established scholar who was thrown in jail early this year on trumped up charges, for merely questioning the power and speaking out for the poor and marginalized.  Some of those present also held signs carrying the pictures of both Teltumbde and Ambedkar, besides others showing solidarity with farmers.  

The speakers were unanimous in their criticism of the BJP’s agenda to turn India into a Hindu theocracy by diluting the constitution, threatening minority rights and muzzling any voice of dissent. They expressed their outrage over the way Sikh farmers are being labelled as extremists and separatists by the right wing media owing allegiance to Modi.   

The event was started with a poem dedicated to Dr. Ambedkar by IAPI member and poet Amrit Diwana. Others who spoke on the occasion included IAPI members Harbir Rathi and Gurpreet Singh, besides Sikh activists Bhupinder Singh Hothi, Gian Singh Gill and Kulwinder Singh.  


Subject: Regarding the blocking of #Sikh

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

I hope you are well aware that some decisions that your staff at Facebook and Instagram has made can affect millions of people's lives. I am writing this letter to bring to your attention decisions by your staff that have affected and will continue to affect Sikhs negatively. In recent months, Facebook and Instagram have blocked the hashtag #Sikh, which is tantamount to blocking an entire religion and erasing them from your platforms.

Sikhs are a small (around 28 million worldwide) stateless minority that has gone through multiple cycles of genocide throughout their history, but particularly during the recent past. The first weeks of June and November hold special significance for the Sikhs as we commemorate two of the most painful events in our recent history: the Indian army's brutal assault on our holiest shrine Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar during the first week of June 1984 and the genocide of Sikhs in India during the first week of November of the same year. Both events are commemorated worldwide by Sikhs both online and offline. However, this year the commemoration became particularly painful as your platforms—Facebook and Instagram—blocked the #Sikh in June. Your platforms also deleted thousands of posts and blocked countless accounts this year in the first week of November. Now, your platform Instagram blocked the #Sikh again this week when Sikh farmers, along with farmers belonging to other religions all over India, are protesting against India's rights-wing Modi government's attempts to hand over their lands to the corporations.

I have a few straightforward questions for you: how can you justify blocking #Sikh, which is just the name of a religion and is not offensive in any way? How can your staff launch such a brazen assault on our freedom of expression and go undisciplined? How can the very invocation of our religious identity be deemed a provocation so serious that it must be censored at all costs? The denial of our voices amounts to an erasure of very existence. You must show accountability and make sure that it never happens again.

Our existence on your platforms has become so precarious that we no longer feel safe there. We use these platforms under the constant fear of being censored. I demand that you immediately launch an inquiry into why #Sikh is blocked and unblocked repeatedly and discipline those responsible for it. You have the moral responsibility to fully investigate this serious matter and make necessary changes to decision-making processes. I also want an assurance from you that it will not happen again. We want to use these platforms to raise awareness about human rights violations in India, and we have a right to do so. It is your job to make sure that we can do so without intimidation and censorship.

With regards,

Prabhsharanbir Singh

Ph.D., Interdisciplinary Studies

University of British Columbia

#Sikh #FarmerProtest


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