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South Asian activists came together to protest against recent arrests of political activists in India on Saturday evening.

Organized by Radical Desi, the rally was held at Holland Park in Surrey.

Police had recently arrested five political activists across India for inciting violence and allegedly being involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Among them are human rights lawyer Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson. 

Most of these individuals have been raising their voices for political prisoners and the rights of marginalized sections of society. Their relatives and supporters believe that they have been framed to stifle the voice of dissent under a right wing Hindu nationalist government. Doubts have already been raised over the authenticity of the evidence of conspiracy to assassinate Modi. 

Notably, Gadling has been advocating for jailed Delhi University Professor, G.N. Saibaba, who is ninety percent disabled below the waist. Saibaba is a political activist who was arrested after being branded as a supporter of Maoist insurgents. He has been raising his voice against the repression of Indigenous peoples in the name of war against Maoists by the Indian forces. He has also been vocal against attacks on religious minorities. The United Nations Rights’ experts recently urged his release on humanitarian grounds and questioned the validity of charges against him.

The rally was started with a moment of silence for Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa who committed suicide in March.  Khalsa was a Sikh activist who was campaigning for the release of Sikh political prisoners. He had jumped from a water tank during his fasting for the freedom of Sikh detainees. 

The organizers also expressed their solidarity with indigenous political prisoners languishing in North American jails. They demanded the release of Leonard Peltier, a 73-year-old indigenous leader who has already served 42 years in US jails. 

The speakers were unanimous in their demand for the release of the five political activists and strongly denounced ongoing state violence and draconian laws being used to suppress freedom of expression. They resolved to fight back together against growing attacks on religious minorities and oppressed communities in India. 

The participants, who included women and seniors, carried “Free Saibaba” and “Free Azad” signs and raised slogans against the high handedness of the Indian government. Azad is a radical Dalit activist who has been fighting for the rights of the so called untouchables. Much like Saibaba, he is also being incarcerated under repressive laws.

Those who addressed the gathering included: Ambedkar International Social Reform Organization leaders, Rashpal Singh Bhardawaj and Rattan Paul; Indian Rationalist Society leader Avtar Gill; Progressive Intercultural Community Services cofounder Charanpal Gill; veteran Sikh activist Kesar Singh Baghi; Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation leader Sahib Thind; and Radical Desi cofounder Gurpreet Singh.  



Prabhsharanbir Singh



In the world, where everyone with a conscience is fighting against the deportations of migrants and refugees, the Sikh representatives in Canada are threatening international Sikh students from Punjab with deportations because of some alleged minor violations of law. International students from Punjab are one of the most vulnerable groups in Canada. Most of them come from low-income families. Their parents often sell their property or take loans to send their children to study abroad. “Well-settled” Canadian Punjabis routinely exploit them. Female students often face sexual harassment by those who are living here for a longer time.


International students are alleged to engage in petty fights with each other and with permanent residents or citizens of Canada. In a recent incident, some international students were involved in an altercation with a businessman, who is probably a permanent resident or a citizen of Canada. After South Asian media in Canada sensationalized the incident, a young woman has come forward with another version of the story that the media preferred to ignore. According to her, the businessman involved harassed her by trying to take advantage of her vulnerable circumstances. As evidence, she presented screenshots of text messages by him asking her to meet him in private. Apparently, he was preying on a young female he thought to be all alone in a foreign land. However, he had to face the retaliation he did not expect after some male classmates of the female victim of harassment thrashed him. Although it would have been better if the students had reported the incident to the local police, the media has disproportionately blown the incident to vilify all international students.


In response to the incident, some local community leaders organized a town hall meeting in Brampton, Ontario. During the town hall meeting, Stephen Blom, the police superintendent of 22 Division was pointedly asked if he saw some difference between the nature of violence among the domestic and the international students. He replied, “I know that the incidents that were reported some have involved international students. We also know some have involved domestic students and youth that may even be in the workforce. So it is very difficult to target one group. I think it is a general problem.”


 In spite of the police officer’s explicit admission that it is wrong to target one group and the issue of violence is a general problem, the community leaders decided to allow their biases to determine the future government policies against the Sikh students. Four Sikh Members of Parliament: Raj Grewal, Ruby Sahota, Sonia Sidhu, and Kamal Khera have issued a joint statement threatening international students with deportation if they engage in any illegal activities in Canada. Their letter notes: “We understand that the perception in the community is that international students are the main instigators of these incidents. We have asked the Peel Regional Police to investigate and update us on their findings. It is important to note that, if anyone in Canada with temporary immigration status, including international students, is charged under the criminal code and convicted, they will be subject to deportation.” Why did these MPs take such a drastic step to address a minor fight when all they have is just community perception? Why did they threaten all Punjabi international students because of actions of some of them? Why wasn't the appropriate legal or judicial action enough in case of the international students? There are no numbers to back up the claim that such scuffles are happening on a daily basis. It is safe to assume that they did so to appease the community members who also happen to be registered voters in their respective constituencies. It is quite appalling that three women MPs have come forward in support of someone accused of sexual harassment. 


The larger question, however, is: why are so many Canadian Punjabis see international Punjabi students as a threat while the incidents of violence are neither too serious nor do they take place on a regular basis? On the other hand, some Canadian born Punjabis and non-Punjabis have been engaging in a gang war for a few decades, which had taken many lives on the streets of Surrey, Abbotsford, and Brampton. In 2015, there were 22 shootings and one homicide during a six-week period in the city of Surrey alone. The community leaders do not see the Canadian-born Punjabi young men as the problem. In this case, they always held the police, the politicians, and the community organizations accountable, which I do not disagree with; no doubt, the government has a responsibility to keep the youth on the right track. If the elected representatives and the community leaders who support the former on their position regarding the gang-related violence, then why such a disproportionate retaliation against the new migrants who are the hard-working taxpayers?


A closer look at the broader context would be helpful to make sense of the disproportionate reprisal on the part of the MPs. The incident is part of a large phenomenon; the self-racism rampant in the South Asian community in Canada, which is particularly noticeable in the section known as the moderate Sikhs. The moderates are known for their uncritical adaptation of the mainstream culture, who have developed a new racial hierarchy based on the arrival date or the place of birth of a person. People who migrated to Canada a few decades earlier and are financially well-settled as compared to the new immigrants often ridicule the latter and generally address them with slurs such as freshie, fob, and dipper etc. International students are the latest victims of this hate campaign. 


The issue, however, is neither new nor unique to the Sikhs. Frantz Fanon once said, "The colonized will believe the worst about themselves." What we are witnessing in Canada is a variation of this truth. These Canadian South Asians, too inarticulate to fight mainstream racism, are scapegoating international students to feel good about themselves. They are deflecting the racism they face in Canada onto the international Punjabi students. Internalized racism is quite prevalent among all racialized groups. But such scapegoating of the further marginalized group within the larger racialized group is not that common. It is a very shortsighted and counterproductive way to cope with the racism they experience. By scapegoating international students, they are betraying their complicity with the dominant racial order. They have not only accepted their inferiority but are also perpetuating it.


Most international students who come to Canada from Punjab are in their twenties. They were born during the 1990s, just after Punjab went through a very crucial period in its modern history; a few cycles of genocide that had left the community deeply shattered. During the early nineties, two phenomena intimately connected with each other: the fall of the Sikh struggle for freedom and the neoliberal globalization, initiated new transformations in Punjab. One was not possible without the other. A closer look at the larger context would provide pertinent insights into the developments during the early nineties.


The project of Sikhi as envisioned by the ten Guru Sahiban and eternally enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib is the creation of a new subjectivity, a new model of being human. The Sikh subjectivity submits only to the will of Akal Purakh. It is Nirbhau and Nirvair. Khalsa is the spiritual and corporeal epitome of this subjectivity. This subjectivity, in bowing only before Akal Purakh, naturally challenges all worldly authority. It realizes itself through Sarbat Da Bhala, Akal Purakh di Prema-Bhagti, and unalienated labor.


Neoliberalism aims to engender the exact opposite of the Sikh subjectivity. Neoliberalism teaches humans to be selfish, to be averse to the very idea of social justice and devoid of any spiritual connection with the divine. It turns people into the moneymaking machines. Alienating labor sucks every trace of humanity out of us. Neoliberalism puts us into the service of capitalism and imperialism and builds a world based on the idea of the racial hegemony of some over the others; an ideology that cannot coexist with authentic Sikh praxis.


When the brutal violence of the Indian regime was suppressing the Sikhs, it was not only physical violence the Sikhs had to bear; the real tragedy was supplanting the Sikh subjectivity with the neoliberal one. Within a span of a few years, Punjab was turned into a strange mix of tortured bodies and souls of the Sikhs and the heavily drugged dancing bodies of the Punjabis. The exclusionary ethnicity of Punjabiat, a fabricated notion, displaced the egalitarianism of Sikhi. Constructed during the colonial period, Punjabiat leads to ethnic chauvinism. It is no accident that the discourse of ethnic Punjabiat was accompanied by vulgar music that promoted misogyny, drugs, and senseless violence.


International students coming to Canada from Punjab are going through a dual tragedy. First, the brutality and propaganda of the Indian regime violently disunited them from their indigenous sources of inspiration. The music they listen to while growing up violently moulds them into the neoliberal consumers, the embodiments of an unlimited success signified by the consumer products. To some extent, they cannot escape internalizing the neoliberal logic of selfishness and staying aloof to the existential concerns both the planet earth and its inhabitants face. Despite all of these inescapable subjectivity formation processes, however, the youth could not dismiss the connection they had with their roots. New communication technologies played a crucial role in providing them with the access to information about their traditions and the recent Sikh struggle for sovereignty. Websites such as the www.NeverForget84.com, run by Bhai Jagtar Singh Jaggi who is currently incarcerated in Punjab on fabricated charges, played a significant role in reconnecting the youth with their roots via the traumatic events of the 1980s.


Secondly, after they step on a foreign soil, Canada in this case, attempts at alienation come from several expected and unexpected quarters. They get dehumanizing looks and insulting remarks at every turn from the Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike. Instead of developing some support system, the Sikhs in Canada, including those who claim to fight for the Sikh sovereignty, have failed the newcomers on the student visas. Not a single Sikh Gurdwara has offered any support system or scholarships to the Sikh students from Punjab. Because the immense self-hate that has consumed the community members controlling the management committees occasionally spills over and starts stigmatizing an already vulnerable subsection of their own community. Instead of threatening them with deportations, we need to welcome them with open arms and hearts as our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters. We need to start the scholarships for bright students, set up job placement centers at Gurdwaras for them and help them in every way we can. Based on my experience as a teacher with some of these students, I can assure everyone concerned that our affective steps can cure every flaw and weakness they have. Don’t we remember that nothing good comes from hate, whether it is directed towards oneself or the other? Self-hate, just like the hate for the other, dehumanizes the hater first. In welcoming and embracing international students, Canadian Sikhs would be doing a great favor to themselves as well.


Prabhsharanbir Singh is Doctoral Candidate for Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program at University of British Columbia. Follow him on twitter @prabhsharanbir. 

The autobiography of a philanthropist who lost his wife and two children in the Air India bombing was released in Delta, British Columbia, on Sunday afternoon.

Ray of Hope is the memoir of Dr. Chandra Sankurathri whose wife Manjari, son Srikiran and daughter Sarada were aboard the ill-fated Air India Flight 182 that was bombed mid-air in June 1985, killing all 329 people aboard.

This was the worst attack in the history of aviation terrorism before 9/11. Widely blamed on the Sikh separatists seeking revenge for the repression of Sikhs in 1984, the attack had turned the life of Sankurathri upside down. Yet, turning his grief into strength, Sankurathri established a foundation in memory of his wife in her native city of Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh in India.

The Manjarai Sankurathri Memorial Foundation currently runs a free school and an eye hospital for poor and needy. Whereas, the school is named after his daughter whose dream of going to school was shattered as she was only four. He named the hospital after his son.
The memoir was released at George Mackie Library in his absence by other Air India victims’ families and friends and two prominent journalists Charlie Smith and Robert Matas. However, his message was read out at the beginning of the event that was organized by Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) in commemoration of the Air India bombing anniversary that falls on June 23. A day before the book launch, the victims’ families had gathered at the Air India memorial in Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada, to remember their loved ones.
Among those who unveiled the book were Major Singh Sidhu – who lost his sister, a nephew and a niece and Mandeep Grewal who lost his father. Bahama, a close friend of Dr. Sankurathri joined the unveiling ceremony on his behalf.

A short documentary on Dr. Sankurathri’s work was shown at the event that was opened with a Punjabi poem dedicated to the Air India victims by Amrit Diwana. Both Smith and Matas spoke at length about the Air India tragedy and encouraged people to read Ray of Hope that inspires everyone to fight hatred with love.

Describing the Air India disaster as an attack on the Indian diversity, the IAPI cofounder Gurpreet Singh threw light on the ugly political events of 1984 that led to the bombing and cautioned the gathering about growing attacks on religious minorities in India from Hindu Right and its impending consequences. He pointed out that the Air India bombing was the culmination of similar violence against Sikhs.
Among those in attendance were former British Columbia Premier Ujjal Dosanjh, World Sikh Organization founder Gian Singh Sandhu and University of British Columbia researcher and an activist Sukhvinder Kaur Vinning. Others present included the IAPI cofounder Parshotam Dosanjh and visiting Punjabi leftist activist from India Sardara Mahil.


Gurpreet Singh 

As National Indigenous Peoples Day draws closer, the demand for a statutory holiday on June 21 continues to grow. If an online petition on Change.org launched by Coquitlam-based indigenous educator and activist Jennifer Sherif is any indication, thousands of people support this demand. Already the number of signatures it has received so far has surpassed 19,500 and is likely to spike.  

The Canadian government first announced June 21 as National Aboriginal Day in 1996, to recognize indigenous communities and their culture. Last year, the Prime Minister announced his decision to rename it as National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Such recognition is symbolic in nature and a very small step towards decolonization and reconciliation with the indigenous peoples, the real inhabitants of Canada which was built on their stolen lands. Yet it works as a constant reminder to every Canadian that we are all on the traditional lands of the First Nations.  

It is unfortunate and disturbing to see that not many Canadians, especially new Canadians, are aware of this fact or remain indifferent when it comes to acknowledging the history of occupation, racism and genocide of the indigenous peoples through brutal institutions, such as the Indian Residential School system. Systemic racism continues to exist in the everyday lives of the indigenous peoples, who are a minority in their own homeland.

Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day may not be sufficient to address these issues, yet it provides non indigenous people of Canada an opportunity to learn more about this inconvenient history. In that sense, the absence of a statutory holiday makes things more difficult. It’s a shame that Canada Day, which is a statutory holiday that represents the colonization of indigenous lands, is celebrated with enthusiasm by most Canadians, including the immigrants, but June 21 is mostly passed as another day on calendar without much interest. The events organized on this occasion are largely remain ignored or poorly attended. Therefore, it becomes important to give Canadians a day off on National Indigenous Peoples Day, so that they have time to go to these events and learn more about the history of colonialism, make more indigenous allies and respect their concerns and grievances. The current Canadian establishment has let them down by failing to have nation-to-nation consultations over controversial projects such as Kinder Morgan or the Site C Dam, or to provide drinkable water in many First Nation communities, overcome poverty and impoverishment, and punish those responsible for structural violence against indigenous women and state repression against indigenous men,  who over-represent their population in prisons.


Chandrasekhar Sankurathri is one of those rare human beings who know how to turn one’s grief into strength.

After he lost his wife and two children in the bombing of Air India Flight 182 on June, 23 1985, Sankurathri quit his comfortable life in Ottawa and moved back to India, the country of his birth.

He decided to open a free school and free eye hospital for the poor and needy in memory of his loved ones.

The Air India bombing, which has been blamed on Canadian-based Sikh separatists seeking revenge for state repression of Sikhs in India, turned Sankurathri’s life upside down.

His wife Manjari, seven-year-old son Srikiran, and four-year-old daughter Sarada were among the 329 passengers on the ill-fated flight.

They were heading to India for summer vacation, while Sankurathri—who worked as a scientist for the federal government—was supposed to join them a month later. Their bodies were never found.  

After remaining in shock for some time, he finally decided to move back to Kakinada, the native city of his wife in Andhra Pradesh, in 1988. He launched a charity in her name, the Manjari Sankurathri Memorial Foundation, which runs the school and  hospital.

Initially, he bought land in Kakinada in 1987 to open an orphanage. Sankurathri later chose to name the hospital after his son, and he was very particular about naming the school after his daughter.

In his autobiography, A Ray of Hope, he gives a detailed account of his loss and how this marked the beginning of his journey as a philanthropist.

Sankurathri wanted to create a foundation under the name of his wife, whom he loved to the core, and this is one reason why he chose to make her native city its base. He describes her as an “exceptional woman” in his book and writes how empathetic she was toward poor people.

Manjari was greatly disturbed by the events of 1984 that culminated in the Air India tragedy.

In June that year, then Indian prime minister, Indira Gandhi, had ordered a military invasion on the Golden Temple Complex, the holiest shrine of Sikhs in Amritsar, to flush out religious extremists who had stockpiled arms in the place of worship.

The army attack had left many innocent pilgrims dead and the buildings inside the shrine heavily destroyed. This led to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.

In the ensuing days, thousands of innocent Sikhs were slaughtered by mobs who were led by supporters of Indira Gandhi.

Sankurathri writes that his wife had a nightmare about facing bullets of armed Sikh men. To this, he responded by saying that this must have been induced by the repetition of new stories about those unfortunate incidents. 

He also believes that this dream was like a premonition of the tragedy that took her life, along with the lives of her children.

In her dream, she only saw herself and the kids facing bullets, while Sankurathri wasn’t around. Incidentally, he wasn’t traveling with them when the bombing occurred.

Sankurathri decided to name the school after Sarada because her dream of going to school along with her elder brother ended abruptly with her death. He writes how the little girl was fond of keeping a school bag and was very keen to join her brother.

“When I see hundreds of children go to the school that’s named after her, I feel a great sense of satisfaction,” he writes.

He also shares the memory of his son, who was fond of playing piano, and wonders “how proficient a piano player he would have turned out to be had he been alive today”.

In addition, Sankurathri mentions A.V. Anantaraman, who also lost his wife and two children in the bombing. Like Sankurathri, he too moved from Canada back to India to open a school for needy children in Tamil Nadu.

Going back to India to do humanitarian work was not easy for Sankurathri. He had to face many hardships in a country that is so different from Canada.

He had to cajole parents of the poor children to send them to school. Since these children came from families that lacked resources and relied on child labour as helping hands to earn their livelihood, it was not easy to convince them.

Yet he stood his ground and encouraged the children to start attending classes in the evening while continuing to work in the morning. He began by teaching them for free how to read and write.

By doing this work, Sankurathri felt at ease.

“I am thankful to God for giving me a goal to achieve at a time when I might have turned to despair or rage,” he writes.

Referring to those involved in the bombing, Sankurathri reveals that he was able to forgive them.

“I realized that no amount of anger will get my wife and children back. The court case against the terrorists went on for years. People often asked me why I was not following the judicial process. But I was not interested in seeing those responsible get punished for it.” 

Rather, he writes that it is important to know what led to such acts of violence, so that they are not repeated.

Sankurathri draws inspiration from Hinduism and believes that those involved in violence are caught in a cycle of vengeance. He encourages everyone to curb “an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth attitude” that has resulted in bloodshed and misery across the world.  

Published by Westland Publications in Chennai, the book also reveals Sankurathri's difficult childhood. He came from a very modest family background in Andhra Pradesh with limited means.

This firsthand experience of hardship, including poverty and natural calamities, gave him an early understanding of the importance of humanitarian work.

His autobiography also conveys the challenges immigrants of his generation faced when they first came to Canada.

Sankurathri moved here for studies in 1967, but eventually made Canada home. He married Manjari in India and brought her as a bride to begin a happy life with his two kids before that was devastated by ugly political events beyond his control. 

A recent episode of the U.S. TV series Quantico has made many Indians upset.

This had led to a backlash in India, with Hindu right-wing activists dubbing Chopra a “traitor”,
 forcing her to apologize.It showed Hindu extremists plotting a terror attack in the U.S. that was to be blamed on Pakistan. One of the investigators, played by Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra, thwarts the conspiracy.

Let's get real. Chopra did not do anything wrong, so neither she nor the producers of Quantico should have been apologetic.

There is no question that Pakistan has been a breeding ground of Islamic terrorists who have been active on Indian soil for the past many years.

For this reason, Indian audiences have an appetite for films and TV serials that show Pakistan or Islamic extremists in a negative light.

But the reaction was so strong when Quantico touched the prickly issue of Hindu extremists being involved in terror plots. This is nothing but hypocrisy and a perfect example of a double standard.

Terrorism in the name of Hinduism isn’t just a myth or fiction. It is another ugly reality that needs worldwide recognition, much as Islamic State or any other form of jihadi extremist movement deserves.

It was Hindu extremists, who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi—a world-renowned leader of the passive resistance movement—in 1948. Gandhi was murdered by those seeking to turn India into a Hindu theocracy after the country gained official independence from British in 1947.

They embraced the ideology of "Hindutva", which is based on the belief that India belongs to Hindus and that all minorities should not be given any concessions.

Gandhi was opposed to the creation of a Hindu state and denounced violence against Muslims during partition of India, which led to the separation of Muslim-dominated Pakistan. So the Hindu extremists got together to eliminate him physically.

The story did not end there. In post-independence India they became much more organized and have indulged in many horrific acts of violence against religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians.

In recent years, they have killed several secularist activists and thinkers, using death squads who are generally armed with guns and carry out targeted killings. On other occasions, they have targeted Muslim shrines using explosives.

The plotline of controversial Quantico episode could be based on imagination, but the truth is that those who were involved in these blasts tried to disguise themselves as Muslims to mislead the police and make it appear that these acts of violence were the handiwork of Pakistan.

The anti-Muslim or anti-Pakistan prejudices that exist within India's security circles make their task easier.

Thanks to the professional investigation done by few honest officers, a network of Hindu extremists involved in terrorism was smashed several years ago.

It is a different matter that the current right-wing Hindu nationalist government in India is trying to help those arrested through a back-door amnesty or by using its power to weaken the charges against them. Prime Minister Narendra Modi once publicly defended those arrested in connection with the bombings.

People in this government are die-hard followers of Hindutva. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Modi considers one of the former suspects in Gandhi assassination as his role model, while others see the man who pulled the trigger as a patriot.

Instead of venting on Chopra or the producers of Quantico, the Indian establishment should be forced to deal with Hindutva terrorism firmly and honestly.


You cannot squarely pick on just the Muslim community or Pakistanis or for that matter any other minority community, for terrorism which has no religion. Those who are using Hinduism as a shield to carry on terror activities also need to be exposed and punished.

Rally against the killings of protesters in Tamil Nadu held in Canada

South Asian activists came together to protest against the killings of 12 demonstrators by the Tamil Nadu police at Holland Park in Surrey on Saturday evening, May 26.  

Organized by Radical Desi, the rally started with a moment of silence for the demonstrators killed by the police in Thoothukudi, and also for nearly 60 Palestinian protesters killed by the Israeli forces in Gaza recently.

The speakers unanimously condemned the police high handedness in the world’s so called largest democracy and expressed their solidarity with the activists who have been fighting against the controversial Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi. They agreed that irrespective of the party line, most parliamentary parties in India, including the ruling BJP, the opposition Congress and even the CPI(M) have encouraged state repression and allowed the police to be used as mercenaries by the corporate houses. They also demanded the release of political prisoners, such as Prof. GN Saibaba and Chandershekhar Azad and the scrapping of draconian laws that are often used to suppress voice of dissent. The ongoing practice of extra-judicial killings of political activists by the police also came under criticism. Kesar Singh Baghi, whose son was murdered by the Punjab police, was also in attendance.

Among the speakers was visiting leftist activist from India Sardara Singh Mahil, who insisted that the present ruling classes of India are no different from the British rulers of the past as they continue to inherit their legacy of repression.

Others who spoke on the occasion were leftist activists Parminder Swaich of East Indian Defence Committee, Sucha Deepak, Sikh activists Gian Singh Gill and Kulwinder Singh, besides Avtar Gill of the Rationalist Society, and cofounder of Radical Desi Gurpreet Singh. Piara Singh Chahal recited revolutionary poems on the occasion.

The participants also raised slogans against state violence and sought the release of all political prisoners. Others present at the event were Ganesha, Savitri and Kokila from Tamil Nadu and rationalist and Marxist activists Navtej Johal, Jagrup Dhaliwal and Sadhu Singh Jhorhraan, besides Komagata Maru Heritage Foundation leader Harbhajan Gill.

No local elected official showed up at the rally in spite of being invited, even though Surrey has a number of MPs and MLAs of Indian origin.

Close to the centenary of Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the trigger happy police in the world’s so-called largest democracy killed 11 protesters.

The survivors of police firing believe that those in uniform acted at the behest of the influential plant and used excessive force to create fear and to suppress the demonstrators who were practising passive resistance. The survivors argue that other means to disperse the crowd, such as firing tear gas shells or water cannons, could have been easily used to avoid these deaths.
The police violence  on May 22 followed months of peaceful agitation by civil society groups against a controversial copper plant in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The Sterlite plant operated by Vedanta group that is already infamous for displacing tribal people from mineral rich areas, has caused massive harm to the environment and human lives in the region. The local population has been pressing upon the government to shut the plant, which enjoys the backing of almost all the big political parties that survive on corporate donations.

This isn’t the first time that the Indian establishment’s role as a mercenary of the rich and influential has come to light. In 1984, following a gas leak at the Union Carbide insecticide plant in Bhopal, the government let the company CEO Warren Anderson escape to the U.S. where he died without being tried in India for the deaths that the accident caused. 

There were other occasions too where the police and the administration colluded with rich investors in cases of industrial disasters and to deal with labour unrest. Though political parties of all stripes lack the will to make the big corporations accountable, it's even worse under the current right-wing and staunchly pro-business government led by Narendra Modi. The industrial houses enjoy not only  impunity, but also immunity in any adverse situation. 

The extra-judicial killings of political activists by the police is another story. Those involved are often honoured with out-of-turn promotions and gallantry awards in the name of peace and progress. So much so, the use of sexual violence by the police and security forces is either conveniently overlooked or gets legitimacy by hawkish politicians who are eager to sell their image by invoking threats to national security, both real and perceived. 

It’s a shame that all this is happening in post-British India where people can elect their own representatives. Almost 100 years ago—on April 13, 1919—the British army fired indiscriminately at peaceful demonstrators who had assembled at a public park called Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. It left more than 300 people dead.

The assembly had been called to protest against the repressive laws and the arrests of several leaders of the civil disobedience movement that was started to obtain the freedom of India from British occupation.

Those who died in the massacre must be rolling in their graves over what happened in Tamil Nadu.

Was this the freedom they were asking for? An absolute freedom for the rich at the cost of the liberty of ordinary people who continue to fight for a dignified and healthy life?

The Indian leadership has lost its moral right to even talk about Jallianwala Bagh and curse the British, if this is what the country has chosen to become: a tyrannical state in the garb of democracy. 

Radical Desi has organized a rally against the killings of protesters in Tamil Nadu at Holland Park in Surrey on Saturday (May 26) at 6 p.m. 


It is pathetic to see how the two contentious issues - Kinder Morgan Pipeline and Site C dam - are being evaluated through a purely economic standpoint and the pragmatic lens of big business which controls not just the media, but also the political structure of this country.

Most of the time, people get swayed by what is served to them in the name of development and progress. And if this is not enough, fear tactics, such as spiralling gas prices, are used to alter public opinion in support of the pipeline.

This has polarized Canadian society completely, and the minority groups, especially those from immigrant and non-indigenous communities, are no different. Many of them also support controversial projects, like Kinder Morgan and Site C, just for the sake of being part of the mainstream discourse that is being throttled down cunningly by the rich and powerful.

It’s a shame that a broader section among the settler immigrants, who are so passionate about their minority rights, won’t see that the opposition to these projects is coming from another most important minority community: indigenous peoples who make merely four percent of the Canadian population, despite being the original habitants of this land.

The indigenous communities have been consistently fighting against occupation of their traditional lands and attempts to push through development projects into their territories without informed consent. 

In spite of the fact that the development model of the dominant society has already done enough harm to the environment, creating problems like global warming and climate change, we remain skeptical to the political strength of the First Nations to dismantle such destructive models and provide us better alternatives. 

During such hard times, when we should actually be relying on the leadership of the First Nations who hold the key to keep Mother Earth safe and healthy, we continue to ignore their skills, despite  knowing well that they are much closer to nature and the land.

The way Kinder Morgan and Site C dam are being projected as symbols of development by ignoring the concerns of the indigenous groups, the governments in BC, Alberta and Ottawa are showing that they are no different from the colonial governments of the past.

It goes to the credit of the BC’s New Democratic Premier John Horgan that he has taken a strong stand against Kinder Morgan, yet he cannot escape the blame of giving a green signal to Site C dam. Likewise, Horgan’s party colleague, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, may be a progressive leader as against others in electoral politics, but she continues to overlook the interests of the indigenous communities who are opposing Kinder Morgan.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in spite of his humanitarian approach toward minorities and indigenous communities as against the previous Conservative leader of the country, has also failed to keep his words on nation to nation consultation with the First Nations on such ticklish issues.

Horgan supports Site C, while Notley and Trudeau support Kinder Morgan, which brings them on the same page when it comes to addressing the issues of the First Nations. Their only common defence to this charge would be that some First Nation groups are on their side. But who cares? Racist politicians like Donald Trump also have some Muslims, Mexicans and Blacks on their side. This is nothing but the politics of showcasing and photo ops.

It is time to stand up and call spade, a spade. If Canada really means what it says, it must stand up to show that it respects its indigenous population. The apologies for historical wrongs won’t do. Politicians of all stripes, left, center or right will have to fix this problem. Racism against indigenous communities is deeply entrenched in our political structure and we must acknowledge it and try to remove it honestly rather than repeating the mistakes of colonial masters in a more sophisticated manner.


Above all, the minorities who are so concerned about their own existence and rights in Canada should stand up for the Indigenous Peoples, who are the actual stewards of this country, and make Canada accountable for not doing enough to fulfill its responsibilities under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Support in Canada continues to grow for a Delhi University Professor who is incarcerated in an Indian jail despite being ninety percent disabled below the waist.  

After the World Sikh Organization (WSO), the Alliance Against Displacement joins the list of Canadian groups who have raised their voice for wheelchair bound GN Saibaba, who was given a life sentence last year.  

Saibaba has been advocating for the rights of the oppressed groups and indigenous communities in India. He was charged for being a supporter of Maoist insurgents active in the tribal areas.

Saibaba had mobilized public opinion against growing state repression of the indigenous peoples, who are being displaced from their traditional lands by the extraction industry with the backing of the Indian government, forcing many to join Maoist movement. His family and friends believe that he has been framed to silence any voice of dissent from civil society. They apprehend danger to his life as he has multiple health issues.

On Monday April 30, Alliance Against Displacement organized a conversation on the criminalization of indigenous people and racialized communities, in the Dr. Ambedkar room of Surrey Central Library. The organizers included anti-poverty activists Dave Diewert and Ivan Drury. Among the participants were members of visible minority groups who shared their experiences of racial profiling and police high handedness.

Incidentally, Dr. Ambedkar was a towering social justice activist of India, who had dedicated his entire life for the empowerment of depressed classes.  

During the event, the participants were told about the case of Saibaba, who has always stood for religious minorities and indigenous communities, following which they held out “FREE SAIBABA” signs to show their solidarity. Not long ago, seniors with disabilities at the Progressive Intercultural Community Services in Surrey also did the same by posing with “FREE SAIBABA” signs before the camera.

Earlier, WSO came out with a statement expressing its concerns over the deteriorating health condition of Saibaba. As one of the largest Sikh advocacy groups in Canada, WSO has been raising the issues of political prisoners in India even in the past.

Likewise, Khalra Mission, a human rights group established in memory of Jaswant Singh Khalra, a Sikh activist who was kidnapped and murdered by the Indian police in 1995, has also expressed its support to Saibaba. The slain activist’s son, Janmeent Singh Khalra, lives in Calgary and has been raising the issue of Saibaba through social media.    

A petition asking for the release of Saibaba on compassionate grounds has received 1,000 signatures in Canada. Most of these signatures were collected during the Vaisakhi parades in Vancouver and Surrey last year. Members of the Sikh community enthusiastically signed the petition, which was launched by Radical Desi, and later submitted to at least two MPs, Sukh Dhaliwal and Peter Julian.  

Federal New Democratic leader Jagmeet Singh and BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger also made statements in support of Saibaba.

Within the academic circles, Seema Ahluwalia, who teaches indigenous studies at Kwantlen College, and Anne Murphy who teaches at the University of British Columbia also helped in raising awareness about the situation of Saibaba. 

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