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

Cofounder and Director of Radical Desi

Gurpreet Singh 

It was the summer of 2018 when I was visiting Berlin with my family. My curiosity for the history of the Holocaust was one of the reasons that took me there. 

Once we drove to the city from Frankfurt, where we landed for the first leg of our vacation to Europe, I began searching for any landmark associated with Martin Niemöller. Luckily, his house wasn’t far from the place we had rented for our stay. After locating it through internet, I went there, but to my disappointment the building which is now turned into a museum was shut for some kind of construction. All the signs  were in German, a language that is alien to me. There was no response to the phone number given on the website with information about it. 

Niemöller’s story had always fascinated me. A theologian and pastor, he is famous for his poetic quotation; “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”.

Being a critic of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, he spent several years in concentration camps, including one in Sachsenhausen near Berlin, where we went for a day trip. 

Previously a supporter, he fell out with Hitler after Nazis began taking control of the churches. His opposition to the Nazification of churches turned him into an enemy of the state. 

Niemöller never looked back after that, and became an icon for human rights defenders across the globe. His transformation truly reflects his sentiments expressed in his popular verses which are frequently appropriated by civil rights activists even today.  

Incidentally, he passed away in 1984, the watershed year for the Sikhs in India. 

It was around this time that the Sikhs in Punjab were struggling for  extra-territorial rights and safeguards for their religious freedom and political autonomy. Their agitation largely remained peaceful, and the Sikhs make up only two percent of Hindu-dominated India, but they were unfairly targeted by the self-proclaimed secularist Congress government in the name of national unity, to win the upcoming general election by polarizing Hindus. Any campaign by the moderate Sikh leadership was either ignored or maligned in the mainstream media as separatist. The allegations are that the government secretly patronised a parallel militant leadership to both weaken the Sikh movement, and create suitable circumstances to go after the community to please the majority. Both the state controlled media and embedded journalists of that time attributed a spate of death squad killings of Hindus and political critics of the militants, to those inside the shrine. 

Exactly 38 years ago in June, 1984 the Indian army attacked the Golden Temple Complex in Amritsar, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, to deal with a handful of insurgents holed up inside the place of worship. The ill-fated military operation left many innocent pilgrims dead and important historical buildings heavily destroyed. 

All other alternatives to make the militants surrender, through negotiation, siege or cutting water and power supplies, were avoided to make it appear like a spectacular victory over one group of people. On October 31, 1984, the bloodshed culminated into the murder of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, who were outraged by the events of Amritsar. Following her assassination, the Congress party orchestrated a massacre of Sikhs all over India. In New Delhi alone nearly 3,000 Sikhs were slaughtered by the mobs with the help of police.

Riding an anti-Sikh wave, Indira’s son Rajiv Gandhi, who was complicit in the pogroms, won the next election with a huge mandate. He became Prime Minister, leaving little doubt about the real intentions behind the government targeting a particular community. The privileged majority remained indifferent to such blatant repression. Even the so-called liberals looked away, as they considered and still see Congress as a sacred cow. They very conveniently overlooked the grievances of the Sikhs. Rather than standing up for an aggrieved minority or doing anything meaningful to assuage their hurt, they were carried away by the one sided propaganda of the Congress party.  

It has been well documented that supporters of the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) that currently governs India also relished the sufferings of the Sikh community. Some of them openly justified the actions of the Congress government, while others joined in the massacre. That explains why the Congress won a brute majority, leaving the BJP with only two seats in the parliament, while Congress bagged more than 400.  

Fast forward to February, 2002 when Gujarat witnessed its worst Muslim massacre on the watch of then-Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Thousands of Muslims were killed by mobs led by BJP activists in the state, after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire leaving more than 50 passengers dead. Modi, who is now the Prime Minister and leads the BJP government in New Delhi with a comfortable majority, had blamed the incident on Islamic fundamentalists, inciting Hindus to go after Muslims. 

Though he was never charged, the survivors continue to allege his involvement. The pattern of violence was similar to the one observed in 1984. Modi was re-elected with more seats in the assembly election that followed, and he was able to sustain his rule in Gujarat. This gave him an edge over other leaders of the BJP, gradually turning him into a potential candidate for the post of Prime Minister in the 2014 parliamentary election. 

In the meantime, the BJP continued to do its spade work by indulging in divisive politics to ensure his ascendance. In 2008, an anti-Christian massacre rocked the state of Odisha, where a controversial Hindu preacher was killed by Maoist insurgents. Looking for an opportunity to teach Christian missionaries a lesson for their work in the tribal community, the BJP supporters blamed them. The BJP has always accused missionaries of converting Hindus through fraudulent means, although India’s traditional secular conventions allowed people to change their religion. The fact remains that most poor and marginalized sections of India, especially Dalits or the so-called untouchables, and Adivasis or the indigenous peoples, often become Christians by choice to avoid caste-based persecution within the Hindu society. 

Emboldened by the majoritarian support for all these years, the  BJP knew exactly what they were doing. They were able to muster enough numbers to ensure outstanding wins for Modi, first in 2014 and then in 2019.  Notably, Modi did not lose the second election even though attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents grew under him. 

Back in Berlin, I was wondering where Indian society has gone since 1984. Here we could hardly see any residue of the Nazi era being celebrated, whereas India has gone backward in spite of tall claims of diversity. The Nazis actually have become the mainstream in India and live among its citizens. This should not surprise anyone, as the founders of the Hindu supremacist cultural organization Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), of which the BJP is a part, had glorified Hitler and justified the Jewish holocaust. Inspired by Nazism, they have spent years to transform India into a Hindu theocracy through social engineering; today, not just the Sikhs, but everyone is in danger. Had others stood up for the Sikhs in 1984, the fate of contemporary India would have been different. I wish Niemöller was alive to see this and relate it with his own experiences, to guide us all. 

One after another, minorities were assaulted with impunity, paving the way for Modi to take over India. Muslims and Christians have been turned into second class citizens, while the Sikhs face a challenge of assimilation into the Hindu body politic. The RSS has never acknowledged the distinct identity of the Sikhs, whom it vehemently considers part of the Hindu fold, something that triggered anxiety among the Sikhs during the 1980s, forcing some to take up arms in the first place. Dalits and Adivasis, who have endured systemic discrimination for centuries, have become even more vulnerable in Hinduized India. Under these circumstances, a reasonable or liberal Hindu voice from the dominant society isn’t safe either. Those who dare to question Modi or the RSS can end up being eliminated or thrown in jail on trumped up charges. 

It’s time to learn something from the legacy of Niemöller. If there is any take away from that, it is the lesson of getting united to fight back for everyone, and not leaving others in harm’s way, before it is too late. 



Gurpreet Singh  

As we mark the first anniversary of the discovery of 215 unmarked graves near the site of the former Indian Residential School in Kamloops last year, we need to acknowledge how the so-called system of educating Indigenous kids in the name of assimilation has actually contributed to the climate emergency.  

Indian Residential schools were opened by the colonists and churches to force Indigenous children to give up their culture, and instead adopt Eurocentric ways and Christianity to fit in.   

These laboratories of cultural genocide , as they should actually be called instead of schools, forced the original inhabitants of Turtle Island to alter their world view which was treated as pagan. The self-proclaimed founders of Canada arrogantly rejected many progressive ideas of the First Nations, such as to treat land as a shared space rather than personal property, and to respect the Mother Earth, water and nature, alongside all living creatures. Instead, they thrust their own hierarchal and individualist ethos on First Nations.  

If Europeans, who became a dominant force in Canada as it evolved, had come with humility to learn from the indigenous population, instead of imposing their way of thinking, the world would not have been dealing today with a climate emergency.  

Last year’s discovery of the unmarked graves coincided with the heat dome that left more than 500 deaths in BC. This exposed not only that has capitalism failed to prevent catastrophes, but has created them in the first place, making the survival of humanity more difficult.  

Let’s face it - climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are the result of capitalist greed, which prompted expansionism and imperialism, bringing Europeans to the doors of Canada, which was gifted with abundant forests, clean drinking water and wildlife. An effort was needed to preserve all this for future generations, but the resource-hungry and business-oriented colonists conveniently overlooked any possibility of a sustainable model of development, and exploited everything to fill their chests.    

The church made their task easier, giving the conquerors legitimacy to occupy everything through papal bulls, such as terra nullius - a licence to assume this was nobody’s land - and creating a baseless "Doctrine of Discovery" as if neither the lives or the values of indigenous peoples matter.  

Let’s hold our elected officials accountable for making tokenistic statements on this occasion, while at the same time allowing controversial projects, such as the Site C dam, Coastal Gaslink, and Trans Mountain pipeline, to be pushed through the IIndigenous lands, rendering the environment even more vulnerable.  

It’s time to give leadership into the hands of the First Nations, who alone can bring us out of this crisis. Being closely connected to nature, they can come up with better solutions that can only be found outside the box. That’s the least we can do to undo the damage caused by Indian Residential Schools and those behind this assimilationist strategy.  




South Asian activists came together to mark the 100th birthday of a towering human rights defender of Punjab, at Strawberry Hill Library in Surrey on Sunday, May 22.  

The late Ajit Singh Bains passed away on February 11, leaving a rich legacy of tireless work for social justice.  

He would have turned 100 on May 14.   

Bains, a retired judge, had stood for the people of Punjab who witnessed gross human rights abuse by the police and paramilitary forces during a decade-long insurgency by Sikh militants seeking a separate homeland between 1980s-1990s.  

He had advocated for the release of innocent civilians detained in the name of the so-called war on terror, and investigated and documented cases of extra-judicial killings and other forms of state sponsored violence. For doing so, he was also detained by the authorities, to instil fear in the minds of human rights activists.  

On Sunday, an impressive event was held in Surrey where the speakers gave tributes to Bains. They emphasised how his legacy has become even more relevant today, due to growing attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents under a right wing Hindu nationalist government in New Delhi.  

Organized by South Asian Review in partnership with other local organizations, the event was attended by Paramjit Kaur Khalra, the wife of another renowned human rights activist, Jaswant Singh Khalra, who was kidnapped and murdered by the Punjab Police in 1995. 

Paramjit Kaur Khalra continues to fight for justice to the victims of enforced disappearances. She was the keynote speaker at the program, where flyers carrying information about Bains were distributed. She told the gathering how her husband and Bains worked together during those difficult times.  

She also released the mounted copy of the Radical Desi cover declaring Bains as Person of the Year 2022 on the occasion. Radical Desi is an online magazine that covers alternative politics.  

Others who spoke at the event included Bhupinder Singh Malih of South Asian Review, renowned broadcaster and columnist Dr. Gurvinder Sigh Dhaliwal, the editor of Chardikala newspaper Gurpreet Singh Sahota, Donna Anderson from the Hardial Singh Bains Resource Center named after the brother of Ajit Singh Bains and a Vancouver-based communist activist, well-known human rights activist Sunil Kumar and Radical Desi cofounder Gurpreet Singh, besides Dr. Harinder Singh from US. 

Dr. Singh had lost his brother in police violence in 1986. He recalled how Bains tried to get justice to his family and others who lost their loved ones during state repression of Sikhs. 


The Vancouver-based online magazine that covers alternative politics has picked a well-known human rights defender as Person of the Year 2022.  

The late Ajit Singh Bains passed away on February 11, leaving behind a rich legacy of tireless work for social justice.  

He would have turned 100 on May 14 this year.  

Close to his birth centenary, Radical Desi announced that he would be its Person of the Year for his dedication to the cause of human rights.  

Bains, a retired judge, had stood for the people of Punjab who witnessed gross human rights abuses by the police and paramilitary forces during a decade-long insurgency by Sikh militants seeking a separate homeland between 1980s-1990s.  

He had advocated for the release of innocent civilians detained in the name of the so-called war on terror. and had investigated and documented cases of extra-judicial killings and other forms of state sponsored violence. For doing so, he was also detained by the authorities to instill fear in the minds of human rights activists.

Gurpreet Singh  

This year’s Mother’s Day must have been the hardest for 92-year-old Anusaya Teltumbde. She has not recovered from the recent loss of her insurgent son, while the other one is locked up in jail for the past two years.  

Milind Teltumbde, a Maoist leader, was gunned down by the police in November 2021, while Anand, his elder brother, a well known columnist and author, continues to be incarcerated under trumped up charges for questioning the power and standing up for the poor and marginalised.  

Anand Teltumbde happens to be the grandson-in-law of an undisputed Dalit icon, the architect of the Indian constitution Dr. B.R.Ambedkar. Ironically, he was arrested on the birthday of Ambedkar in 2020, while the entire nation, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi were paying tokenistic respect to him.  

When Milind died, Anand was not even given bereavement leave to visit his mom.  

Rama, the granddaughter of Ambedkar and the wife of Anand, told this writer on Mother’s Day that she doesn’t even know that her eldest son is in jail. “She believes that he is stuck somewhere abroad where he had gone for a guest lecture because of COVID 19”. In fact, he has travelled abroad in the past and visited Vancouver in 2016.  

In such difficult times, Rama and Anusaya are struggling everyday, with special bonding rooted in the ideology of Ambedkar. According to Rama, even though Anusaya is unlettered, born in a marginalized family of landless labourers belonging to the Dalit or so called untouchable community, she tried to provide the best of education to all her eight children.  

Anusaya was influenced by Ambedkar, who wanted the Dalits to educate themselves and fight against caste-based discrimination within the Hindu society. She attended Ambedkar’s historic congregation in Nagpur in 1956, where he renounced Hinduism to embrace Buddhism. 

As a result, she resolved to educate her kids by spending half of her income from labour on their schooling.   

“Anand credits his mother for what he has earned in terms of fame as an established writer and educator,” says Rama.  

Since Anusaya had lost another son in 2009, losing the second one last year came as a major shock, even as Anand remains out of sight.  

He used to call her from inside the prison once a while to assure that he is fine. Beyond that, everyone in the family keeps consoling her that he would be back soon, once the pandemic is over and travel restrictions are eased.

Members of the Punjabi Press Club of British Columbia (PPCBC) came out to hold a rally against growing repression of journalists in India on Tuesday, May 3.  

Held at Holland Park in Surrey on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the rally was attended by Mayor Dough McCallum and City Councillor Mandeep Nagra, besides BC Federation of Labour Secretary-Treasurer Sussanne Skidmore. The three all addressed the gathering and strongly condemned the attack on press freedom.   

Special messages of solidarity with the media from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and MPs Sukh Dhaliwal and Parm Bains, were also read out by the organizers.  

The event started with the Canadian national anthem and a moment of silence for journalists who laid down their lives in the line of their duty globally.  

The speakers were unanimous in their demand for the release of jailed journalists in India, and halting physical and mental harassment of media persons by the people in power and their supporters.  

They agreed that female journalists remain more vulnerable under a right wing government in New Delhi.  

Slogans in support of press freedom were also raised by the participants.   

Those who spoke on the occasion were PPCBC President Baljinder Kaur, the group's former Presidents Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal and Jarnail Singh Artist, the cofounder of the club, Gurpreet Singh Sahota, the secretary Khuspal Gill, and veteran member Kuldeep Singh. Gurpreet Singh, the publisher of Radical Desi, an online magazine, also said a few words.


Gurpreet Singh 

Pawan Guru, Paani Pita, Mata Dharat Mahatt (Air is the guide, Water is the father, the earth is a mother)”.             

That’s the message of Guru Nanak, the founder of one of the most progressive and modern religions of the world.  

While everyone across the globe celebrated Earth Day recently, the idea of respecting nature was never alien to the followers of Sikhism, the faith that was started by Nanak. 

Born in 1469, Nanak travelled widely to different parts of the world. He said those verses more than 500 years ago, and they continue to be chanted by Sikhs in their daily prayer. For a practising Sikh, every day is the Earth Day, not just April 22.   

Considering the growing threat to our livelihood and future because of climate change and environmental emergencies, his message has become even more relevant, not only for the Sikhs, but the entire human race. However, the Punjab, which is the homeland of Sikhs in India, is losing forest cover rapidly. This reflects that we are all paying lip service by celebrating such occasions, including the birth anniversary of Nanak, instead of putting such meaningful and sacred words into action.  It is a separate matter that some well-read Sikh preachers in Punjab continue to remind people of their spiritual duty towards the environment. 

In 1999, a historical Gurdwara in Anandpur Sahib began the tradition of giving free saplings to devotees, to encourage them to grow trees in their homes or fields.  

Interestingly, our Canadian politicians, who do not forget to congratulate Sikhs on Guru Nanak’s birthday (which actually falls in April, but traditionally celebrated in November), will be at pains to explain - what have they done to fix the problem faced by Mother Earth? They have turned these moments into mere rituals. Earth Day too is just another photo opportunity for them to score a point, with nothing concrete to show on their report card.  

It’s a shame that they are not even listening to the Indigenous peoples, who are the true adherents of the philosophy of Nanak and the stewards of the land. Much like Sikhs, they consider Earth as Mother, and not a means of production.  

It’s time that the Sikhs, the Indigenous communities, and environmentalists come together to make people in power accountable for melting glaciers, rising sea levels and climbing temperatures. That they are forced to take to the streets to oppose controversial projects, such as the Trans-Mountain pipeline or the logging of old growth forests, which have long term consequences for our already vulnerable environment, says a lot about our leaders and their true intentions.   

Nanak’s message is a reminder that Earth Day isn’t just a one day event. We have an obligation to stand up for her every time a challenge arises in the name of development for the benefit of a few.  



A Vancouver-based online magazine has started another campaign for the jailed Indian scholar.

Radical Desi had previously initiated a petition for the release of Prof. G.N. Saibaba, who is being incarcerated under brutal conditions in spite of being disabled below the waist. Now it has begun an online petition asking for the Nobel prize in recognition of his advocacy for the poor and marginalized.(https://www.change.org/p/nobel-prize-for-gn-saibaba)      

Wheelchair-bound Saibaba, who is suffering with multiple ailments, was first arrested in May 2014 and thrown into the jail after being slapped with trumped up charges for defending the rights of the Adivasis - the indigenous peoples of India who are being evicted from their traditional lands by the extraction industry with the backing of the Indian state. In 2017, he was convicted for life by the courts after being labelled as a Maoist sympathizer.

Since then Saibaba has been repeatedly denied bail or parole on medical and compassionate grounds, even as his health continued to worsen during the pandemic. He was not even allowed to see his mother on her death bed or attend her funeral. The Indian government remains adamant, even after thousands of people in Canada signed a petition seeking his release. The matter has also been raised in the United Nations.

His situation is no different than the late Nelson Mandela, a towering leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, who was also denied an opportunity to attend the funerals of his mother and a son during his long detention. Mandela received the Nobel Prize in 1993, after his release, for standing up for the underdog. Following in Mandela's footsteps by constantly raising his voice against repression and injustice in the world’s so called largest democracy, Saibaba deserves similar honour by the international community.

South Asians came together to pay tributes to those who laid down their lives during a peaceful protest against the British occupation of India in 1919, at the annual commemorative event held in Surrey on Wednesday, April 13.  

Organized by Mehak Punjab Di TV in partnership with Radical Desi, an online magazine that covers alternative politics, the vigil is aimed at educating people about the massacre of supporters of the passive resistance movement against colonialism. Close to 1,000 people died when British troops opened fire on the demonstrators, who had gathered to oppose repressive laws at the Jallianwala Bagh public park in Amritsar 103 years ago.  

The ugly episode was recognized on its centenary by the BC government in 2019, following a sustained campaign by the organizers of the vigil. While the vigil has been attended in the past by the current Chief Minister of Punjab Bhagwant Mann, the participants nevertheless condemned Mann and other Indian politicians for not only failing to protect human rights of the people in post-British India, but also denounced those indulging in blatant abuse of civil rights. They raised slogans against growing state violence and draconian laws under the current right wing Hindu nationalist regime in New Delhi, and demanded the release of political prisoners and withdrawal of barbaric Acts being used to suppress the right to dissent. 

The event started with a moment of silence in memory of Ajit Singh Bains, a retired judge-turned human rights defender who passed away early this year, leaving behind a rich legacy of struggle for social justice. Bains was in the forefront of the fight for the rights of Sikh political prisoners in Punjab and was vocal against misuse of police power.  

The fliers drafted by a Gandhian activist, Vipin Kumar Tripathi, who is a strong advocate for secularism and diversity, were also distributed on the occasion. Tripathi has been raising his voice against growing attacks on religious minorities in India and had prepared a special message to promote harmony during Ramadan and Navratri; the two auspicious occasions for Muslims and Hindus.  

Those who spoke on the occasion included prominent Punjabi poet Amrit Diwana, elderly Sikh activist Kesar Singh Baghi, well known broadcaster Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal, anti-racism educators and activists Imtiaz Popat and Annie Ohana, besides retired trade unionist Larry Johnston. Kamaljit Singh Thind and Gurpreet Singh from Mehak Punjab Di TV and Radical Desi respectively also addressed the gathering.


In a historic move, the NDP government in Victoria has recognized April as Dalit History Month.  

Responding to an application moved by Radical Desi, an online magazine that covers alternative politics, the provincial Attorney General and the Lt. Governor signed the proclamation declaring April 2022 as “Dalit History Month”.   

Dalits, the oppressed community of India, are often treated as “untouchables” by the so-called upper castes of Indian society according to the brutal caste system practiced by orthodox Hindus.   

Since April is the birthday month of a towering Dalit leader and world renowned scholar, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, it has a special significance for Dalits across the globe.  

Also, the month of April is important because of the birthdays and death anniversaries of other Dalit icons, such Jyotirao Phule, Mangu Ram Mugowalia and Sant Ram Udasi.  

Both Ambedkar and Phule were born in Maharashtra. 

Ambedkar was the architect of the Indian constitution, and fought the caste-based discrimination against his community. Born in Maharashtra on April 14, 1891, he also stood up for the rights of women, and challenged Hindu supremacy.  

Phule, a well-respected social reformer who denounced untouchability, was born on April 11, 1827. He was known as an educator, who believed in scientific thinking and women empowerment.   

Mugowalia and Udasi, on the other hand, hailed from Punjab.  Mugowalia, who had participated in an armed resistance against the British occupation of India, was instrumental behind the Dalit emancipation movement in Punjab. He died on April 22, 1980.  

Udasi was a revolutionary poet, born on April 20, 1939. He was influenced by communist revolution and later became an inspiration for the poor working class and those resisting repression.  

The BC proclamation not only recognizes these individuals, but also acknowledges “the strength and resiliency of the Dalit community in overcoming hardships and advocating for social justice and equality for all”.