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Gurpreet Singh

The post-pandemic situation we all are living in demands that we must start reading Canadian author Naomi Klein’s much publicized book to understand how the corporate world and powerful nations are using the current crisis to pursue their agendas.

Published in 2007, The Shock Doctrine will help us understand the dynamics of what is happening across the border in the US under Donald Trump. The way his right wing supporters are trying to brush aside science and oppose a shutdown in the light of COVID 19 is a part of the ideology Trump and others like him believe in.

Right from Trump, to a Hindu nationalist Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, almost all pro-business leaders support a free market economy that does not want to work in a regulated environment, and wants to break itself free from government control. What they have in common is their determination to privatize public services and put profits before people.

A crisis of any nature gives them a perfect opportunity to downsize government and adopt tough measures in the name of safety. The insecurity of masses makes the task easier, as they willingly surrender their consent for any change, blindly trusting the recipe being offered by those in power.    

Taking advantage of COVID 19, Trump has begun his crackdown on immigrants. Not only are undocumented migrants being forced to leave US, he has announced his decision to suspend new immigration to save jobs. Notably, he has been purposely referring to the pandemic as the "Chinese" virus to rile up people against those of Asian origin, as the disease had originated from that country.

Similarly, in India, Modi supporters are picking on minorities who are being falsely accused of spreading the coronavirus. Among those at the receiving end are Muslims and people from north eastern states who are taken as Chinese due to their oriental facial features.

The mindset behind such ugly developments has been best explained in Klein’s book, which remains relevant for all times. She goes into the details of similar or worse consequences of many such catastrophes in the past, including the 9/11 terror attack, the Iraq war, tsunamis, or the power transfer at the end of Apartheid. A reader will quickly understand how these tragedies were exploited by heartless politicians and business leaders worldwide. They were no less than the vultures who survive on corpses.

If you haven’t read it, then begin reading it on April 23 and make this year’s World Book Day special, at a time when many of us are confined to our homes with ample time to reflect.



Gurpreet Singh

The hawkish approach of India’s right wing Hindu nationalist government led by Narendra Modi has left many Canadians stranded in Punjab.

Due to the outbreak of COVID 19 and the cancellation of a number of flights, the fate of Canadian citizens of Punjabi descent is hanging in the balance.

Most of them were visiting India when the pandemic struck.

Though Canada has been trying to get all its citizens back home through special flights, many within the Indo-Canadian community were not pleased.  They believe that not only are the flights insufficient; the passengers are being charged heavily. As a result a few community activists stepped forward to charter a flight on their own.

However, the flight that was to leave with more than 250 passengers on board from Amritsar a few days ago was cancelled at last minute. This is despite the fact that $2,850 for each passenger was deposited with the sponsors as part of what the organizers call a “citizenship initiative”.

The President of Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, Surrey-Delta, Hardeep Singh Nijjar confirmed that they were helping to raise funds through a special bank account created for this purpose. About $ 450,000 was raised, but the money is now being returned due to cancellation.

One of the organizers, Sukhi Sandhu, blames it on local politics and thinks that Liberal government MPs, feeling threatened by people’s efforts, used their influence to have it cancelled. But sources say that the cancellation has to do with the ideology of Nijjar and his group.

The unofficial reason given to Canadian government representatives is that the Indian government is not keen to give any logistical aid to an initiative involving Guru Nanak Sikh temple.

After all, Nijjar supports Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a group that is campaigning for a referendum for a separate Sikh homeland in Punjab. The group was recently banned by the Modi government.  This is in sharp contrast to the impunity being enjoyed by Hindu extremist organizations in India. Even as they are involved in violent activities and determined to turn India into a Hindu theocracy, they are not being outlawed.

Not very long ago, the Punjab police had also charged SFJ leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannu with sedition for announcing monetary help to the patients of COVID 19 in India. Again, the right wing Hindu groups based in US and Canada were never charged with sedition for sending money to those involved in violence against Muslims.

Even otherwise, Nijjar was criminally charged in India in connection with terror incidents and the Indian government is trying to get him extradited.  Nijjar is not convicted in those cases.

Nijjar is not surprised if that is the case. He says that he had anticipated such a possibility and cautioned those who approached him to help in raising funds as the temple has a charitable status.

Notably, the Guru Nanak Sikh temple is a public body which has been helping foreign students from India and people from all walks of life in the time of crisis. Its volunteers and management have been consistently raising issues of human rights, not only in India, but other parts of the world. They had also asked the Canadian government to help Sikhs and Hindus who are being persecuted in Afghanistan following the March 25 terror attack on a Gurdwara in Kabul that left 25 people dead.

Its time for the Canadian MPs and those who have been pursuing humanitarian aid for Canadians stuck in India to raise this issue with the Modi government, rather than leaving Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara out in the cold.  They must not sit silent to such selectivity of the Indian state. The gurdwara does not just represent SFJ, which is only asking for a referendum, which is a democratic demand, and is represented by its congregation who do not necessarily agree with the temple management on everything. 




Gurpreet Singh


It was the summer of 2018 when I was vacationing in Moscow with my family.   

One of the most memorable parts of our trip was a tour of Red Square, especially the tomb where the towering leader of the communist revolution rests permanently.

Lenin, who led the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 that changed the course of world history, was never buried. His mummified body lies in state at the mausoleum that we were all so eager to visit.  

After all, my father-in-law who is a Marxist, always wanted to have a glimpse of the global icon of the communist movement. He was a source of inspiration to many Indian communists of my father-in-law’s generation.

Though language was a great barrier, through the internet we were able to find information about the Metro line that took us from the Airbnb where we were staying, to Red Square on the day we chose to visit the tomb.

The wait was very long as the line-up seemed almost endless. We picked our spot. The crowd was diverse. People who waited patiently both in the front and in the back came from different parts of the world speaking among themselves in different languages.

Somebody had warned us that it might take us anywhere between 1-2 hours to finally reach Lenin. However, we remained determined. As we waited, there was a sudden downpour and people who anticipated the rain came out with umbrellas and raincoats and kept themselves glued to the ground while others ran below tree shades. As the rain stopped, they quickly returned to their previously held positions. At least I did not notice anyone getting fatigued and leaving early.

We were able to get in within one and a half hours. Unfortunately, photography of Lenin was not allowed. One of the guards at the gate gestured people to remove their hats as a mark of respect before going into the room housing Lenin. Using hand language, he assured my father-in-law that it was okay for him to keep wearing his turban. Russians know who Sikhs are, and how the turban is important for them. The relations between Indians and Russians go back to the time of the revolution, when Lenin became a guiding light for Indians, including radical Sikhs who were fighting against British occupation of their homeland. Many Sikh activists and leftists had travelled to Russia to learn more from the October revolution. Although my father-in-law is not a religious man, he sports long hair and wears a turban which is very common for practicing Sikhs.

Once inside, we kept our eyes wide open to register each and every detail of the man lying under a big bright light, with eyes closed and eternal glow on his face. We went around slowly. having a look at him from both sides before venturing out. The pin drop silence inside can be partly attributed to the strict environment, and partly to people’s reverence for Lenin.

The whole experience left us totally enthralled. It belied claims of the corporate media that Lenin and his ideology have lost their relevance. If the general mood at Red Square was any indication, Lenin still remains popular. It is a separate matter that the communist movement has weakened in Russia, which has ushered in the free market era. Big food chains such as MacDonald’s and Subway greet visitors in different parts of Moscow.

The story does not end there. I had noticed similar enthusiasm of international visitors at a house where Lenin once lived in Zurich. It was sometime in 2014 when we were visiting Switzerland. Located in an obscure area, the house has a plaque outside recognizing the time period of his stay in the city. We were able to find it easily by asking people in the neighbourhood; to our amazement the visitors who were already there taking pictures were from the US.

Lenin had advocated for the right to self-determination in the colonized world, giving hope to the people of India when they were fighting against foreign occupation. Apart from that, he had spoken out against white supremacy and emphasised international solidarity.

Today in India, religious minorities are being targeted under a right wing Hindu nationalist regime, and Hindu supremacists, who had never supported the freedom movement and rather sided with the British, are being glorified as national heroes. Lenin needs to be kept alive in the collective memory of Indian citizens. Being a Canadian of Indian origin, I am definitely indebted to him for standing up for my elders.

Also in the light of growing bigotry and repression in other parts of the world, be it the US or Palestine, Lenin’s legacy will always be pertinent. The people’s love for him shows that he is not dead and will continue to live in our hearts. On his 150th birth anniversary on April 22, let’s resolve to carry forward his struggle for a just society.


The Canada-based Punjabi media fraternity has strongly condemned the recent arrests of towering Indian scholars and the criminal case filed against a female photojournalist in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

On April 14, well known Indian authors and activists Anand Teltumbde and Gauram Navlakha were forced to surrender under motivated charges filed against them to suppress the voices of dissent.

Through their writings, the two men have been raising issues of state violence and repression of minorities and marginalized communities in the name of security and development.

Both men are published authors. They are among many other scholars and human rights defenders being incarcerated in Indian jails under a right wing Hindu nationalist regime.

Not only has the Indian government refused to release political prisoners in the light of COVID 19, it has forced Teltumbde and Navlakha to surrender. The calls for the release of all prisoners on humanitarian grounds under such difficult circumstances have been completely overlooked by the Indian establishment.

Over the weekend, the Punjabi Press Club of British Columbia (PPCBC) issued a statement condemning the unwanted arrests of Teltumbe and Navlakha and sought their immediate release. 

Earlier, the club had denounced the arrest of TV journalist Bhupinder Singh Sajjan by the Punjab police, and the filing of a criminal case against senior journalist Sidharth Vardarajan by the police in Uttar Pradesh. Both men have received threats from the right wing activists in the past. The police actions seem to be politically motivated, as these journalist have been questioning the people in power.    

On Monday, the club came out with another statement against the slapping of charges against a Kashmiri photojournalist under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Masrat Zahra has been accused of spreading “anti-national” propaganda on social media. Zahra is a freelance journalist who has been contributing to the Washington Post, TRT World, Al Jazeera, The New Humanitarian and The Caravan.

India-occupied Kashmir remains under lockdown since August 5. The journalists in that region are already finding it difficult to work freely and fearlessly. The PPCBC has been asking for the restoration of press freedom in the region since then, and has repeatedly expressed its concerns over challenges being faced by Kashmiri journalists.  

According to the club, these developments reflect very poorly on a country that claims to be the world’s largest democracy.

In the meantime, the club has also asked for an inquiry into the recent media reports about an Indian journalist being used by Indian intelligence to influence Canadian politicians. An unidentified journalist, whose wife and son are Canadian citizens, had applied for Permanent Residency in Canada. His application was rejected on the basis of his relationship with India’s secret agencies. The club wants the Canadian government to reveal his identity and look into the depth of the whole issue to establish the extent to which Indian moles have penetrated into media circles to prevent foreign interference.



On the birth anniversary of a towering social justice activist and an architect of the Indian constitution, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, members and supporters of Indians Abroad (IAPI) for Pluralist India took out a car rally outside the Indian consulate in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 14.

Ambedkar was born in a so called untouchable family, and faced caste-based discrimination in the orthodox Hindu society.

Despite many challenges, he grew up as a scholar who co-authored the Indian constitution that guarantees democracy and secularism and protects the freedom of religious minorities.

However, under a right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government, attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have sharply grown since 2014, when the party came to power with a brute majority.  The BJP aspires to turn India into Hindu theocracy and rewrite the constitution. 

Presently, under the garb of COVID 19 lockdown, minorities are being targeted aggressively by the police, while political dissidents are either being arrested or forced to remain in jail,  in spite of health concerns because of the global pandemic.  

Ironically, the Indian government has arrested the grandson-in law of Ambedkar on such an auspicious occasion. 

Anand Teltumbde is a well-known activist who is married to the granddaughter of Ambedkar.

He was forced to surrender under motivated charges for merely questioning the power through his critical writings. Demands for a delay in his arrest due to COVID 19 were ignored by the courts. This has outraged many within the Indian Diaspora. On one hand, the Prime Minister and the President paid tributes to Ambedkar, while on the other Teltumbde was sent into police custody. 

The Indian government has refused to release other political prisoners on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, including disabled Delhi University Professor G.N. Saibaba, who was also thrown in jail for raising his voice for the oppressed communities. 

In the meantime, Muslims and Sikhs continue to be demonized. The right wing media has been trying to portray them as spreaders of COVID 19, citing huge gatherings in their religious places, even as Hindus and BJP leaders too had several big congregations during the past several days. 

The IAPI had deliberately planned to take out a car rally to ensure physical distancing in the light of guidelines against gatherings of more than 50 people and for keeping a distance of two meters. 

Each car had a single occupant, except one in which the driver had his son as a co-passenger.

The fleet of cars bearing posters and signs asking for the release of all political prisoners, including Teltumbde and Saibaba, and to stop violence against minorities, halted outside the consulate briefly and left. No speeches were made and public address system was avoided on purpose.

Among those who joined the rally were IAPI President Parshotam Dosanjh, and Spokesman Gurpreet Singh, besides progressive Punjabi poet Amrit Diwana, Sikh activist Kulwinder Singh and a peace educator Susan Ruzic.

Two dedicated IAPI members Sandeep Modgil and Tejinder Sharma also participated.

IAPI was formed in response to attacks on religious minorities and political opponents in India under the current regime.




Yashveer Goyal has established himself as a role model for the Indian youth in sports and Information Technology, in spite of being born with a hearing disability. Now, he has come to the support of jailed Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba.

Twenty-year-old Goyal of Bathinda, Punjab was born in 1999 into a modest family, to a journalist father, Chander Parkash. 

Parskash first noticed the hearing disability when his child remained unresponsive to the loud sounds of firecrackers in the neighbourhood on the night of Deewali - the Indian festival of lights.

Goyal's undeterred parents brought him up with lot of care despite many challenges. Young Goyal had to face discrimination in school in a conservative society, where ostracizing of children with disabilities is very common. However, 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, Goyal was given a national award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in 2019, under the Role Model Hearing Impairments (Male) category.

Goyal has now started a campaign to raise awareness about COVID 19, and he has asked the Prime Minister of India to make arrangements for the release of wheelchair bound Saiibaba, who is being incarcerated under inhuman conditions.

Saibaba is ninety percent disabled below the waist and suffers with more than a dozen ailments. He was convicted for life after being branded as a Maoist sympathizer for defending the rights of Adivasis, or the indigenous peoples of India fighting against forcible eviction from their traditional lands in the name of development by the mining companies and the government.

Since the outbreak of COVID 19, the vulnerability of inmates like Saibaba, locked up in overcrowded Indian jails, has grown.  A petition has already been launched for the release of all political prisoners on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Even the UN has asked for his immediate release.    

Goyal wrote 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”.

Warning the Prime Minister that Saibaba could come “face to face with death”, he has urged for his release before it is too late. 


Social justice activists came together on Saturday, April 11 to raise their voices for a physically challenged Delhi University Professor incarcerated in an Indian jail.

Wheelchair-bound G.N. Saibaba, who is ninety percent disabled below the waist, is serving a life sentence under inhuman conditions. His health continues to deteriorate because of 19 ailments and he remains vulnerable following the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus.

On Saturday, Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) held a Zoom rally (because of a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people and strict guidelines for physical distancing), to press for the immediate release of Saibaba and all political prisoners under these difficult circumstances

Demand for the release of prisoners continues to grow across the globe due to the threat posed by the pandemic. Since Indian jails are overcrowded, a petition has been launched asking for the amnesty to Saibaba and others on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. However, the Indian government remains adamant and refuses to set him free.

Those who attended the rally included anti-racism educator Annie Ohana and peace activist and retired teacher Susan Ruzic. They both expressed their solidarity with Saibaba as strong advocates for human rights.

Ohana, who had organized teach-in for Saibaba at LA Matheson school in Surrey last month, is going to write a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on behalf of her students asking for his intervention into this matter. She warned that the current crisis is being used by big powers to silence the voices of resistance.

A Sikh activist, Barjinder Singh, also spoke on the occasion and said that the mistreatment of Saibaba has once again exposed the brutal face of the Indian state which has already been revealed by its poor human rights record. He pointed out that the Indian establishment continues to be repressive against minorities and political dissidents under the garb of secularism and democracy.

IAPI President Parshotam Dosanjh and members, Rakseh Kumar, Tejinder Sharma, Amrit Diwana and Gurpreet Singh also addressed the rally, besides Surrey-based independent activist PJ Lilley.

The participants held signs reading “Free Saibaba” and raised slogans.

The meeting was started with a moment of silence for more than 100,000 people, including doctors and health workers, who have died because of COVID 19.




Gurpreet Singh

The recent statement by BC’s Health Minister Adrian Dix commending the members of a group of Sikhs who have been donating blood for years in memory of those who were murdered at the behest of Indian state has missed a point.

While it has been widely welcomed by the Sikh community and rightfully so, the provincial government will be at pains to explain what prevented them from recognizing the cause that prompted the annual drive that began its journey in 1999.

Sikh Nation has heeded the call for more blood donations by Canadian Blood Services, which is grappling with a shortage of blood at the time of COVID-19. 

On Monday April 6, Dix said that he and many others across the country are “honoured and excited” by a new blood drive launched by the group.

Dix was speaking to the media during his daily press briefing in the presence of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. He welcomed the example set by these members of the Sikh community at a critical time. Although he acknowledged that the group launches one of the biggest blood drives in Canada every year, he neither identified Sikh Nation, nor mentioned the history of  the 1984 Sikh Genocide which is the motivating force behind the campaign.

Thousands of Sikhs were murdered all across India in the first week of November, 1984 by the state sponsored mobs.

The massacre was engineered by leaders of the ruling Congress party following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Years have passed, but Sikhs continue to wait for justice and closure. Barring one senior Congress leader, Sajjan Kumar, who was convicted and given a life sentence 34 years later, senior politicians and officials who were complicit in the crime remain unpunished.

Sikh Nation started its annual blood drive to raise awareness about the carnage in 1999. Since then, Sikhs come out in large numbers to donate blood in the month of November both in BC and other parts of North America.

Notably, their efforts have been slammed by the Indian officials several times. It is pertinent to mention that any reference to the 1984 Sikh massacre as Genocide has irked the Indian state, and pro India lobby groups continue to oppose Sikh Genocide motions being brought in Canadian parliament and legislative assemblies.

So much so, the New Democratic leader Jagmeet Singh was denied visa by the Indian government for supporting a similar motion in the Ontario legislature.   

While Dix’s statement takes into account the importance of such a blood drive at this time of health emergency, it glosses over these harsh realities. His silence over this inconvenient truth is not helpful. It raises too many questions, and the only possible explanation is that the BC government does not want to make powerful people in New Delhi and their agents in Canada unhappy. If the BC NDP government really cares for human rights and social justice, it should stand up against repression anywhere in the world; and if it truly believes that the Sikh community is an important part of our social fabric it must call spade a spade and send a strong message to the Indian establishment rather than getting into such meek balancing acts. 


Yashveer Goyal, who has established himself as a role model for the Indian youth in sports and Information Technology in spite of being born with a hearing disability, has now taken upon himself a mission to spread awareness about the coronavirus which has engulfed the entire world.

Twenty-year-old Goyal of Bathinda, Punjab has not only written a long poem to educate people to stay safe and be socially responsible, he has been going out to distribute flyers with a message on self-precautions.    

His poem notes that the coronavirus does not discriminate between the rich and the poor or between communities, and encourages everyone to fight it back jointly.

Goyal was born in 1999 into a modest family, to a journalist father, Chander Parkash. 

Parskash first noticed his hearing disability when the child remained unresponsive to the loud sounds of firecrackers in the neighbourhood on the night of Deewali- the Indian festival of lights.

Goyal's undeterred parents brought him up with lot of care despite many challenges. Young Goyal had to face discrimination in school in a conservative society where ostracizing of children with disabilities is very common. However, 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, Goyal was given a national award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in 2019 under the Role Model Hearing Impairments (Male) category.

Goyal, who also got a monetary award, has now decided to give back to the community in the time of crisis.

Parkash told Spice Radio that apart from raising awareness about COVID 19, his son is trying to help the poor and needy by buying them food and essential supplies.

He hopes that his son will inspire compassion and courage among the privileged youth who at times lose heart and try to indulge in substance abuse to overcome difficulties.


A former BC Premier who is also a known secularist wants Canada to stand up against a discriminatory law passed by the right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in New Delhi.

Ujjal Dosanjh told Spice Radio that India’s controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) violates international conventions on refugees.

He pointed out that since Canada and India claim to be allies who share common values, it is time that Ottawa should take this up with India.

The BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently adopted the CAA, which discriminates against Muslim refugees coming from neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, on the pretext of giving shelter to non-Muslims facing religious persecution in those places.

This has caused outrage as it goes against the principles of secularism and religious equality enshrined in the Indian constitution. The BJP aims to transform India into a Hindu theocracy. and the opponents of CAA believe it is a step in that direction.

Recent protests against the act in New Delhi had left more than 50 people dead. The victims were mostly Muslims. Violence against peaceful demonstrators was triggered by the BJP supporters with the help of police.  

Dosanjh, who has recently returned from a trip to India, had raised his concerns with the Indian press as well. 

A vocal critic of religious extremism of any shade, he was threatened and physically assaulted by the Sikh hardliners in the past. He has been writing columns on the growing violence against minorities under Modi even though he remains a well wisher of India. 

He said that CAA is a “deliberate destruction of the fabric of India”. He noted that the Modi government's actions go against the spirit of inclusion that was cherished by the participants of freedom movement.

Notably, Dosanjh’s maternal grandfather Moola Singh Bahowal had fought against the British occupation of India.    

Dosanjh also see similarities between Continuous Journey Regulation (CJR) and CAA. CJR was a racist law that was passed in 1908 by the Canadian government to prevent South Asian immigrants from coming to Canada. The Komagata Maru ship carrying more than 300 Indian passengers was forced to return under CJR by Canada in 1914. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has officially apologized for that episode in the House of Commons.

Dosanjh said that it is difficult to ignore what is going on under Modi and people like him sitting outside India have every right to be critical.

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