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Members of the South Asian media fraternity came together  on Monday, February 1, outside Indian visa and passport center in Surrey, to raise their voices against suppression of the free press in the world’s so called largest democracy.   

Organized by the Punjabi Press Club of British Columbia, the rally was called in response to the recent arrests of Indian journalists covering the ongoing farmers’ agitation and the slapping of fabricated charges against media persons by the police. 

The participants raised slogans against injustice, and held placards and signs denouncing the lapdog media of India, which is feeding false information against the protesting farmers to discredit them at the behest of those in power. 

They unanimously passed resolutions read out on the occasion by the former President of the Club, Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal. These resolutions called for an unconditional release of those arrested and revocation of criminal cases against other journalists, as well as immediate international intervention into the matter by the Canadian government and United Nations, and scrapping of draconian laws being used to terrorise political dissidents and journalists. 

The farmers are camping near the Indian capital of New Delhi for the past few months to protest against the controversial laws passed by the right wing Hindu nationalist government, as part of their agenda to put agro-industry in the hands of corporate control, which many believe will adversely affect the livelihood of tillers and marginal farmers. 

However, the lapdog media has frequently branded the protesting farmers as “extremists” and “anti-nationals”. This is despite the fact that the agitators have come under vicious attack from right wing goons and the police, who have been trying to chase them away from the protest sites.

Journalists who have tried to uncover such high handedness are facing constant backlash and seditious charges. Some have been detained on trumped up charges for merely doing their duty with objectivity.  

Those who spoke on the occasion included the club President Navjot Kaur Dhillon, vice president Gurpreet Singh and other members - Khuspal Gill, Harkirat Singh Kular and Amarpal Singh. 

Others who spoke on the occasion as community allies were Parminder Kaur Swaich, Harbir Singh Rathi and Kuljinder Singh Gill.  




Members of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) came together on Saturday January 30,to mark the birth anniversary of a slain journalist, outside the Indian visa and passport center in Surrey

Gauri Lankesh was a critic of the current right wing Hindu nationalist government.  

Born on January 29, 1962, she was assassinated in 2017 by suspected Hindu extremists. Her murder was rejoiced by supporters of the ruling party.  

The IAPI members held placards and signs carrying her picture, and raised slogans against the fascist regime and the Godi Media (lapdog media) that continues to feed false narratives set by the Indian government to suppress any voice of dissent. They were outraged by the recent events in which the Godi Media tried to paint a distorted image of the agitating farmers, who are seeking the rollback of controversial farming laws that threaten their livelihood. The media has frequently branded the protesting farmers as extremists and anti-nationals.    

IAPI believes that Lankesh’s legacy of courageous journalism has become even more relevant under these dark times, when a large section of the mainstream media in India is toeing the line of an intolerant government, under which attacks on religious minorities and political opponents have grown. 

They also broke the piñata of Godi Media on the occasion, blaming it for giving legitimacy to majoritarian extremism, unlike Lankesh, who laid down her life in the line of her duty as a journalist.  

The Saturday event coincided with the death anniversary of M.K. Gandh, who was shot to death by a Hindu supremacist in 1948. Gandhi was the leader of the passive resistance movement against the British occupation of India. He was killed because of his opposition to Hindu theocracy and solidarity with minority Muslim community. The silence of the media over the constant threat of Hindu fanaticism has enabled ultranationalist groups to become much more emboldened over the years. Lankesh’s murder was the culmination of this, as similar forces silenced her voice with a gun.

The event was started with a moment of silence in memory of six Muslim worshippers killed by a white nationalist in a Quebec City mosque on January 29, 2017. The Hindu nationalists are driven by the same ideology that inspires white supremacists.

A poem dedicated to Lankesh by IAPI member Amrit Diwana was recited by him at the beginning of the demonstration, that was kept small due to COVID 19 restrictions.

Among those in attendance were IAPI President Parshotam Dosanjh, Treasurer Navtej Johal, and IAPI spokesman Gurpreet Singh.


Gurpreet Singh  

When Doug McCallum and his team opposed a motion seeking recognition of Coast Salish territory on which Surrey City Hall is located, they were not only being insensitive toward the First Nations of Canada, but they also let down many South Asians like me, who believe in building bridges with the original stewards of the land.  

This happened when a South Asian City Councillor, Jack Hundail, brought a motion asking for such recognition as part of reconciliation and decolonizing efforts in light of cultural genocide of the indigenous peoples.  

Recently, another prominent South Asian voice, Anita Huberman of Surrey Board of Trade, also wrote an open letter to McCallum to respect that reality.   

We don’t need rocket science to understand why such acknowledgement is important.  

After all, the indigenous peoples have been subjected to systemic racism for years. Canada as a nation state has been built on their stolen lands. That’s the minimum McCallum could have done by accepting the motion with an open mind.   

Although we are thankful to him and his team for recognizing the Sikh Genocide that occurred in India in the first week of November, 1984, following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, by ignoring the aspirations of the indigenous peoples of Canada he has set a very bad example. This reflects poorly on McCallum and speaks volumes about his double speak and hypocrisy on social justice. If you can be considerate for what happened to the Sikhs in India, why would you lack empathy for the indigenous peoples in your own backyard?  

It is pertinent to mention that even the Sikh activists are respectful of the indigenous communities and their rights. Dashmesh Darbar Gurdwara, which organizes the Vaisakhi parade every year in Surrey, also acknowledges the indigenous land we are sitting on. So much so, they invite indigenous peoples to their annual Sikh Genocide commemorative events. How come the Mayor cannot see this?  

Since South Asians and the Indigenous peoples in Canada share a history of resistance against colonialism and racism, we stand in support of the First Nations and call upon the Mayor to rethink his decision.   



Gurpreet Singh  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Choudhary’s picture was circulated widely on social media.  

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

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

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

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