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

Conservative candidate takes stand against Harper’s statement on Khalistan Featured

 

 

Rising above political considerations and calculations, prominent Punjabi TV broadcaster and Conservative Party candidate Harpreet Singh has rejected a controversial statement of former Prime Minister and towering Conservative leader Stephen Harper.

In a letter to the media, Singh, who is running for parliament in Surrey-Newton, has expressed his disagreement with Harper who had recently denounced those seeking to create a separate Sikh homeland of Khalistan in India.

Harper was speaking at a pro-India lobby group Canada India Foundation gala in Toronto where he accused Khalistanis of bringing the battles of the past to Canada, and assured to assist current Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, and Indian Prime Minister and the leader of ruling right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) Narendra Modi, to make the Canada-India relationship stronger.

This has enraged the supporters of Khalistan who have a significant presence in Surrey and some other ridings with a sizable South Asian population.

Interestingly, Harper as Prime Minister in the past had categorically said that though he disagrees with Khalistan, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows people to have their political views. He had nearly defended those who want Khalistan through peaceful means, but pulled no punches while criticising violent extremism.

Many wonder if Harper has made the statement for strategic reasons, as Canada is heading for a federal election in October this year. Both current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh have been repeatedly accused of being soft on the Khalistan movement by Indian politicians and their supporters in Canada. In recent months, the anti-Khalistan rhetoric has grown in India under the BJP government. This coincides with recent reports suggesting growing foreign interference in Canadian politics by the Indian and Chinese governments.

Singh writes that Harper’s statement has come as a surprise, as he had in 2012 only denounced violent extremism and never tried to entirely reject the campaign for Khalistan. 

He acknowledged that he has been receiving calls and messages from the Sikhs in his riding about the statement given by Harper.  He has clarified, “The former PM’s statement does not reflect my views. While the Conservatives believe in united India, we also believe in freedom of speech and Sikhs have the right to articulate their views in a democratic manner”.

Singh goes on to write in the letter that the Sikhs have a history to stand up against injustice, and there is a tendency to brand everyone as a separatist even if some of them are only asking for justice for the victims of 1984 Sikh Genocide.

Thousands of Sikhs were murdered all over India following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The Sikh activists continue to fight for closure as several top political leaders involved in the massacre remain unpunished, according to Singh.

Singh has asked for an enquiry into a series of incidents leading to Harper’s statement. He points out that the last time Trudeau visited India, the issue of Khalistan was repeatedly raised by the Indian government, and shortly after that the Sikhs were bracketed with Khalistani extremism in the Public Safety Report on terrorism prepared by the Canadian government. He wants to know why such rhetoric has increased during the election year.

Singh has been vocal on human rights and social justice, despite being a candidate of a right wing political party. He has consistently attended rallies and demonstrations against growing attacks on religious minorities in India under Modi and has also provided the platform of his independent TV show to people who are critical of not only his party but the Modi government.

Singh is one of the rare South Asian political activists who do not shy from speaking his mind when it comes to human rights abuse or racism.

 

 

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