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A Vancouver-based poet has a remedy to survive the current crisis by remaining connected with nature.   

Sherry Duggal, a naturopath and a teacher, has recently produced Pandemic Dance, which is now posted on youtube. The video has generated a lot of curiosity and interest among people grappling with anxiety caused by social distancing and isolation in the time of COVID 19.   

Through her performance, punctuated with expressions of sadness and fear, Sherry makes us travel through what the real world is facing. The video ends with her hugging a tree, and a sense of relaxation all over her face.  

That’s the key message she tries to convey. “That tree I actually hugged will always have a special place in my heart because it shared a moment with me. Nature speaks to you. Go out to nature”, she said during a live interview with Spice Radio. 

She added that Coronavirus is teaching us lessons, including why it is important to be grounded and connect with nature. “No matter how you are feeling. Put your foot on bare grass and bare soil and see what happens”.  

According to her, nature teaches humanity about abundance and giving without asking.   

She also cautioned people to be aware of their prejudices in the light of growing hate because of COVID 19. She believes that if nature does not discriminate, and all races are equally affected by the pandemic, there is no reason for humans to be discriminating against each other.  

Ever since COVID 19 broke out in China, there has been a spike in hate crimes against people of Asian heritage, even in Vancouver. 

Notably, Sherry has previously made a video of her poem on racism. Titled Between the Pages, it is also available on youtube.  

 

Gurpreet Singh  

The recent report on the imaginary Sikh state of Khalistan is full of gaps and lacks an in-depth understanding of the issue. 

Written by seasoned journalist Terry Milewski, and published by the Macdonald Laurier Institute, the document not only fails to tell us anything significant, but provides flawed and weak arguments to suggest that Pakistan has fostered an indigenous movement for a separate homeland for the Sikhs in northern India. 

Sensationally titled Khalistan: A project of Pakistan, the report focuses on an armed insurgency started by the Sikh militants in Punjab, India during the 1980s. The decade long conflict that ended in the 1990s left thousands of people dead.  

The proponents of the movement wanted to carve out a Sikh homeland of Khalistan in Punjab, which shares a border with Pakistan. The campaign was brutally suppressed by the police and paramilitary forces that were given sweeping powers by the Indian establishment to deal with the extremists.  

Apart from state repression, the movement also fizzled out due to lack of public sympathy, because of excesses committed by the extremists on innocent civilians, including the Hindus and their political critics within the Sikh community.  

Although the campaign for Khalistan has lost its popularity a long time back, its supporters in Canada and other parts of the world are trying to keep it alive through gimmicks such as a demand for referendum on Sikh nation in November 2020.  

Interestingly, the report itself acknowledges this fact, and yet it tries to make everyone believe this is a huge challenge, by simply overlooking the real picture.  

Frankly speaking, this kind of research is highly untimely, as there is no serious threat of Khalistan to India at this time. If there is any realistic threat to India, it comes directly from the Hindu extremists who have become emboldened under a right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government, which is determined to turn the country into a theocracy where all minorities, including the Sikhs, would be treated as second class citizens.  

It therefore seems funny that anyone has taken so much pain to highlight a stale and dead issue instead of examining the situation at hand.  

It is hard to fathom why a person like Ujjal Dosanjh, a former BC Premier and so well up to date on current issues in India, chose to co-write the foreword of the report that says nothing about the present situation in India, where attacks on religious minorities have grown under an intolerant BJP regime.  

Notably, Dosanjh, who was once assaulted for being critical of Sikh extremism in Canada, recently condemned the violence against Muslims and other minorities in India. Why didn't this report try to put things into the perspective of ongoing attacks on minorities in India? After all, the Khalistan movement was a direct result of the persecution of Sikhs in Hindu-dominated India.   

However, the report conveniently ignores all that.  

When India and Pakistan were divided on religious lines in 1947, the Sikh leadership chose to go with India instead of Muslim-dominated Pakistan. They were promised an autonomous region in northern India, an assurance that was never fulfilled. On the contrary, when the Sikhs asked for a Punjabi-speaking state that could guarantee their independent religious identity, the Indian state tried to criminalize the demand at the behest of Hindu nationalists who wanted to assimilate the Sikhs.  

Nevertheless, after years of struggle, present day Punjab was created in 1966, but many Punjabi-speaking areas went to neighbouring states, after Hindu chauvinists decided to choose Hindi and not Punjabi as their mother language.  

Punjab was even denied its rightful share of the river waters, which hurt hard the Sikh farmers who dominate the rural side of Punjab.  

These injustices led the Sikh leaders to launch another political campaign seeking extra rights to the state, the re-transfer of Punjabi speaking areas, settlement of the river water dispute and protection of their separate religious identity. These demands were not seditious in nature, but the Indian government continued to fail the moderate Sikh leadership. This resulted in the emergence of a militant leader, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who later made the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, the Golden Temple Complex in Amritsar, into the nerve center of his activities.  

Accusing Bhindranwale of spreading violence through the precincts of the shrine, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered a military invasion of the Golden Temple in June, 1984. The ill-conceived army operation left many innocent pilgrims dead. This infuriated the Sikhs worldwide and brought a sense of alienation against them. It was precisely after this that the Khalistan movement became stronger. Earlier, this demand was mostly being raised by fringe elements mainly outside India. There were hardly any takers for that, but the military assault on the temple had made their task easier. 

As if this was not enough, thousands of Sikhs were murdered across India in the first week of November, 1984 by state-sponsored goons following the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.  The police either remained mute spectators  or openly sided with the mobs.  

These ugly events culminated in the Air India bombing in June 1985. The crime that left 329 people dead was widely blamed on the Canada-based Sikh extremist group Babbar Khalsa.  

By glossing over these simple facts, the report does not help readers understand that the movement originated in India purely because of domestic reasons, for which the blame only lies at the doorstep of government in New Delhi.  

It makes no sense to suggest that it is a Pakistani project. It is not. Nobody can dispute that Pakistan has been trying to take advantage of internal strife in India, whether in Punjab or in Kashmir. But to call this a Pakistani project is laughable. 

Let’s face it - India and Pakistan have never had cozy relations. They have already fought two major wars, including one in 1971 that culminated in the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan. The whole world knows that India tried to take advantage of a liberation movement in Bangladesh and supported its insurgents. But to believe that this was a project of India would be living in a fool’s paradise. Bangladesh was imminent, as the Bengali-speaking population was being suppressed by the Urdu- speaking Pakistanis. India only tried to do what any enemy nation does in such circumstances. Similarly, Pakistan has only been taking advantage of the conflicts in Punjab and Kashmir, which could have been best resolved by the Indian state itself.  

It seems the report serves no other purpose than to say something which the Indian government likes to listen. The Indian government has habitually blamed Pakistan all the time. Today, when India is facing international criticism for mistreating its minorities, this kind of report will give them some satisfaction. They have already intensified their campaign against Khalistan, which the government in New Delhi has been trying to club with its enemy next door.  

It was not long ago that the Indian government banned Sikhs for Justice, which is seeking a referendum on Khalistan, and began arresting its supporters for merely distributing posters and using social media to spread awareness about their cause, which hasn’t gained any serious traction on the ground. On the other hand, Hindu extremists continue to target Muslims and other communities at will with impunity.  

The credibility of the report becomes questionable when it begins with the official version of the Indian government on the killing of Babbar Khalsa leader Talwinder Singh Parmar in 1992.  

Parmar was liquidated in a staged police shootout after being arrested. He was never given a fair trial, and was branded as the Air India bombing mastermind after being killed in an extra judicial manner.  

The report claims that two other men who died along with him in the so-called exchange of fire were Pakistanis. Considering the poor human rights record of India, where killing political activists in cold blood has become a norm, how appropriate was it  to give such controversial details, which the report did not even try to verify independently?   

The only real evidence about Pakistan’s direct involvement with the Khalistan movement is the picture of Parmar armed to the teeth. Milewski claims in the report that it was taken in Pakistan, which certainly gave and still gives refuge to the anti-India insurgents. But that is not the complete truth. The truth is that the picture was taken during the cold war era, when the US and Russia were engaged in a serious conflict. While Pakistan was on the US’ side, India was in the Russian camp. This was the time when anti-Russia Islamic extremists were being supported by the US in that region. The Sikh militants became allies in their fight against the Russian-backed Indian state, but that by itself is not sufficient to establish Khalistan being a project of Pakistan.  

That reality has changed anyway, with the US and India now allies under right wing governments which repeatedly talk tough against Islamic extremism. Pakistan too continues to suffer at the hands of Islamic extremists and is in no position to openly support any movement like Khalistan, which has lost its charm.   

The Indian state is also involved in double speak. On one hand it uses every tool in its toolbox to obliterate the Khalistan movement, but on the other it recently gave a visa to Vancouver-based Sikh millionaire Ripudaman Singh Malik.  

Malik is a former suspect in the Air India bombing. He was the alleged financier of those involved in the conspiracy but acquitted for the lack of evidence. How come the report is silent about it? Why not blame India for running a parallel project to weaken Khalistan by roping in people with a problematic background? In an interview with a Punjabi TV channel, Malik’s own brother thanked the head of India's R&AW intelligence agency for making this happen. If Pakistani spy agency ISI can be mentioned in the report for supporting Khalistanis, then why not question R&AW for rubbing shoulders with someone like Malik, who until yesterday was seen as an enemy of the Indian government?      

The most offensive part of the report is the way it minimizes the anti-Sikh massacre of 1984, which it tries to equate with the religious violence of 1947 and sporadic violent attacks on Sikhs in Pakistan. This makes absolutely no sense. What happened in 1984 was perpetrated by the state machinery, which is supposed to protect its citizens and not to kill them. To make India accountable for the happenings of 1984 is an obligation of not only the Sikhs in Canada, but of the entire humanity. But until now, the Indian diplomats have been trying to deny the Sikh Genocide.  

One can safely conclude that the report is in line with the narrative of a government which has lost any moral right to raise the issue of terrorism. 

Canadians should rather pay more attention to what is happening under BJP at this time. No less than the Prime Minister, Narendar Modi, brought a suspected terrorist to parliament in the last general election in 2019.  

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur was arrested and charged for a 2008 bombing targeting a Muslim community that left 10 people dead. She was part of the module that wanted to establish a Hindu state through terrorism. She was given the BJP ticket to run for office even though the trial was not completed. Modi unashamedly called her their symbol. Isn’t it worth asking why she never met the same fate as Parmar if the Indian political system is really fair?  

Maybe Canadian think tanks and journalists should do some hard work on what’s going on in the name of democracy, instead of raising false alarms about something which has lost its relevance.  

*** 

 

Gurpreet Singh   

On the 40th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope, Canada will do a huge service by speaking out for a disabled scholar incarcerated in an Indian jail for merely advocating for the rights of poor and marginalized people.  

This is the occasion when we remember our hero Terry Fox, who started a marathon to raise funds for cancer research after losing his right leg to the disease. After having covered more than 5,000 kilometers with the help of an artificial leg, he had to stop on September 1, 1980 when the cancer spread to his lungs.  

A resident of Port Coquitlam, he died in 1981.  

Fox remains popular worldwide. Annual runs in his memory are also held in India, where the Terry Fox India Committee raises funds for cancer treatment.  

As a fitting tribute to Fox who stood up for others, Canada needs to step in to get Professor G.N. Saibaba released.    

The former Delhi University lecturer is locked up in spite of being ninety percent disabled below the waist. 

Wheelchair-bound Saibaba is serving a life sentence under brutal conditions, after being convicted for being a supporter of Maoist insurgents active in the tribal areas 

He had mobilized public opinion against growing state repression of Adivasis or the Indigenous peoples, who are being displaced from their traditional lands by the extraction industry with the backing of the Indian government. Blinded by capital greed, the resource industries are eyeing these mineral rich lands and taking them into their possession without informed consent.  

This, in turn, has led many to join the Maoist movement. 

Saibaba's 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. 

A petition asking for the release of Saibaba has received more than 1,000 signatures in Canada. Though it was submitted to two MPs, Sukh Dhaliwal and Peter Julian, the Canadian government has chosen to remain neutral. 

New Democratic Leader Jagmeet Singh and former B.C. Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger also issued statements in support of Saibaba. 

Even though UN human-rights experts have urged his immediate release, Indian authorities continue to oppose any attempt to bail him out.  This is despite concerns about his deteriorating health, particularly in the midst of the growing threat of COVID-19 in overcrowded Indian jails. 

Recently, the Indian authorities refused to release him to attend the last rites of his mother who died of cancer. Earlier, his lawyer unsuccessfully tried to get him released to see her on her death bed. Even the lawyer's attempt to get Saibaba to see her through video-conferencing was refused.    

Canada, which claims to be a global human rights leader, has an obligation to tell India loudly and clearly to release Saibaba on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Considering the growing support he is receiving coast to coast, Canada must recognize the urgency of the issue without any delay.  

 

 

 

Narendra Modi  

The Prime Minister of India 

Subject: I wish you a long life so that you can live to see the consequences of your actions  

Mr. Modi,  

Hope you are doing well, even under these difficult circumstances when your country is now the second most hit in the world by COVID 19. Too bad that your lockdown did not work despite tall claims and leaving the poor and marginalized as most vulnerable. But they were never on your radar anyway.  

Let me briefly introduce myself.  

I am a Canadian citizen of Indian origin, who is highly concerned about the well-being of the country of my birth. Since you have many followers in Canada who continue to support you and your party, I also hold some rights to at least say something that irks me. No?  

From what I am seeing in the media, your fans all over the globe are super excited to celebrate your 70th birth anniversary on September 17. In India, they are going to do some acts of kindness and have decided to give away artificial limbs to those in need.  Good for them.  But why shouldn’t they be? After all, you have delivered to your constituency, with promises of progress for everyone. However, until now it’s mostly your party supporters who have benefited the most. Whether it was to abrogate special rights given to the only Muslim-majority state of Kashmir or constructing a temple where once stood an ancient mosque that your party supporters demolished in 1992, you have fulfilled your core promises. And who can stop you when you have been elected with a brute majority for the second time in 2019?  

You have already turned India into a Hindu nation. So what is stopping you from officially declaring the country as a Hindu state? Maybe you are a little bit scared after seeing so many people coming out on the streets against your highly problematic citizenship law that discriminates against Muslim refugees coming from neighbouring countries. So you have already seen that the people are not going to accept it so easily.  

But who can prevent you from using draconian laws such as Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) that can be conveniently applied against protestors?  

But let’s talk about your birthday. I want you to have a very healthy long life and there is a reason for that.  

First of all, I believe that one’s enemy should live longer, until you win by conquering the heart and soul of someone you oppose.That is the real victory. I hope you agree on that.  

I want your real and not fake critics to win over your heart and soul with their ideas. By fake critics I mean those who you rightfully pointed out in your last victory speech wore badges of false secularism. So stay calm, I am not even talking about them. I do not agree with you on many things, but I am in complete agreement with you about your opinion of the opposition Congress party, which you have accused of being involved in terrorism against innocent Sikhs, who were massacred mercilessly all over India following the murder of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984.  

But the problem is you did the same to Muslims in 2002 as Chief Minister of Gujarat. This followed the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims leaving more than 50 people dead. Even though one commission of enquiry had found that it was an accident, you simply blamed it on Muslims and let your party people avenge the incident by targeting ordinary citizens. By using your own definition of terrorism, what I should be calling it then?  

You can justifiably argue that you were never convicted for anything. But Mr. Modi you understand more than anyone how the Indian legal justice system works. Congress too can make a similar argument, as then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, despite being complicit in Sikh massacre, was never convicted.  

Let’s not talk about what Congress says about you. They have already lost their credibility.  

But I am going to point out a couple of things on behalf of the people your party and your government have been tormenting.  

Muslims are one of the most persecuted groups. It doesn’t matter if you have handful of Muslims on your side, as Congress too had many Sikhs on their side. Who cares about such sell outs or tokens when in the end majority matters in a democracy like India? 

You made Muslims suffer in 2002. Even before that, your party supporters razed their mosque to the ground in 1992. Come 2019, you scrapped the special rights given to the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir, while in the meantime, your men carried on mob lynching of Muslims at will. Some made videos of their violent actions to post on social media.  

By the way, some of those you follow on twitter are very interesting people Mr. Modi. One of them even applauded the murder of Gauri Lankesh, a journalist who was murdered in 2017 by the supporters of your ideology.  

I don’t really understand - on what basis do you keep talking tough on Islamic terrorism, while people from within your community are also involved in similar activities? On one hand you revere MK Gandhi, while on the other your party members glorify his assassin Nathuram Godse. One of the MPs, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur who was accused in the 2008 bombing targeted at the Muslim community, has called Godse a patriot. You yourself brought her into politics and ensured her victory in the last general election. It seems that you have two different yardsticks to measure terrorism. Perhaps it is fine to be a Hindu terrorist, who can kill Muslims, destroy their places of worship, and then get elected with your blessings. But a Muslim or a Sikh terrorist can either get killed by the police without a fair trial or charged under UAPA which is not applicable to Hindu extremists. Wow.  

The kind of legitimacy you give to all these acts of violence since 1992 will ultimately lead to more bloodshed. We have seen the history of vendetta and terrorism repeated all over the world and India is no exception. After all, India too has witnessed how the ugly events of 1984 had fuelled Sikh separatism, which you despise so much. When courts under you have lost will to give justice to the people you have made to suffer for all these years, what else can they think of to get justice except taking the law into their own hands?  

So do not assume that there will be no consequences of the incidents which have happened under your watch. Quoting Bhagwad Geeta, your sacred scripture, I would like to say that what you do comes back to you. Let’s not forget that you also tried to rationalize the anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002 by quoting Newton's third law of motion, which says for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, in reference to the train incident. Unfortunately, you do not enjoy a copyright on Newton's law. Anyone can use it in an event of any act of violence in retaliation to your actions. You will see all that happening sooner or later. So it is important for you to live longer and repent.  

I already know that you are a tyrant. It’s up to you now to prove me wrong by becoming kinder to religious minorities and your opponents. You can make a beginning by at least releasing former Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba from jail on your birth day. The wheelchair-bound scholar is disabled below the waist and poses no danger to anyone. He is being incarcerated since the time of Congress, merely because he stood up for the Adivasis, whose lands are being taken away by the extraction industry in the name of development. In spite of all your criticism of Congress, you both are partners in crime when it comes to suppress the right to dissent.

When COVID 19 broke out you gave a call to fight corona with karuna (compassion). But hardly any compassion was shown by the jail authorities who did not even let Saibaba see his dying mother, leave aside the question of giving him amnesty because of the pandemic spreading in overcrowded Indian prisons.  

Your people do not need to give away artificial limbs to celebrate your birthday. Just set Saibaba free and we will be thankful. For the rest of your report card we can always wait for the next time. Anxiously waiting for you to act, even though, I have no hopes from you or your administrators.   

Happy Birthday in advance.  

Gurpreet Singh  

 

 

On the 25th anniversary of the martyrdom day of Jaswant Singh Khalra, Surrey-Delta Gurdwara officials honoured a former Burnaby School Trustee for being instrumental behind a proclamation recognizing the circumstances that led to his murder.  

A prominent human rights activist, Khalra was investigating the extrajudicial killings of Sikh political activists in Punjab when police kidnapped him on September 6, 1995. He was murdered in cold blood.  

That same year, Khalra visited Canada to educate Indian diaspora and Canadian politicians about the human rights abuse in Punjab during the Sikh insurgency for the right to self-determination. 

In response to this situation, the Indian state gave sweeping powers to police to suppress the militancy, which led to thousands of Sikhs being abducted and killed.  

Khalra had detected more than 2,500 such cases, and was continuing to work to find more when he was picked up from outside his home in Amritsar following his return to India.  

Although he was warned against going back and advised to stay in Canada and seek asylum, he did not allow himself to do that.  

Khalra preferred to go back to his country and face possible death rather than making Canada home. 

As a tribute to him, the City of Burnaby proclaimed September 6, 2020, as Jaswant Singh Khalra Day.   

On August 24, Coun. Sav Dhaliwal read out the historic proclamation recognizing how Khalra lost his life fighting for the dignity and human rights of Sikhs.  

Narang was the driving force behind the proclamation. Being a progressive Sikh, she is very vocal on social justice. In the past, she has also stood up for the rights of the LGBTQ community in Burnaby.  

On Sunday, she was honoured at the Surrey-Delta Gurdwara during a commemorative event held for Khalra. Themple President Hardeep Singh Nijjar presented her with a trophy amidst Sikh slogans of victory from the congregation. 

Narang, who briefly spoke on the occasion, presented the gurdwara with a copy of the proclamation.  

Burnaby was the first municipality in Greater Vancouver to proclaim Jaswant Singh Khalra Day, followed by New Westminster, Victoria and Surrey.  

*** 

 

 

The members of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) presented a medal of courage to a North Delta MLA at his constituency office on Thursday, August 27 for raising the issue of Kashmir with the United Nations and speaking out for justice to the victims of Sikh Genocide. 

Ravi Kahlon, who is known for his strong advocacy for human rights and social justice, has written to the United Nations on behalf of his constituents, who had raised concerns about the plight of their relatives in Kashmir, asking for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the disputed region.   

On August 5, 2019, the Indian government unilaterally scrapped special rights given to the state of Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian constitution, arresting local leaders on the pretext of maintaining public safety.    

The right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government claims that the act was necessary to stop terrorism in the only Muslim-majority state of India.   

Since then, Kashmir has been turned into an open jail, communication channels such as internet have been shut, and leaders fighting for freedom and autonomy have been detained indefinitely. These include political figures and activists who have been advocating for peaceful resolution of the problem of Kashmir, where people have been struggling for the right to self-determination.   

Kahlon has directly written to the office of United Nations’ Human Rights Council Branch, for the second time after October 2019. He hasn’t heard back yet from them, and reminded the UN High Commissioner about the concerns raised by his constituents.   

Kahlon shot off his first letter to the UN after meeting with a delegation of people of Kashmiri origin, who were having difficulty in connecting with their relatives back home  They remain deeply concerned about human rights abuses in the highly militarized zone.   

In 2017, Kahlon read out a statement in the BC legislature asking for justice to the victims of Sikh Genocide. Thousands of Sikhs were murdered all over India during the first week of November, 1984 in a state sponsored massacre following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.    

He is also vocal about systemic racism in Canada, and recently concluded a BC-wide tour to learn about the first hand experiences of people of colour with bigotry and prejudices. He was instrumental behind the restoration of the BC Human Rights Commission, which was disbanded by the previous Liberal government.   

IAPI President Parshotam Dosanjh presented Kahlon with the medal. Among those who joined him on the occasion were prominent Punjabi poet Amrit Diwana, besides other IAPI members Tejinder Sharma, Sandeep Modgil and Gurpreet Singh. 

Due to COVID 19 restrictions, everyone, including Kahlon wore masks during the ceremony.  

*** 

 

The Punjabi Press Club of British Columbia (PPCBC) has come out with a strong statement against assaults on three reporters by the supporters of ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in India.  

The August 11 incident happened in New Delhi, the national capital of the world’s so-called largest democracy.  

Three journalists, including one Sikh, one Muslim and an unidentified woman were harassed and physically attacked by a mob after they had gone to do a follow up story in the area hit by sectarian violence in February.  

It is the same place that saw an organized attack on Muslims by BJP supporters. The pogrom was planned to terrorise Muslims and secularist activists who were demonstrating against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act passed by the BJP government. The law discriminates against Muslim refugees coming from neighbouring countries, and gives amnesty only to non-Muslims. This had enraged people across India and evoked sharp reaction in other parts of the globe. Delhi witnessed many peaceful demonstrations.  

On Tuesday, The Caravan magazine had sent three journalists, Prabhjit Singh, Shahid Tantray and an anonymous female, who did not want to be identified, to do a story.  

Those who came to attack the three included a BJP official. The assailants made lewd remarks and obscene gestures toward the female journalist, while Singh and Tantray were beaten and kicked. They also made hateful remarks about the Muslim identity of Tantray.  

The members of PPCBC unanimously denounced the incident, and called for action against those involved and protection to journalists who continue to face threats and intimidation under the current political environment of India.  

 

 

Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh made history on Wednesday, August 12, by raising the demand to overturn the conviction of a political activist, who was executed for fighting against racism back in 1915.  

Mewa Singh was the first Sikh dissident to be hanged in Canada, for assassinating a controversial Immigration Inspector. He was one of the Indian revolutionaries who fought against the British occupation of India and racism abroad.   

Calling him Shaheed (Martyr) in the legislature, Rachna Singh presented a petition asking the Canadian government to overturn his conviction.   

Signed by 10,000 people, the petition was launched by the Ghadar Party Centenary Celebrations Committee. Singh stated in the assembly, “as this house has condemned racism in all forms before, I am pleased to present this petition on behalf of my constituents”.  Due to COVID 19 restrictions, the petitioners could not attend.  

Last year, Singh had unveiled Mewa Singh’s portrait in her constituency office on his death anniversary.    

Hopkinson had precipitated a conflict within the South Asian immigrant community, and was responsible for the murders of two Sikh activists inside a gurdwara days after the Komagata Maru ship was forcibly returned.   

The Japanese vessel carried more than 300 South Asian immigrants, who were compelled to leave under discriminatory immigration laws aimed at keeping Canada a so-called "white man’s land". The current Canadian government has already apologized for the episode that had culminated into the violence leading to the murder of Hopkinson. 

Mewa Singh was deeply enraged by the killings of his comrades inside a place of worship, and wanted to avenge this act of sacrilege. He was a religious man who went to the scaffold with prayers on his lips. In his testimony, he owned up the assassination and never appealed for mercy. His testimony also shows how much he was pained by blatant racism against his community. 

 

Gurpreet Singh  

Close to the first anniversary of the scrapping of special constitutional rights given to Indian-occupied Kashmir, a North Delta legislator is seeking global intervention into the matter.   

Ravi Kahlon, who is known for his strong advocacy for human rights and social justice, has written to the United Nations on behalf of his constituents, who had raised concerns about the plight of their relatives in Kashmir asking for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the disputed region.  

On August 5, 2019, the Indian government unilaterally scrapped special rights given to the state of Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian constitution, arresting local leaders on the pretext of maintaining public safety.   

The right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government claims that the act was necessary to stop terrorism in the only Muslim-majority state of India.  

Since then, Kashmir has been turned into an open jail, communication channels such as internet have been shut, and leaders fighting for freedom and autonomy have been detained indefinitely. These include political figures and activists who have been advocating for peaceful resolution of the problem of Kashmir, where people have been struggling for right to self-determination.  

Kahlon has directly written to the office of United Nations’ Human Rights Council Branch, for the second time after October 2019. He hasn’t heard back yet from them, and reminded the UN High Commissioner about the concerns raised by his constituents.  

Kahlon shot off his first letter to the UN after meeting with a delegation of the people of Kashmiri origin, who were having difficulty in connecting with their relatives back home, and remain deeply concerned about human rights abuses under highly militarized zone.  

“It has been 10 months since my office wrote to you with those concerns,” Kahlon stated in a letter sent on August 7 asking for a reply.  

In 2017, Kahlon had read out a statement in the BC legislature asking for justice to the victims of Sikh Genocide. Thousands of Sikhs were murdered all over India during the first week of November, 1984 in a state sponsored massacre following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.   

He is also vocal about systemic racism in Canada, and recently concluded his BC-wide tour to learn about the first hand experiences of the people of colour with bigotry and prejudices. He was instrumental behind the restoration of the BC Human Rights Commission, which was disbanded by the previous Liberal government.  

 

 

Gurpreet Singh  

In the wake of protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of US police, supporters of the right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India are trying to create a false narrative around the history of imperialism and racism to justify their crimes.  

The killing of Floyd, an African American who became the victim of systemic racism, has sparked civil unrest, including the vandalizing and breaking of statues of slave owners.  

Taking advantage of the widespread outrage over mistreatment of Blacks and Indigenous Peoples in North America, those owing allegiance to the BJP have started drawing parallels between the action of anti-racism protestors and those who razed the Babari Masjid, an ancient mosque, in Ayodhya in 1992.  

The BJP supporters claim that the mosque was built by the Mughals after destroying a Hindu temple built on the birthplace of Lord Ram, one of the most revered Hindu gods. They had launched a movement to reclaim the disputed site during the 1980s, which culminated in the falling of the mosque by a mob instigated by the BJP leadership. This was done with the active support of the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, the province where Ayodhya is located.  

Under the current BJP regime in New Delhi, the Indian Supreme Court gave its verdict in support of building a Ram temple. On August 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation of the proposed temple. This has dampened the spirits of grassroots level secularists who have been asking for restoration of the site to Muslims.  

The right wing media commentators and the supporters are now trying to discredit the secularists, accusing them of double speak. Their prime argument is that the 1992 Babari Masjid episode was the result of “awakening among the Hindus about slavery and persecution of their forefathers by Mughals who came from outside India with imperialist designs”. If their version of the history is to be believed, Islam was imposed in India through the rule of sword.  

However, many of such claims are blatant lies and lack objectivity.  

First of all, not all Mughals were tyrants; some made India their home and had cordial relations with Hindus. Secondly, even if we assume that they were, why should the Muslims living in India today be made to suffer? In the garb of Ram temple agitation, the BJP has polarized the Hindu majority against Muslims for electoral gains. It is not surprising to see how they continue to be attacked with impunity under Modi ever since he became the Prime Minister in 2014. It is pertinent to mention that the 2002 Gujarat Muslim massacre was an outcome of this campaign. A train carrying Hindu pilgrims from Ayodhya had caught fire, leaving more than 50 passengers dead. Although one commission of enquiry found that it was an accident, the BJP blamed it on Islamic fanatics. Modi, who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat back then, allowed the bloodletting of innocent Muslims by his supporters. 

The point conveniently overlooked by BJP apologists in North American Diaspora is that the anger of African-Americans is against White privilege. In the Indian context, the Hindus are the most privileged because of their majority, and it was never the other way round. If there are any parallels, they are between the Blacks or and Indigenous Peoples of North America and Dalits in India.  

Hindus have been persecuting those considered as Untouchables from the Dalit community for centuries. Their case is not only stronger and well documented, and dates back to the time when Mughals had not even appeared on the scene. Like it or not, Islam did not spread in India only due to repression by Mughals, it became popular because of its egalitarian approach that embraced Dalits, who were not even allowed to enter Hindu temples under strict caste codes.  

If the BJP really cares for correcting history, why not begin with fixing the problem of the caste system? Why not first remove the statues of Manu, who invented such an inhuman social structure from outside the Rajasthan Court?  

What the BJP cannot deny is that their founding fathers in Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) – a Hindu supremacist organization, of which the BJP is a part - glorified Hitler and rationalised the annihilation of Jews. On what basis can they make such claims, and even appropriate progressive movements such as Black Lives Matter, when its own history is highly problematic and full of contradictions?  

What happened to Babri Masjid was not an act of resistance, but an act of aggression and terrorism. It cannot be equated with the actions of oppressed groups in North America.  

 

 

 

 

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