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

The recent outburst against Communists by a spokesman of India’s ruling right wing Hindu nationalist BJP should come as a wakeup call for those fighting against each other over the control of an ongoing farmers’ agitation in Punjab.  

Harinder Singh Kahlon had asked for throwing “comrades” behind bars for instigating the peasantry struggle.  

The Indian farmers have been camping outside New Delhi since November 2020, against unjust farm laws that threaten their livelihood. Since Punjab is a Sikh dominated state where agriculture is the backbone of the economy, a majority of the agitating farmers from there come from Sikh backgrounds. That said, not everyone is a practising Sikh, as many of them are aligned with the communist movement.  

Kahlon is a former leader of the All India Sikh Student Federation (AISSF), a radical group that was in the forefront of the struggle for an autonomous Sikh region, and considered communists as their ideological enemy. On their part, the communists denounced Sikh separatism and theocracy of any shade. This led to a bloody conflict between the two sides between 1980s-1990s, as a result of which many communist leaders were assassinated by the Sikh separatists, who accused the leftists of being hand-in-glove with the Indian state, despite the fact that a number of those killed had also opposed the state repression of innocent Sikhs. 

Kahlon was recently appointed as the BJP spokesman in Punjab, where the farmers’ protest continues. This may have been part of a design to weaken the agitation by roping in a former hardliner Sikh, who could checkmate the Sikh activists whose stakes are also involved in the struggle. Squarely aimed at the communists, his speech clearly suggests the desperation of the BJP, which wants to create a wedge between the Sikh activists and the left leaders who have come together to challenge the controversial farm laws.  

Kahlon not only created a storm by calling for the arrests of the communists, but went further to claim that he was instrumental in wiping them out during the 1980s.   

It is unfortunate that a section of the left movement and the Sikh activist camp have neither given up past hostilities, nor they have honestly tried to learn anything from the history. Instead, they continue to stick to their guns, making the job of the BJP government easier. Perhaps the BJP knows this very well, and has been trying to exploit the situation.  

A case in point is the mudslinging of Sonia Mann, an actress-turned-activist. She is the daughter of the late communist leader from Punjab, Baldev Singh Mann, who was murdered by the Sikh separatists in 1986. Sonia is actively participating in the farmers’ protest, and came under vilifying campaign from among the Sikh activists who still believe in a separate homeland.   

Such divisions only benefit the BJP, just as the killings of the communists by Sikh militants helped the neoliberal governments of the past. It should not surprise anyone that the Indian state succeeded in creating a favourable political environment for the bourgeois forces, after liquidating the Sikh militants through extrajudicial measures, while letting them kill communists at will before the Sikh separatist movement was brought to an end.  

It is hard to prove whether the Indian state incited Sikh militants to kill communists, or tried to kill two birds with one stone through agent provocateurs. But one communist activist, Tejinder Virli, points out that a significant number of leftists were murdered during the tenure of SS Ray, who was the governor of Punjab from 1986 to 1989. 

Ray had previously served as the Chief Minister of West Bengal, where he crushed the communist revolutionary movement. Virli believes that he might have been behind the scheme to get the communists killed through the Sikh militants. That the militant movement was penetrated by the Indian agents is well documented. Among the dead were several mainstream communists who had unashamedly sided with the government in its aggressive policy toward the Sikh separatists in the name of national interest, but those like Baldev Singh Mann who stood up against the state violence were not spared either.  

For the record, Mann had opposed the military invasion of the Golden Temple Complex, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs in June 1984. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had ordered the ill-conceived army operation to deal with a handful of militants, leaving many innocent pilgrims dead. This had alienated the Sikhs and galvanized the movement for a separate homeland of Khalistan. Mann, in spite of being staunchly opposed to Khalistan, had criticised the military attack and the subsequent violence against the Sikhs by security forces.

This culminated in the murder of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984, following which thousands of innocent Sikhs were slaughtered across India by the goons led by her party activists. Another revolutionary communist, Paash, had written a protest poem against the pogroms. Nevertheless, he too was killed by the Khalistani extremists.    

Years later, the diary of slain Khalistani militant leader Labh Singh revealed that he repented the killings of Mann and Paash, who despite differences of opinion on many issues never became apologists of the Indian establishment. Singh had acknowledged that murdering Mann and Paash was a tactical mistake.  

Indeed, the Sikh activists and the leftists could have found a common ground on people’s issues, such as human rights, fair treatment of minorities, autonomy and fair distribution of natural resources, which led to the start of the Sikh movement in the first place. It is pertinent to mention that some of the participants of the Sikh struggle had been part of the revolutionary communists in the past. The economic hardships of the middle class farmers had partly turned them into communists during late 1960s and Khalistanis decades later. It is for the protagonists of these two movements to find out the linkage and analyse.  

Today, under an outright Hindu fascist regime that openly targets minorities, including the Sikhs and the leftists, this question has become even more relevant and easy to resolve. After all, the draconian laws are only being used against minority or the leftist organizations to suppress any voice of dissent, and not against the Hindu extremists who continue to terrorise everyone with impunity.  

To begin with, old hostilities must be kept aside to fight against the common enemy that is much more powerful. Kahlon’s statement should unite those engaged in the farmers' movement, in spite of philosophical differences. Diversity of views is the beauty of the farmers’ struggle and must be respected come what may.  

Let’s face it; the Punjabi farmer is mainly a Sikh, and a Sikh farmer could be religious or irreligious, a supporter of Khalistan or even a united India, but that is all immaterial. This is an important moment, especially for the left to reflect on itself. The BJP supporters have been trying to demonize the Sikh famers as separatists and terrorists. If you want to survive in Punjab, take this as an insult of not only your Sikh brethren, but your own. An injury to one should be taken as an injury to all. 

This also applies to the Sikh leaders who fail to see communists as their allies, and try to judge them all as atheists from the narrow lens of religion. Painting the entire left with one brush is also hugely problematic. Just for the sake of argument, if some of the left leaders were acting at the behest of the Indian state, how would they like to explain Kahlon’s admission, which only shows the real loyalties of a former AISSF leader, who has now joined the BJP and openly speaks the language of the government?

The two sides miserably failed to identify the real enemy back then, and have failed to identify it even today. At least learn from your own heritage. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, preached to share and earn one’s living through honesty and hard work. His vision for an egalitarian society is compatible with socialism.       

 

  

 

From Nazneen to Naina: 20 years of Kareena Kapoor Khan in Bollywood and what that means for India and the rest of the world, will be officially released at Chandigarh Press Club on Tuesday, September 21.

Authored by Canadian journalist Gurpreet Singh, the book is based on the film career of the famous Bollywood diva, and what she has faced from followers of the current right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government, under which attacks on religious minorities have grown.  

Published by Ludhiana-based Chetna Parkashan, the book will be launched on her birthday.

Affectionately known as Bebo, Kareena has been under constant backlash for marrying a Muslim man, adopting Khan as her last name, and naming her two sons Taimur and Jeh, all of which has been interpreted as an affront by the self-styled defenders of Hindu religion.  

This is a reflection of the growing intolerance in a toxic political environment, created by those in power both within and outside the Indian film industry.    

The book talks about her work, going into the details of her performance as an actor, activist and philanthropist, trying to make connections between the present political situation and its impact on the cinema. It looks deeply into the challenges before Kareena, for being a flag bearer of secularism which is despised by the religious bigots who have become emboldened at the behest of the BJP regime.  

Her significant role as someone who stands up against hate on the screen has been underlined in the book, which also attempts to make a critical assessment of her position on issues such as racism, feminism, environment and state violence. 

Singh is a newscaster and talk show host with Spice Radio in Greater Vancouver and writes for the Georgia Straight. This is his fifth book, which is being released by his India-based media colleagues in his absence.

 

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was presented with a medal on Sunday, September 12 at Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey.  

Vancouver-based online magazine Radical Desi, which covers alternative politics, gives out medals to individuals who speak out and stand up against injustice and repression anywhere in the world.  

Nijjar was honoured for organizing special prayers for the indigenous children whose unmarked graves were recently discovered all across Canada, and for holding events in commemoration of the victims of racist and hate attacks in and outside the country.  

The Radical Desi medal of courage was presented to him at the temple congregation by the publication’s director and co-founder Gurpreet Singh.  

Singh briefly spoke on the occasion, praising Nijjar for being a true follower of Sikhism, which teaches everyone to stand up for others. He mentioned that Nijjar had also supported a Radical Desi petition asking for the immediate release of the jailed Indian scholar G.N. Saibaba.  

In spite of being disabled below the waist and suffering with multiple ailments, the former Delhi University Professor is being incarcerated under inhuman conditions, after being convicted of trumped-up charges for merely raising his voice against the oppression of religious minorities and the Adivasis, or the indigenous peoples of India.  

Nijjar is the 25th recipient of the Radical Desi medal. 

Among other recipients so far are India-based human rights defenders Teesta Setalvad and Deepika Singh Rajawat, besides daring Indian journalists Niranjan Takle and the late Jarnail Singh, and Canada-based courageous Editors Kimball Cariou and Charlie Smith.  

A prominent progressive filmmaker, Anand Patwardhan, and well-known Punjabi rapper Jazzy B were given the medal on separate occasions. Ravi Singh, a world renowned philanthropist, also received it during his visit to Surrey.  

Anti-racist campaigners and educators such as Annie Ohana, Susan Ruzic, Imtiaz Popat and Shushma Datt have also received the medal.  

Sherry Duggal, a passionate poet, student activist Sahib Kaur Dhaliwal, and community activists Dupinder Kaur Saran and Iswhinder Singh were given this medal for raising their voices for Indian farmers who have been camping outside New Delhi since November 26, 2020 seeking for the repeal of unjust farming laws.  

Among the Canadian politicians who have received it for speaking out for minorities suffering under the right wing Hindu nationalist government are BC Minister for Jobs and Economic Recovery Ravi Kahlon, Vancouver City Councillor Jean Swanson, New Westminster City Councillor Chuck Puchmayr, Surrey City Councillor Mandeep Nagra, Burnaby City Councillor Sav Dhaliwal, and former Burnaby School Trustee Baljinder Kaur Narang. 

Former BC Federation of Labour Leader Irene Lanzinger is also among the recipients of the medal. which bears the famous quote by Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”   

 

Gurpreet Singh  

 

It was the fall of 2018, a year before the last federal election in 2019 which saw Prime Minister Justin Trudeau returned to power with a minority government.  

He was visiting Surrey, which has a sizable Indo-Canadian population. At least two MPs of Indian heritage from his Liberal Party, Sukh Dhaliwal and Randeep Singh Sarai, represent different ridings in Surrey and were at the event hosting Trudeau.  

During his speech, the Prime Minister brought up the conviction of two Myanmar journalists and emphasised about press freedom. However, the oddness of the facts that were conveniently overlooked did not go unnoticed.  

It was September 4, 2018, almost exactly a year after Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh was assassinated in Bengaluru. She was highly critical of the right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government in New Delhi under which attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown. She was murdered on September 5, 2017, yet there was no mention of that in Trudeau’s address on the eve of the first anniversary of the gruesome act that invited global outrage.  

Understandably, he wasn’t even told about that by his Indo-Canadian party colleagues, otherwise why would he not recognize such an important incident, in a setting within a predominantly South Asian community?  

Whatever may be the explanation, Trudeau’s silence on Lankesh's murder reflected very badly on his government, and on Canada which claims to be a human rights leader in the world.  

Today, when Trudeau is seeking another term, the situation has not changed. A number of Indian scholars and journalists are being incarcerated under inhuman conditions for questioning the power and challenging the policies of the BJP government.  

Among them is former Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba, who is disabled below the waist and suffers from multiple ailments. He was arrested and convicted under trumped up charges for raising his voice for the Adivasis - the indigenous peoples of India who are facing eviction from their mineral-rich traditional lands by the extraction industry with the backing of the Indian state.  

In spite of so many protests in Canada for Saibaba, Trudeau and others have chosen to remain quiet.  This is despite the fact that two MPs, Sukh Dhaliwal and Peter Julian from the ruling Liberal Party and the opposition NDP respectively, were given petitions signed by thousands of people. The petitions sought an immediate intervention of Canada to ensure Saibaba’s release on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, but nothing came out of it. Nor did the two MPs make statements in the house.  So much so, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who is otherwise very vocal on human rights, did not respond to many requests to take up the issue until he came under heavy criticism for his indifference, sometime in November 2017.   

If this was not enough, Liberal MP Carla Qualtrough was approached with a letter signed by 100 residents of her riding of Delta seeking intervention on this matter. Since she is known for her disability rights advocacy and had been a minister for disability inclusion, we had high hopes from her. Her staff told us at the end that their solidarity is there, but the government wants to remain neutral.  

All these efforts could not melt the hearts of our politicians, irrespective of their party affiliations, for a physically challenged political prisoner.  

The story does not end here.  

Another jailed Indian scholar, Anand Teltumbde who had visited Canada in 2016, is also behind bars for his critical writings. The Indo-Canadian New Democratic BC legislators who met him during the visit refused to make a statement when he was arrested. They rather suggested that the matter be taken up with Federal NDP, since it was their jurisdiction. They couldn’t answer why, if that is the case, they go to events held by the Indian consulate, or why they have spoken out in support of India in the face of any terror attacks against Indian forces.  

These politicians need to be made accountable for passing the buck and doing nothing. If our MLAs cannot stand up for human rights in India because it’s a federal matter, while our MPs prefer to remain neutral, then where should we go? Why should we even vote for the people who are timid, either because of the fear of being denied Indian visa, or because of their loyalties with the government in New Delhi? What if we remain neutral as voters and elect none of them by staying away on Election Day? How are they going to take it?  

As of now, Canadian politicians should walk the talk. Instead of loving yourselves and making everyone believe that you really care for human rights, show some spine and speak out for all the beautiful minds whose place is not the jail or a graveyard, but outside, so that they can live with dignity and guide society through the crisis we are in. Lankesh is not going to come back, but at least make sure that those detained are released, while her killers are punished to send a strong message to those trampling free speech at the behest of a fascist regime.     

*** 

 

Members of the South Asian community came together to remember the slain Indian journalist at Surrey’s Holland Park on Sunday, September 5.  

Gauri Lankesh was a daring editor, who was allegedly murdered by right wing extremists in Bengaluru in 2017.  

On the fourth anniversary of her assassination, a vigil was organized by Radical Desi, an online magazine that covers alternative politics.    

Lankesh consistently wrote against superstition and growing fanaticism under the current Hindu nationalist BJP government in New Delhi. Attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have spiked ever since the BJP came to power with a brute majority in 2014.  

Her death was rejoiced by some supporters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Among those present at the vigil were Burnaby City Councillor Sav Dhaliwal, who was instrumental behind the recent proclamation made by the City of Burnaby to declare September 5 as Gauri Lankesh Day.  

He was presented with the Radical Desi medal on the occasion by anti-racism educator and social justice activist Annie Ohana.  

Ohana has previously received the Radical Desi medal for standing up against repression of political dissidents in India. 

Another medal was given to former Burnaby School Trustee Baljinder Kaur Narang, for being instrumental behind the Jaswant Singh Khalra Day proclamation made last year. Khalra was a towering human rights defender who was abducted and killed by the Indian Police in 1995. Since Monday, September 6 is the anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Khlara, he was also remembered at the vigil.    

The participants lit candles in memory of Lankesh and raised slogans against the ongoing state violence under Modi. They unanimously condemned her murder and sought speedy justice.  

The vigil began with a moment of silence for Danish Siddiqui, an Indian photojournalist who died recently in the line of duty in Afghanistan, and recitation of a Punjabi poem dedicated to Lankesh by Surrey-based writer Amrit Diwana.   

Those who addressed the rally included well known community activists Sahib Singh Thind, Rakesh Kumar, Tejinder Sharma, Kesar Singh and Radical Desi director Gurpreet Singh.  

The City of Burnaby has declared September 5 as a day to honour a slain Indian journalist.  

Daring editor Gauri Lankesh was allegedly murdered by right wing extremists in Bengaluru, on the ill-fated date in 2017.   

She consistently wrote against superstition and growing fanaticism under the current Hindu nationalist BJP government in New Delhi. Attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have spiked ever since the BJP came to power with a brute majority in 2014.  

Through her writings, Lankesh had also challenged and questioned those in power, and raised her voice against state violence.

Her death was rejoiced by some of the supporters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  

On Friday, August 27, the City of Burnaby proclaimed September 5 as Gauri Lankesh Day.  

Mayor Mike Hurley made the proclamation, which describes Lankesh as a “courageous Indian journalist who stood up for truth and justice” and “laid down her life… in her fight against repression and for human rights”.  

Last year, the City of Burnaby had proclaimed a day to honour Jaswant Singh Khalra. The towering human rights activist was killed by the Indian police for documenting the cases of those kidnapped and eliminated in an extra-judicial manner in the name of ending Sikh militancy in Punjab.  

Khalra was abducted on September 6, 1995 from his home in Amritsar, and later murdered.   

Burnaby City Councillor Sav Dhaliwal and former Burnaby School Trustee Baljinder Kaur Narang have been instrumental behind these proclamations, which were requested by Radical Desi and other members of the South Asian community.  

 

 

Vancouver-based broadcaster Gurpreet Singh has tried to expose the growing polarization of Indian society and cinema through the story of one of the most popular movie stars.   

From Nazneen to Naina: 20 years of Kareena Kapoor Khan in Bollywood and what that means for India and the rest of the world is based on her film career so far, and what she has been facing at the hands of followers of the current right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government, under which attacks on religious minorities have grown.  

Published by Ludhiana-based Chetna Parkashan, the book will be out in the first week of September, the birthday month of Kareena, who has already turned forty. 

She has been under constant backlash for marrying a Muslim man, adopting Khan as her last name, and naming her two sons Taimur and Jeh, all of which has been interpreted as an affront by the self-styled defenders of Hindu religion.  

This is a reflection of the growing intolerance in a toxic political environment, created by those in power both within and outside the Indian film industry.    

The book talks about her work, going into the details of her performance as an actor and an activist and philanthropist, trying to make connections between the present political situation and its impact on the cinema. It looks deeply into the challenges before Kareena, for being a flag bearer of secularism which is despised by the religious bigots who have become emboldened at the behest of the BJP regime.  

Her significant role as someone who stands up against hate on the screen has been underlined in the book which also attempts to make a critical assessment of her position on issues, such as racism, feminism, environment and state violence. 

Gurpreet is a news caster and talk show host with Spice Radio in Greater Vancouver and writes for the Georgia Straight. This is his fifth book, which was edited by Kimball Cariou, the former Editor of People's Voice. 

To pre-order a copy, please contact Satish Gulati at +91 98152 98459 or Sumit Gulati at +91 98762 07774 or + 91 95011 45039.   


Gurpreet Singh
 

On August 15, the Indian consulates all across the globe will celebrate the 74th anniversary of liberation from the British occupation.  

On this occasion, the Indian establishment will be expecting the Indian Diaspora, as well as elected officials of Indian origin in places like Canada, to join the ceremonies.  

India gained its official independence after years of struggle by the freedom fighters on August 15, 1947. Already, the Indian state has started creating hype for next year's 75th anniversary of the transfer of power.    

But what is there to celebrate really? India going to the dogs?  

The attacks on religious minorities have grown under the current right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government, which is determined to alter the constitution that guarantees religious freedom and equality.

Thanks to the pro-corporate agenda of the government, socio-economic disparities have also increased between the super rich and the poor and marginalized.  

Anyone questioning that faces charges of sedition, and can be treated as a potential terrorist. Chances are that they might get arrested and thrown into jail.  

This has happened to a number of scholars. Former Delhi University Professor G.N. Saibaba, who is ninety percent disabled below the waist, is being incarcerated under inhuman conditions after being arrested on trumped up charges, for merely raising his voice for the oppressed communities.  

Free speech is being trampled with impunity in the world’s so-called largest democracy.  

If this is not enough, more than 500 farmers have lost their lives during the ongoing agitation.  

The Indian farmers have been camping outside New Delhi since last November, asking for the repeal of controversial agricultural laws that threaten their livelihood, passed to favour corporates seeking control over the farming industry. The laws were adopted without transparency and debate.  

People familiar with India’s independence struggle know that the farmers had to fight for their rights under British rule as well. What’s the point of independence, if people still have to fight for similar reasons under a government of their own?  

Notably, the founding fathers of the BJP remained indifferent to the freedom movement, and kept their distance from those who fought against the British and envisioned a secular India.  

It has become necessary for Indo-Canadians to stand up against such barbaric rule and boycott the Independence Day celebrations. Especially in the light of recent developments in Canada, they owe a moral responsibility to shun the celebrations.  

This year, most Canada Day celebrations were cancelled, following the discoveries of unmarked graves of Indigenous children at the former residential school sites. Thousands of Indigenous kids died because of disease, malnutrition and abuse at these schools, which were opened by the colonists and the churches to annihilate their cultural identity.  

Many Indo-Canadians avoided this year’s Canada Day celebrations to show their solidarity with the First Nations. Not to be left behind, elected officials from the community also expressed their sorrow and outrage over these discoveries.

However, a majority of the Indo-Canadian MPs and MLAs remain silent about what the minorities in India are facing under a Hindu nationalist regime. This is either because of their loyalties to the government back home, or fear of being denied visa by the Indian officials.  

This is despite the fact that the RSS, a Hindu supremacist group of which the BJP is a political wing, is repeating the history of residential schools. In seminaries run by them, indigenous or adivasi girls are sent to be indoctrinated into an extreme right wing ideology.  

It’s now a challenge before Indo-Canadians to boycott the Independence Day celebrations, to show support to the farmers and all those who have suffered under the BJP.

If we can skip this year’s Canada Day celebrations, what’s stopping us from refusing to be a part of the celebrations of Indian nationalism? Enough of hypocrisy and double speak. It’s time to act. Say no to patriotism, and observe August 15 as a black day.   

***

 

Gurpreet Singh  

 

July 5, 2021 will go down as another black day in the history of the world’s so-called largest democracy.  

It was then that an 84-year-old Roman Catholic priest, Stan Swamy, died in the custody of the Indian state while waiting for his bail. He was moved to a hospital after contracting COVID 19 and died of cardiac arrest.  

Swamy had worked among the tribals in Jharkhand, and was vocal against the repression of Adivasis, the indigenous peoples, facing eviction from their traditional lands by the extraction industry with the backing of the government.  

He was arrested on trumped up charges after being accused of terrorism for merely standing up for the marginalised. His health had deteriorated in jail during the pandemic, and yet the authorities remained adamant not to release him on humanitarian grounds. He was one of those scholars who were arrested on malicious charges to suppress any voice of dissent at the behest of the current right wing Hindu nationalist regime led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  

Swamy’s demise coincides with the 51st anniversary of the extra-judicial killing of an 82-year-old former Indian freedom fighter, Bujha Singh, who died in police custody on July 28, 1970.  

Singh, who had participated in the struggle to rid India of British occupation, was murdered by the police for his association with the revolutionary communist movement sparked by an uprising of landless tillers who have been fighting against the rich and the elites since the 1960s. 

Following an uprising in the Naxalbari village of West Bengal by poor farmers, who claimed a right to the land, there was a campaign of police repression. People like Singh joined the radical movement. All reports indicate that he died in a staged shootout by Punjab police under a different regime.  

Half century later, the history of Singh was repeated in the form of what many have called an “institutional murder” of Swamy. It is pertinent to mention here that an 81-year-old Telugu poet and political activist, Varavara Rao, continues to be incarcerated under brutal conditions even though he recently tested positive for COVID 19.  

Like Swamy and Singh, Rao had also dared to question the power and stand up for the Underdog.  

All this reflects poorly on India’s democracy and flies in the face of Modi, who had called for fighting Corona with Karuna (compassion). His government remained indifferent to a petition seeking unconditional release of political prisoners due to the spread of the pandemic in Indian jails.  

Rather than trying to get to the bottom of the problem of social unrest caused by systemic injustice and inequality, the state is going after veterans such as Singh, Swamy or Rao, to instil fear in the minds of political dissidents. To achieve that end, Indian officials can go to any length. 

It’s a shame that Indian society claims to be respectful of its seniors, but remains insensitive to these horrific stories. The tales of these two men shows that the Indian system’s brutal side remains unchanged, even as the disparity between the rich and the poor has grown over the past 50 years. There is no respite for the most underprivileged and underserved, despite tall claims of development and progress. 

 

Gurpreet Singh 

When I first visited Germany back in 2018, I expected to be greeted by memorials of Adolf Hitler. 

Call it my ignorance or stupidity, I didn’t see even one, leave aside the question of stumbling upon his grave.  

That’s what I learnt from the country that was once ruled by Nazis and had witnessed the Jewish holocaust. The mainstream has erased the memory of those who committed genocide and rightfully so.  

However, here in Canada, in spite of tall claims of diversity and tolerance we continue to celebrate the bigots who were responsible for the killings of Indigenous peoples of this land. That is one reason why so many indigenous activists have taken it upon themselves to spray paint or topple their busts.  

In retaliation, a Totem pole was burnt on Vancouver Island.  

Had Canada learnt from Germany and understood the anger which these political figures bring to the hearts of the First Nations, the issue could have been settled much earlier.  

The tears and apologies for the historical wrongs was never enough. The concrete action that was needed remained missing.  

Rare politicians, such as New Westminster City Councillor Chuck Puchmayar, did make a beginning by getting the statue of controversial judge Justice Mathew Begbie removed in 2019. Begbie was responsible for the wrongful execution of five Indigenous Chiefs in 1864.  

This should have forced the Canadian authorities to do some reflection and remove the statues of other problematic icons. But apparently, they continued to wait until the recent discoveries of unmarked graves of indigenous children who were killed by the racist residential school system.  

To add insult to injury, Pope Francis has refused to make an apology for the injustices committed by residential schools that were run by the Catholic church.  

No charges have been laid for the burning down and vandalism of churches in several provinces. But these acts are widely believed to be related to the pent-up anger in the indigenous communities. Both the Canadian establishment and the Churches need to take responsibility for the situation.  

That said, the attacks on churches cannot be justified. These are going to give legitimacy to anti-Christian violence in countries where Christians are in minority and being persecuted with impunity. India, where the right-wing Hindu nationalists are in power, is one example. They have already been accusing Christian missionaries of converting Hindus, and have been involved in violence against them. In 1999, they burnt to death an Australian Christian missionary and his two sons.  

It is not surprising to see a section of Indian media owing allegiance to the Hindu Right having fun about what has happened in BC during the past several days. It has become important to measure our words before we try to defend the burning down of churches. Trying to speak for the First Nations might have consequences. When the residential school survivors themselves denounce such actions, why should anyone try to rationalize them? This will ignite more trouble for Christians in a place like India, where the Hindu supremacists are pressing for draconian anti-conversion laws.  

This is not to suggest that Germany is perfect, or that fixing the historical wrongs alone is the solution. Of course, these steps matter, but we need to go beyond and examine if we are giving respect to First Nations. The ongoing systemic racism against them needs to be challenged and stopped. Above all, the leadership of the Indigenous peoples, which was stripped through the doctrine of discovery and papal bulls, and then by the residential school system, needs to be restored. Under the current circumstances, when we are dealing with the climate emergency, we need to listen to the Indigenous peoples who are closely connected with nature and the earth, and have the key to fix the problem.

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