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

Singh vs. Gabbard. Indians double speak on Jagmeet Singh needs to be challenged Featured

 

Gurpreet Singh

 

As the federal Election Day gets closer, the surge in popularity of New Democratic leader Jagmeet Singh following political debates is giving anxiety to the Indian establishment and its apologists within the South Asian Diaspora in Canada.

The Indian state sees Singh - the first turbaned Sikh leader of any national party in Canada - as a threat to its sovereignty.

Ever since Singh ran for the leadership, the Indian agents in Canada have been trying hard to get him defeated. Now when the polls are suggesting that the election might result in a minority Liberal government with the balance of power coming into the hands of New Democrats, they will apply every tool in their tool box to bring Conservatives to power through their supporters in predominantly South Asian ridings.    

The reason for their hostility toward Singh is rooted in his campaign for justice to 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 in the first week of November 1984. The massacre was engineered by supporters of the slain leader with the help of police. For years, the Sikh Diaspora has been fighting for justice and closure. Because Singh had vehemently participated in the campaign as an MPP in Ontario, the Indian government declined to give him visa to visit the home country of his parents.

The matter did not end there, as Singh remains critical of human rights abuses in India. He refused to meet the current right wing Hindu nationalist Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visited Canada in 2015. 

Modi was complicit in the anti-Muslim massacre of Gujarat in 2002, when he was the Chief Minister of the state. The violence followed the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. Over 50 people died in the incident, which was instantly blamed on Muslims by Modi,  even though one commission of inquiry found that it was an accident.  

Recently, Singh came out with a strong statement against repression of Muslims in Indian-occupied Kashmir.      

For this, the pro-India lobby has repeatedly branded him as a Sikh separatist. This may be partly because he endorses the right to self-determination by all minorities and oppressed groups anywhere in the world.  

Unfortunately, this narrative has not only been accepted by the right wing Hindu nationalists in Canada, but also by a section of pro-India leftists. They have decided not to support him in the election, which is obviously going to help Conservatives and to some extent the Liberals. It is a separate matter that the Indian government is also suspicious of the ruling Liberals, who have been often accused of pandering Sikh separatists in Canada by the Indian politicians.

For the record, Conservatives have a cozy relationship with Modi, who they see as a strong ideological ally in India.  

It’s a shame that the Indian establishment has stooped to such a level and isn’t willing to respect the mandate of Canadian citizens. At the same time, they are patronizing political figures like Tulsi Gabbard across the border, a Democrat who is seeking to run for US President. Many of her positions in terms of domestic politics are seen as progressive, but her allegiance to the Hindu Right in India has never come into question. 

A practising Hindu, Gabbard is a staunch supporter of Modi and has gone to the extent of justifying violence against Muslims in Gujarat. When Modi was denied visa by the US government because of his involvement in the pogrom, Gabbard came to his rescue. So much so, she has been supported both financially and politically by the followers of a powerful Hindu supremacist organization, the Rashtriya Sawayamsewak Sangh (RSS) of which Modi is a part. 

Recently, Gabbard had tried to rationalise the repression of Muslims in Kashmir. A senior RSS leader attended her wedding a few years ago and brought with him a personal message from Modi, with one Indian diplomat being present.

If the Indian government can give protocol and respect to such a divisive political figure in US, why is Singh being ostracised? Singh too is of Indian origin, and an elected official who could be a future leader of Canada. He has every right to see things differently. If Gabbard can be pardoned for being supportive of an ideology that is blatantly racist, why not forgive Singh who has only been asking for justice?     

Consider some of these contrasting headlines from the Indian press used for the two leaders to understand this hypocrisy:  

Jagmeet Singh’s rise in Canadian politics could be of concern in India;  Jagmeet Singh faces criticism for pushing Canada’s parliament to give ‘genocide’ tag to 1984 riots etc. versus Tulsi Gabbard could be first Hindu to run for US presidency in 2020; Tulsi Gabbard, 1st Hindu-American to run for US president. 

Like it or not, this prejudice has a lot to do with the fact that Singh belongs to a merely two percent minority community of India, whereas Gabbard is the poster girl of the Hindu Right. This showcases how India remains a majoritarian Hindu state under the garb of secularism and democracy. It’s time to defeat the nefarious designs of RSS and its followers in Canada on election day by giving Singh every support he deserves. This is not to suggest to support him blindly, but at least be considerate about the inconvenient truth of him being a marked man. It remains important to recognize that he is a victim of foreign interference because of his identity and political beliefs. 

 

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