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Gurpreet Singh 

The troubles for the newly elected federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh aren’t over yet. His critics have now found a new weapon to beat him with. This time he has come under attack for not denouncing the alleged mastermind in the Air India bombings.  

The late Talwinder Singh Parmar was the leader of the banned Sikh extremist group Babbar Khalsa that is blamed for the June 23, 1985, Air India bombings that left 331 people dead. The incident followed ugly political events in India in 1984.

In June of that year, the Indian government ordered a military invasion of the Golden Temple Complex, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs in Amritsar in the northwestern Indian state of Punjab. "Operation Blue Star" was intended to flush out militants who had stockpiled weapons inside the place of worship.

The Indian army operation resulted in the loss of many innocent lives and damage to many important buildings inside the complex. The entire exercise was avoidable and alienated the Sikh community from the Indian mainstream.

There were angry protests in Vancouver. These developments culminated in the assassination of then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi at her residence in New Delhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Following her murder, her Congress party organized an anti-Sikh pogrom across the country. Thousands of Sikhs were slaughtered and Sikh women were gang raped as police remained mute spectators.  

A year later Air India Flight 182 was blown up above the Irish Sea, killing all 329 people aboard. Around the same time a blast at the Narita Airport in Tokyo left two baggage handlers dead. The investigators later found that the bombs used in the crime had originated from Vancouver International Airport. Police believed that these bombings were planned and executed by Babbar Khalsa to avenge the repression of Sikhs in India.

Babbar Khalsa wanted to create Khalistan—a separate Sikh homeland in Punjab. Parmar was a potential suspect in the conspiracy but was never convicted. A resident of Burnaby, he returned to India to continue his struggle for Khalistan when he died at the hands of Indian police in 1992 under mysterious circumstances.

It's believed that he was captured and tortured before being killed in a staged shootout. Two former suspects in the conspiracy, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, were charged but later acquitted. This came when the judge ruled that several Crown witnesses weren't credible and therefore the accused could not be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The bomb maker, Inderjit Singh Reyat, was the only one convicted and who has served time for Air India Flight 182 tragedy and the Narita episode.

Jagmeet Singh, who is a baptised Sikh MPP from Ontario, has raised the issue of 1984 Sikh genocide in the Ontario legislature. As a social justice activist in the past he has also been raising the issue of Sikh political prisoners. For his outspokenness on these inconvenient matters, the Indian government denied him a visitor's visa. Later during Singh's leadership campaign, those owing allegiance to the pro-India lobby had reportedly tried to discourage people within the South Asian community from donating money to his team or voting for him. 

Now that he has been elected NDP leader with a huge mandate, he is being attacked for something he is not even remotely associated with. It all started with his interview with CBC journalist Terry Milewski, who asked him whether he denounces Parmar, who is often glorified by the supporters of Khalistan as “martyr”.

Singh only said that he denounces violence against ordinary people and that he doesn’t know who is responsible for the bombings. He added, “I think we need to find out who’s responsible, we need to make sure that the investigation results in a conviction of someone who is actually responsible.”

Based on this conversation Milewski tweeted that the NDP leader declines to denounce the displaying of “martyr” posters of Air India bombers. Several pro-India commentators promptly picked up the issue and began accusing Singh of not being honest.

Throughout the leadership campaign, these commentators tried to force Singh to clarify his position on Khalistan. An India-based daily—Hindustan Times—published a misleading headline suggesting that Singh had in fact glorified Parmar, although he never did that. This was despite the fact that the HT story was based on his interview with Milewski.

Like it or not, a Sikh is being targeted mainly because of his race and religious belief.

He is a turbaned Sikh who has made a history after being elected as leader of a federal party of Canada. He was under constant attack from right-wing forces both in India and Canada. India is currently under a right-wing Hindu nationalist government whose supporters have been targeting him on social media. Similarly, white supremacists in Canada too have been targeting him. In one particular case, he was verbally attacked by a white woman.

It is completely unfair to drag him into the Air India story. This is obviously being done to silence him for raising the genuine issue of the 1984 massacres in India. Let’s face it, no justice was delivered to the sufferers of state-sponsored violence against the Sikhs.

On the contrary, those involved have enjoyed ministerial positions in India for several years. As against the 1984 tragedy, the alleged Air India mastermind was killed in a cold-blooded murder by the police. There has never been an instant justice for the victims of 1984. Hopefully, this stops the media commentators from equating the two different tragedies without going into the complexities of the Indian state and its justice system.

Besides, what many are not trying to understand is that Singh is a lawyer by profession and activist because of his strong belief in social justice. How can you expect a person like him to brand Parmar as somebody responsible for the Air India when he died without conviction and long before the Air India trial started?

Going by Singh's conversation with Milewski, it is very clear that he never glorified anyone. Rather, he denounced the Air India tragedy. Just because he did not answer a close-ended question of Milewski with a yes or no, does not make him guilty.

Also, there is a section of Sikh activists that strongly believes that the Air India bombings were part of a much larger conspiracy involving Indian intelligence agencies that wanted to discredit the Khalistan movement in Canada. Until now, the investigation remains inconclusive and there are no complete answers.

The killing of Parmar by the Indian police despite knowing about his alleged hand in the Air India bombings is seen as a cover-up by many. So it is understandable that Singh may not like to accept the version of the Air India story that is frequently offered by the governments of India and Canada. 

What we need to recognize is that there is a pattern behind tarnishing exceptional political figures like Singh, who stand up for human rights. Also we need to question the media industry in Canada and its commentators.

How many times are white politicians asked to clarify their position on white supremacy that continues to grow after the emergence of Donald Trump in U.S.? Why are only men like Singh are expected to prove all the time that they are good Canadians and could be better politicians than others?  

Yes, the glorification of Parmar or anyone involved in acts of violence against innocent people is wrong, but then what about the continued glorification of Nathuram Godse—a Hindu extremist who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in India? What about the mainstream Canadian and American politicians who remain silent to the acts of terrorism committed by white nationalists?

The whole situation reveals that the entire Sikh community remains under the microscope for an unholy act committed by a few people. Several years ago, a Sikh former MP, Gurmant Grewal, was also unfairly targeted by the mainstream media for handing over a personal package to a passenger boarding a flight at the airport. The Air India story and flight safety was dragged into the story merely because of his heritage.

The practice of trying to paint the whole community with one brush is offensive and racist and must stop. Politics over the Air India tragedy is completely unacceptable. If anyone owes answers for the tragedy, it's the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service for botched investigations or the Indian establishment that created the circumstances leading up to the incident. And, of course, those who were actually involved rather than Singh or Grewal. 

Let Singh focus on things that matter. There will be time when he will be held accountable if he fails to deliver on issues such as homelessness, economic inequality, climate change, electoral reform, health care and of course human rights and racism. After all, he is not going to represent only the Sikhs and other South Asian communities but the whole country. Instead of dragging him into unwanted controversies, he should be given a chance to fulfill his promises.

 
Gurpreet Singh is cofounder of Radical Desi magazine.

The spectacular victory of Punjab state Congress President in the Gurdaspur parliamentary by-election is a big jot to the advocates of cow politics across India. Sunil Jakhar defeated the BJP candidate Swaran Salaraia by a huge margin of 193, 219 votes. The by-election was caused by the death of sitting BJP MP Vinod Khanna – who represented the constituency for many years.   
 
Though Jakhar’s victory can be attributed to multiple factors, such as the infighting within the BJP in Gurdaspur or that his party rules the state and it is normal for a ruling party to win by-elections with the help of official machinery, but his victory at a time when cow vigilantism continues to grow under BJP government in the centre is particularly significant. Back in 2012 when Punjab was witnessing communal tension after carcasses of cows were found in a bone crushing mill in Joga, Jakhar had set a very different example by rising above competitive politics.
 
The then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal whose party Akali Dal remains a staunch ally of the BJP had asked the state legislature to prepare an obituary to the dead cows. At this Jakhar – who was the Congress Legislature Party leader urged that obituary references also be made to the migrant workers who were killed in a factory building collapse. In April that year 23 workers had died when a blanket manufacturing factory building had collapsed in Jalandhar. Jakhar had also stated that the obituary references to cows amounted to “mockery” of the state assembly.
 
Although it is hard to predict whether the result of Gurdaspur by-election will have any impact on the fate of the BJP in the forthcoming assembly elections or the next general election, Jakhar’s win signifies the victory of those who have been consistently raising voice against violence of cow vigilantes and their Hindutva agenda.
 
One can hope that Jakhar being in the parliament will be in a better position to oppose forcefully the cow vigilantism and provide a solid alternative to the communal BJP.  Yes, the Congress especially in Punjab needs to do more to win back the confidence of the Sikh minority which has a case against the party for its involvement in the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984, Jakhar’s progressive and secularist position on cow politics need to be recognized to underline people’s power to defeat nefarious designs of the sectarian forces through ballot.

Gurpreet Singh 

The nongovernmental organization Khalsa Aid is again in the news for organizing relief camps on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border to help Rohingya Muslim refugees. 

A U.K.-based international humanitarian relief organization, Khalsa Aid has been active since 1999. That's when the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Khalsa was celebrated across the world.

The Khalsa was an army of dedicated Sikhs raised by the tenth master of the Sikh faith, Guru Gobind Singh, to fight for social justice in what was then Moghul-ruled northern India. The Khalsa not only opposed repression by Islamic ruler on non Muslims, but also combatted caste-based discrimination within the Hindu community. 

 

Khalsa Aid is known for providing relief to the victims of wars and natural calamities anywhere in the world. 

The idea of helping anyone irrespective of one's race or religion is enshrined in the Sikh philosophy. The daily prayer of a devout Sikh ends with a call for the well-being of entire humankind.

Sikh scriptures include the hymns of saints belonging to different communities and castes from all over India. The foundation stone of the Golden Temple Complex—the holiest shrine of Sikhs in Amritsar—was laid by a Muslim saint, while the four gates of the temple symbolize that people from all four castes in Hindu society can come to pay obeisance.

Most importantly, the community kitchen at Sikh temples is open to everyone. 

One of the towering figures in Sikh history, Bhai Kanhayya, also inspires members of Khalsa Aid to be ready to help everyone in a catastrophic situation.

Bhai Kanhayya was a water bearer in Guru Gobind Singh's army. But during wars, he provided water to all the wounded and exhausted soldiers without discriminating between the members of his own army and those of the rival camp.

When this was brought to the knowledge of the Guru, he was so impressed that he asked Kanhayya to start applying balm to the wounded soldiers of both sides in future. 

It's unfortunate that Hindu extremists have started attacking the Khalsa Aid on social media. Rather than appreciating them for coming to the rescue of Rohangiya Muslims languishing in refugee camps, these Hindu extremists have begun slinging mud at its volunteers. 

The problem is that India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its supporters have already announced that India is not going to open its doors for the Rohangiya Muslims, who have been forced to flee from Myanmar because of persecution from Buddhist extremists and the army.

Certain BJP supporters have said that they are okay with Hindu refugees from Myanmar, but Muslims will have to leave.

Notably, Myanmar shares a very long border with India, which has provided refuge to many other communities, including Tibetan Buddhists, Pakistani Hindus, and Sri Lankan Tamils in the past.

But the BJP government is trying to create fear about Rohangiya Muslims by citing security reasons and characterizing helpless refugees as potential terrorists and illegal immigrants.

The BJP has always been known for its strong anti-Muslim bias and has been scapegoating this community to attract Hindu majority votes. 

Thus the trolling of Khalsa Aid on social media by the BJP supporters isn't surprising. In fact, the trend of trolling political critics and anybody who does not agree with the BJP has picked up in India ever since the party came to power with a brute majority in 2014.

Attacks on Muslims have also grown in the entire county since then. What is noteworthy is that these elements that claim to be the defenders of Hinduism and aspire to transform India into a Hindu nation are actually going against the values of Hindu religion that says that the whole world is one family.

By attacking Khalsa Aid and Rohangiya Muslims, they have shown that they not only lack humanity but are in fact the enemies of Hinduism. 

Khalsa Aid which has set a great example by displaying compassion and need our appreciation and not mudslinging. The world needs to learn from them on how to offer shelter and kindness to the victims of violence rather than abandoning them to their fate. 

 

 

Gurpreet Singh is cofounder of Radical Desi magazine.

 

 

Gurpreet Singh 

The election of Jagmeet Singh as federal NDP leader is not just his personal victory against heavy odds, but it also represents the defeat of right-wing forces both in Canada and India.


He took more than 50 percent of the votes in the first ballot, defeating Ontario MP and heavyweight rival Charlie Angus, who collected 12,705 votes. Manitoba MP Niki Ashton won 11,374 votes, whereas Quebec MP Guy Caron bagged only 6,164 votes.
Singh became the first turbaned Sikh leader of any major political party in Canada on Sunday (October 1) by grabbing 35,266 votes out of total 65,782 cast by NDP members across the country.

Singh, an Ontario MPP, is now a candidate for the post of prime minister. He made a history in a country where Sikhs and other South Asian communities were disfranchised in 1907.

Many political pundits were doubtful about the chances of Singh getting elected because of his religious background. Since the NDP relies heavily on labour unions, many were skeptical over him getting enough union support to win the leadership.

They speculated that Angus would take away most union members' votes. Others thought that Singh had no chance in Quebec where secularists won't vote for anyone with a strong religious identity.  Then there were those even within the NDP who thought that Canada is not ready yet to accept someone with a turban and facial hair as their future leader. In the end, Singh proved all the apprehensions wrong.

He has been working aggressively by criss-crossing Canada taking along not only his Sikh compatriots but also many others. After all, he had more endorsements than others in the race.

The growing momentum in favour of Singh has caused great anxiety among right-wing groups. There was a verbal attack on him at a public event by a white woman who is reportedly associated with an alt-right movement. He has been under attack from white nationalists on social media, too.

If this were not enough, right-wing forces in India and their apologists in Canada also tried to discredit Singh. He previously brought a motion in the Ontario legislature describing the anti-Sikh pogrom in India during 1984 as “genocide”.  Thousands of Sikhs were murdered following the assassination of the then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The political goons belonging to the slain leader’s Congress party organized violence against innocent Sikhs in different parts of India.

On another occasion, Singh raised the issue of political prisoners in India and also criticized the Indian government for growing violence against minorities and so-called untouchables under right-wing Hindu nationalist prime minister Narendra Modi. For these reasons, Singh was denied visa by the Indian government.

During his campaign those owing allegiance to the Indian establishment frequently tried to brand him as Sikh separatist and discouraged people within the South Asian community from donating money to his campaign or voting for him.

In spite of these challenges, Singh remained calm and focused on his election. His message that he believes in fair trade and not free trade resonated with people who have had enough of Trump or Modi. 

Singh’s wonderful victory raises hope for those who want the world to be free from bigotry and oppression. 

 
Gurpreet Singh is cofounder of Radical Desi magazine.

Gurpreet Singh 

If the attitude of the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India toward Rohingya refugees is any indication, it is repeating the history of the Komagata Maru

In 1914 the Japanese vessel carrying more than 300 South Asian passengers from India was forced by the Canadian government to leave from Vancouver's harbour and go back to British-ruled India.

The decision was made under a discriminatory immigration law that was passed to keep Canada as a white man's country. These passengers had come to Canada as British subjects to earn their livelihood and both India and Canada were under the British monarchy.

When the ship arrived, there was a widespread racist backlash from the media and right-wing politicians. Under pressure from the white nationalists, the ship was forcibly returned.

When the Komagata Maru reached India, British colonial police suspected that many of the passengers might have turned into subversives.

Officers tried to arrest them upon reaching near Calcutta, resulting in a scuffle between the police and the passengers, Police started shooting, which left several people dead on September 29, 1914.

Only last year did the Canadian government formally apologize in the House of Commons for this racist episode.

While the Komagata Maru tragedy remains etched in the collective memory of Indo Canadians, the government of India, the country where many of them were born, is taking its society backward.

Following large-scale violence by Buddhist extremists and the Myanmar army targeting the mainly Muslim Rohingyas, thousands of refugees are now seeking shelter in India on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. A minority of these refugee claimants are Hindus.

The refugee crisis was triggered by army repression following an attack by Rohingya militants seeking autonomy and citizenship rights for their people.

But the right wing BJP government of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not willing to accept them with open arms.

Some are raising security concerns, citing the Rohingya militancy that they claim might spill over to India if these refugees are admitted.

The more hawkish BJP supporters have gone to the extent of suggesting that only Hindu Rohingya refugees be allowed to stay and Muslims be sent back.

Such hateful statements are no different from messages directed at Komagata Maru passengers and other South Asian immigrants by white supremacists in Canada more than a century ago. Back then, they emphasized that immigration from  India would create problems.

They even threatened Edward Bird, a lawyer who defended the ship's passengers, much as the BJP supporters are attacking people on social media who are defending Rohingyas. 

Social justice activists within the Indo Canadian community cannot overlook this connection.

For those who care about the history of the Komagata Maru struggle it has become even more relevant today in the light of Rohingya refugee crisis.

It's not only the right wing government in India but Canada's Liberal government that also needs to be made accountable for what is happening in that part of the world where a section of the population has become stateless.

After all, Canada has given the leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, honorary citizenship for fighting against military regime in the past.

As she remains complicit in the crimes against Rohingyas, the Canadian government that claims to be a human rights leader in the world should take away her honorary citizenship. 

What binds Kyi with Modi and U.S. president Donald Trump is that they are all indulging in populist politics that survives on majoritarianism.

In the name of security, all three governments are scapegoating Muslims to polarize Buddhists, Hindus, and Christians, respectively.

If Trudeau is really sorry for what happened to the passengers of Komagata Maru 103 years ago, he should now stand up for Rohingyas, as he is the only hope in an international political world that's increasingly dominated by the extreme right. 

Gurpreet Singh is a broadcaster and the cofounder of Radical Desi magazine.

Suhi Saver, a Punjab based media outlet, has made history as the 
Zindabad Trust, started by world renowned author Arundhati Roy, honoured 
its founder Shiv Inder Singh with a financial assistance of Rs. 1,00,000.

Suhi Saver covers alternative politics in Punjab, and is known for its 
pro people journalism. The outlet survives on individual donations. 
Singh does not accept government ads or financial aid from big 
corporations or politicians.

Singh has widely covered issues that are generally ignored by the 
mainstream Punjabi media and has given voice to the oppressed and 
marginalized sections in the state and even outside Punjab. He was 
removed by Vancouver-based Red FM Radio because of his critical 
commentary against growing repression under the Modi government in 
India, although the latter deny the allegations.

Singh has interviewed number of social justice activists such as Seema 
Azad, Himanshu Kumar and others who have been hounded by the Indian 
state for standing up against repression. He also came to the rescue of 
a Dalit groom who was harassed by so-called “upper caste” goons in 
Haryana for mounting a horse cart during his marriage. He was 
instrumental in raising funds for him.

His activist wife Kavita Vidrohi is also well known for her advocacy for Dalits, minorities and women, and has been a big support to him. 

The Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's speech in Berkeley University has once again polarised the Hindu Right and so called secularists within Indian politics. Gandhi was in US to address the university students where he attacked the current right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He pointed out how sectarian violence and religious intolerance have grown under Modi administration. He also criticized other right wing policies of the government which have created economic inequality in the country. 
 
The leaders of the BJP government wasted no time and started counter attack against Gandhi for saying negative things about his own country during a foreign tour. 
Well, Gandhi did not do anything wrong. After all Modi himself has been saying certain negative things about India during his foreign tours in the past and whatever Gandhi said is already known to the world. 
 
The BJP will have to face the music for growing bigotry in India where minorities are under constant attacks from Hindu extremists who have become emboldened ever since Modi government came to power in 2014. 
 
However, little discussion is centred on the protest organised by Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) against Gandhi. The SFJ is a US-based advocacy group which has been campaigning for justice to the Sikhs who were targeted in a well orchestrated mob violence across India in 1984. The massacre followed the assassination of the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards who were enraged by the infamous military attack on the Golden Temple Complex- the holiest Sikh shrine in June that year. The army was ordered to invade the place of worship where the Sikh militants had stockpiled weapons. Shortly after her murder, the activists of Gandhi's secularist Congress party began mobilising mobs against Sikhs to avenge the death of the slain leader. 

Gandhi was the grandmother of Rahul whose father the late Rajiv Gandhi succeeded her as the next Prime Minister. He not only publicly justified the anti Sikh massacre, but also awarded those involved in the violence with ministerial positions in his government. Taking advantage of the anti Sikh wave he got elected with a brute majority and to appease Hindu majority brought a draconian anti terror law to deal with Sikh extremists. The law was widely misused against Sikhs in Punjab and other parts of India and the Sikh political activists were frequently abducted and killed by the police and security forces in staged shootouts in the name of war on terror. 

For these reasons the Sikh activists have always viewed the Gandhi family as their enemy. Notably, there has been no dignified closure or honest acknowledgement of the excesses committed against the Sikhs, leave alone the question of punishing the guilty of Sikh genocide. 

It is a separate matter that Rahul's mother Sonia Gandhi who happens to be the President of the Congress Party had given an opportunity to Dr. Manmohan Singh, a well known Sikh economist to lead the country as the Prime Minister when the Congress led coalition was running the previous government. Singh was the first turbaned Sikh to lead India. Yet, no justice was done to the families of the victims of 1984. 

At Berkeley Rahul Gandhi pulled no punches while criticising sectarian politics of the BJP government and even claimed to be sympathetic to the Sikh protesters but remained silent on the question of shielding the politicians involved in the massacre. So much so, he refused to answer a direct question on this that came from the floor after his speech. 

Though Gandhi is absolutely right about the alarming situation in India and did a great job by exposing the BJP government, he and his party have to come clean on 1984 to establish their secular credentials. He should have sat down with the protesters and listened to them. Even now he can ensure that his party makes a genuine official apology to the victims' families and provide all the evidence against several top notch Congress leaders to the investigating agencies so that justice could be served. If not then Congress has no moral right to condemn the BJP on the issue of religious intolerance. 

To prove itself to be a real secular alternative to the BJP, the Congress will have to walk extra miles to wipe away this blot. The secularist media and the parliamentary left who are also enamored by the Congress and continue to see it as a challenge to the BJP also have to be honest on the issue of 1984 if they really want to defeat the designs of the political forces that indulge in majoritarianism which is the root of sectarian violence in India. 

It is pertinent to mention that Modi government in Gujarat followed the same technique against the Muslims that was applied to target Sikhs in 2002. This was followed by the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. More than 50 people had died in the incident that was blamed on Muslim fundamentalists by the Modi government. As a result anti Muslim violence broke out in Gujarat. Human Rights activists believe that had justice been done to the victims of 1984, 2002 wouldn't have happened. Much like Rajiv Gandhi- Modi also used an anti minority wave to win another election in Gujarat with a thumping majority. 

These simple but inconvenient facts are enough to prove that Congress owes a much bigger moral responsibility to correct the historical wrongs to move ahead and lead a struggle for pluralist India. 
 

  • Gurpreet Singh 

The Rohingya refugee crisis has put the diversity of the word's so-called largest democracy to test. 

Persecuted by the Buddhist extremists and Myanmar army, thousands of Rohingyas are seeking refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh and India. 

Mostly Muslims and far fewer Hindus, these refugees are being subjected to what the UN's top human rights official has described as "ethnic cleansing". 

The Indian response to the situation has so far remained very negative. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently met the Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi—a long-time flag bearer of democracy who had fought against the military regime in her previous avatar—and did not raise the issue at all.

Aung San Suu Kyi too has come under criticism for remaining noncommittal on dealing with the issue in a rightful manner. So much so that she went to the extent of rationalizing the violence putting entire blame on Islamic extremists in the region.

The two leaders mostly spoke about enhancing cooperation in tackling with terrorism. The underlying message was how to fight together against Muslim extremism. 

The facts speak for themselves. While Myanmar is a Buddhist-dominated country, Hindus form the majority of India's population. Modi represents the right-wing Hindu Nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which is known for its strong anti-Muslim bias.

Notably, under Modi violence against minorities has grown. Muslims are mostly at the receiving end of the attacks by BJP supporters who wish to see India transformed into a Hindu theocracy. 

Much like Islamic activists In Myanmar are fighting for autonomy and citizenship rights, Muslims in Indian Kashmir are fighting for the right to self-determination. In both cases their resistance is met by brutal state violence and often ordinary Muslims are made to pay the price. 

The emergence of the threat of Islamic extremism, both real and imaginary, has made it easier for Modi and Myanmar to scapegoat all Muslims for their political survival in majoritarian democracies. 

In the meantime, Modi supporters have started shouting that India should send the Rohangiya Muslims back to Myanmar. Some have shamelessly suggested that only Hindu refugees be allowed to stay in India whereas Muslims should be forced to return. The argument being given by them is "security concerns", as if only Muslims indulge in terrorism and violence while the rest of the communities are peaceful. 

From the overall response of the Indian state, it appears that it has buckled under pressure from the Hindu right. 

It isn't the first time that India is facing such situation. In the past India had opened its doors to Tibetan refugees, Hindus migrating from Muslim-dominated Pakistan, and Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka during armed conflict between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil separatists. 

The anti-Rohingya rhetoric is part of the larger design to keep India as an exclusionary Hindu state. This not only goes against the spirit of India that has always been known for its openness and pluralism, but also the values of Hinduism that is based on this principle: the whole earth is one family. 

On one hand, the BJP wants to recreate Ram Rajya—or the rule of Lord Rama, one of the most revered gods whose kingdom was kind to those who came into its refuge—while on the other it is trying to raise walls against those who are trying to escape tyranny.  

We all know what Modi and his party stand for. It is entirely up to him now to prove his critics wrong and let the Rohingyas stay in India till the peace returns.

 
Gurpreet Singh is a broadcaster and the cofounder of Radical Desi magazine. 

 

Gurpreet Singh 

While progressive forces in the South Asian community were gearing up to celebrate the birth anniversary of Paash—a revolutionary Punjabi poet—on September 9, news of the assassination of journalist Gauri Lankesh shook everyone to the core.

Paash was a byproduct of the late 1960s radical communist campaign known as the "Naxalite" movement that united oppressed communities and the working class in India. He was at the forefront of many people's struggles and captured the literary landscape of Punjab due to his fiery poetry, which had a strong mass appeal because of its rebellious content.

Born on September 9, 1950, as Avtar Sandhu, Paash chose his pen name after Paasha (a.k.a. Pavel), the hero of The Mother, a famous novel by Maxim Gorky. 

Paash challenged not only the Indian state through his poems, but also wrote against both Hindu and Sikh fundamentalism. The emergence of the Hindu right and Sikh fanaticism during the 1980s vitiated the social environment of Punjab. While Sikh extremists were seeking a separate homeland of Khalistan, an imaginary country to be carved out of India, Hindu fundamentalists terrorized Sikhs and other minority groups across India in order to establish a Hindu nation.

Sensing that this would lead to another religious partition of India—like in 1947 that resulted in separation of Muslim Pakistan and large-scale sectarian violence—Paash formed Anti 47 Front. He pulled no punches while condemning the reactionary forces of any stripe.

As a result, the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF), which was involved in an armed insurgency in Punjab, assassinated him in 1988.

The KCF took responsibility of murdering him and other communist activists in the state for their opposition to the movement for Khalistan. The organization justified the action by branding Paash as "anti Sikh". 

Many supporters of Khalistan continue to malign him on social media and deny their hand in his murder. They claim that Paash might have been killed for personal and not political reasons. 

It is pertinent to mention here that Hindu nationalists too have problem with the writings of Paash. The ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has tried to ban his poetry in educational institutions. 

Now let's fastforward to 2017. On September 5, journalist Gauri Lankesh was murdered in the southern state of Karnataka by unknown assailants. 

Much like Paash, Lankesh was also a vocal critic of religious fanaticism. She consistently wrote against the growing threat of Hindu extremism under a right wing BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Lankesh had been receiving death threats and as soon as the news of her murder came, the supporters of Modi began celebrating her death on social media. Not only did some try to rationalize her killing but they also tried to prove that she might have been killed for nonpolitical reasons.

Apart from these two individuals, there were many more free thinkers and writers who have been killed in India over all these years. While there are many similarities between the killings of Paash and Lankesh and the reaction that followed, the Indian state handled the two situations very differently.

Khalistani extremists who claim to be the defenders of the minority Sikh community were frequently killed in staged police shootouts. The Indian authorities duly rewarded the police for eliminating them in the name of "national interest".

The killers of Paash and other writers like him in Punjab were punished by using extrajudicial means in the name of peace. But that has never been the case with the Hindu right extremists. Rather, those indulging in the killings and bombings in the name of a Hindu nation continue to enjoy the state's patronage.

Unsurprisingly under Modi government, they have become emboldened. So much so, some trolls on social media who've been using filthy language against Lankesh after her murder were being followed by Modi. 

There seems to be a complete lack of political will to arrest such elements, let alone have them punished. A case in point is that of Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit, a serving army officer who was arrested for being a part of Hindu supremacist group that has been targeting Muslims through bomb blasts.

Only recently he was released on bail and was reinstated on the job even before the court could give its final verdict in the case.   

This reflects badly on a state whose constitution guarantees equal treatment to all religious communities. If India is truly a pluralist and diverse nation then  it must under all circumstances treat extremists of both the minority and the majority communities alike.

Those who keep boasting over the restoration of peace in Punjab and ending the Sikh militancy with an iron fist owe an explanation why the Hindu extremists are not being dealt with firmly when they too are posing a threat to the unity and diversity of the country. Such tendencies only show that India is increasingly becoming a Hindu theocracy in spite of its official mandate to remain secular. 

 
Gurpreet Singh is cofounder of Radical Desi magazine.

Radical Desi is delighted to announce that it has presented Life Time Achievement Award to David Barsamian – a US based journalist for giving voice through alternative media to the oppressed communities and those fighting against repression at an event held at SFU Harbour Center on Friday evening.
Those who presented the award to Barsamian included Chinmoy Banerjee, Parshotam Dosanjh and Gurpreet Singh, all founders of Radical Desi publications that covers alternative politics.

The Indian government continues to deny visa to seventy-two-year-old Barsamian for the past seven years. He was forced to return from Delhi Airport by the world’s so called largest democracy in 2011. His only fault is that he has been writing against the repression of Adivasis or the indigenous peoples of India and also the people of Kashmir.

Barsamian had recently appealed to the Indian Foreign Affairs’ Minister Shushma Swaraj to let him visit India to see his ailing guru. Though Swaraj is known for promptly responding to the people who approach her through social media, Barsamian’s appeal has gone unheeded.

Barsamian was here on the invitation of South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD) to give a presentation on the emergence of right wing leaders like Modi and Trump. The event began with a moment of silence for Gauri Lankesh who was recently murdered in India. Like Barsamina, Lankesh was also a courageous journalist who was a vocal critic of the Hindu Right.

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