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South Asian seniors residing at Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS) Assisted Living care home in Surrey have joined the chorus in support of physically challenged Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba. 

Wheelchair-bound Saibaba, who is ninety percent disabled below the waist, continues to serve a life term in the Maharashtra jail in India.

Convicted for being an alleged supporter of Maoist insurgents, Saibaba has been in the forefront of campaigns against repression of tribal people. His supporters believe that he is being punished for standing up for the underdog and raising his voice against the extraction industry and the Indian government, who are determined to evict tribal people from their traditional lands to take control over natural resources.

Almost 1,000 people in Canada have already signed a petition seeking his release on compassionate grounds.

On Monday, April 9, dozens of seniors with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs, were apprised by the team of Radical Desi about the situation of Saibaba, whose health continues to deteriorate in jail. 

This was followed by a question and answer session, after which the majority of participants agreed that Saibaba is being persecuted and should be released on humanitarian grounds. They held together signs with letters, “FREE SAIBABA” to show their support to the family of the interned professor.     

Saroj Sood, the president of the group of seniors living at the PICS care home, said that the Indian government must listen to those who want Saibaba to be released, and stop torturing a helpless man. She expressed her outrage at the fact that people like Saibaba are being forced to suffer such inhuman conditions.

A visiting social justice activist from India, Buta Singh, who has been consistently raising the issue of Saibaba, and veteran communist activist Harjit Daudhria were also in attendance. 



Dalit activists held a demonstration in solidarity with the organizers of an April 2 Bharat Bandh in India, at Holland Park in Surrey on Sunday afternoon, April 1.  

Braving cold weather, more than two dozen people showed up at the rally, held under the aegis of Ambedkar International Social Reform Organization (AISRO) of Canada.

AISRO has intensified its activities over the past several months against the growing atrocities on Dalits or so-called untouchables under the right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government in India. The Sunday rally was against the latest attempts to scrap the laws that were adopted to prevent violence against Dalits.

The participants carried placards and raised slogans against the BJP and the RSS.  They also announced their unconditional support to the organizers of Bharat Bandh in India and resolved to send funds to strengthen the movement back home. They were unanimous in their criticism of spiralling attacks on other minority communities in India under the BJP rule. 

Among the speakers were the AISRO cofounders Ratan Paul, Surinder Singh Sandhu and Rashpal Singh Bhardwaj, besides former Ravidas Gurdwara President Amarjit Leahl and Indian Rationalist Society leader Avtar Gill. Members of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India, Parshotam Dosanjh and Gurpreet Singh, also attended the rally to show their support.  



If recent developments in Canada are any indication, white supremacy is on the rise in this country.


Members of the alt-right group Soldiers of Odin disrupted the annual International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination March, held on Saturday at Thornton Park in Vancouver. 


This was the second year in a row that the white nationalists disrupted the annual march in the presence of the police.


The Coalition Against Bigotry, one of the organizers of the annual march, has complained that laxity of the police is giving legitimacy to such groups. Last year, the same group tried to take over the center stage of the event while the police looked on.


Some witnesses claim that at least 14 members of the Soldiers of Odin came to disrupt the march this year.


The organizers feel that Canadian politicians and the police have failed to check the growing activities of white supremacists ever since the election of Donald Trump as US President.


Statistics Canada has already noticed a spike in hate crimes across BC.  


If this was not enough, a Sikh man was attacked in Ottawa last Friday. The two white men involved in the incident stole his turban and hurled racial abuses at him. The attackers also stole his wallet and bus pass.


In the meantime, the suspect in last year’s Quebec mosque shooting that left six people dead has pleaded not guilty. Alexandre Bissonnette, who was a supporter of far right leaders, including Trump is facing six first degree murder charges. 




Facebook has blocked Punjab-based Suhi Sahver, a website that covers alternative politics, allegedly under pressure from supporters of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

Its publisher and editor, Shiv Inder Singh, is a critic of religious fanaticism and is known for his progressive and secular views.

He earlier used to give daily updates to a Vancouver-based Punjabi radio station, which also terminated his services, reportedly under pressure from the pro-BJP lobby.

A few days ago, Singh noticed that Facebook had stopped displaying posts from Suhi Saver. The provocation appears to be the publication of a Punjabi translation of an article by Vancouver-based journalist Gurpreet Singh.

The article was critical of the growing media censorship under the BJP government. Though it was posted by two English-language websites, Suhi Saver was the first Punjabi website to publish its Punjabi version. After Singh was unable to share it on Facebook, he noticed that many other Suhi Saver articles had also disappeared from the social media platform. He later found that this was done following complaints against his website, possibly from BJP supporters who have a very powerful IT cell. Singh says that he was falsely accused of spreading hatred, and wasn’t given an opportunity to explain his side of the story.  

Many of his followers on social media have condemned Facebook's action and have shown their solidarity with him.



The exoneration by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, of six Indigenous Chiefs executed by the colonial government more than 150 years ago, should be followed by a similar move to right the historical wrong of hanging South Asian political activist Mewa Singh. 

Singh was executed in 1915 for assassinating controversial Immigration Inspector William Hopkinson. He was the first Sikh activist to be hanged on Canadian soil for a political murder.

On Monday, Trudeau made a statement in the House of Commons absolving the Tsilhqot’in chiefs, who were hanged for the killings of fourteen white road construction workers during the Chilcotin War of 1864, which was precipitated by the settlers who came in for gold and gave no consideration to the rights of the Chilcotin people.

During this time, not only did the settlers try to build a road into their traditional territory without consent, they also raped indigenous women.

Following the killings, five Indigenous Chiefs were tricked into peace talks, but were arrested and hanged, despite their legal argument that as a sovereign nation, they were engaged in a war against invaders. The sixth chief was executed much later.    

Trudeau acknowledged that these Chiefs had acted as leaders of a proud and independent nation facing the threat of another nation.

So much so, Conservative MP Cathy McLeod, who is the opposition critic for Indigenous affairs, admitted that the six chiefs did what anyone would have done under similar circumstances to defend their rights.

In the light of Monday’s development, Canada should think of absolving Singh and recognize that what he did wasn’t a crime motivated by any personal motive or greed.

Singh was one of those South Asians who had started arriving to British Columbia by the late 1800s to earn a better livelihood. This was a time when India and British Columbia shared a history of British colonialism.

The British occupation of India had made lives of ordinary people in that part of the world miserable. Since the British Empire claimed that it treated its subjects fairly, many Punjabi Sikh immigrants emigrated to British Columbia in search of greener pastures. However, upon reaching here they had to face racial hostilities. They were not allowed to bring their families and were disfranchised in 1907. All this was done to discourage them from permanent settlement as the government wanted to keep Canada as a "white man’s country". 

The South Asian community elders realized that they were being treated with contempt only because their home country wasn’t free. Thus began struggles against colonialism back home, and racism abroad. Under these circumstances, the South Asian political activists started getting organized. Since a majority of them were the Sikhs, they built a gurdwara under the aegis of Khalsa Diwan Society. The temple provided a religious space, but also became a centre of political activism. Singh, who was a devout Sikh, was among those who collected donations for the first gurdwara in Vancouver. He later became involved in political actions.   

The turning point came in 1914 when the Komagata Maru was forcibly returned by the Canadian government under a discriminatory immigration law. The Japanese vessel carrying more than 300 South Asian passengers was forced to leave under the shadow of guns on July 23, 1914, after remaining stranded at sea in the Vancouver harbour for two months. This incident had galvanized the freedom movement in India.

Trudeau has already made an official apology for the Komagata Maru episode in the House of Commons.

The incident had started a bloody fight within the South Asian community, which was divided in two camps, one led by the radical activists and the other patronized by Hopkinson. The latter camp was a group of spies who often intimidated activists in the South Asian community. Through this network of moles in the community, Hopkinson was gathering secret information about political activists and sending it to the British Indian government. He had previously served in India and was sent here on purpose. 

In the month of September, 1914, Hopkinson’s agent Bela Singh went into the gurdwara and shot two political activists to death - Bhaag Singh and Badan Singh. This act of sacrilege and blatant racism turned Singh into an assassin. He fatally shot Hopkinson at the Vancouver courthouse where the latter had gone to testify for Bela Singh who faced jury trial. Singh did not escape from the scene and courted arrest. He also decided against pleading not guilty in the court and took sole responsibility of the murder. His statement gives us an idea that he was willing to face death with courage and had no regret for his action, which was the result of racism and mistreatment of the South Asian immigrants in Vancouver. He chanted prayers when he was being taken to the gallows on the morning of January 11, 1915.

Undoubtedly, the murder of Hopkinson was the culmination of British colonialism and systemic racism. If Canada really cares for reconciliation then it must accept this reality and absolve Singh of criminal charges. But what is more important than these symbolic gestures is that Canada should address real issues, like growing white supremacy in our communities, honest nation to nation consultations with the indigenous groups before making any decision about pushing controversial projects, such as Kinder Morgan pipelines or Site C Dam into their territories, a meaningful investigation into the tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women, and making environment safe for refugees and immigrants. 

In the meantime, Radical Desi has launched an online petition seeking exoneration of Mewa Singh. Anyone interested to sign can go to “Hey Canada Exonerate Bhai Mewa Singh" at Change.org.


South Asian activists gathered at Holland Park in Surrey on the evening of Tuesday, March 20 to mark the 18th anniversary of Chittisinghpura massacre and subsequent incidents of state violence in Indian Kashmir.

36 Sikhs were massacred in the village of Chittisinghpura on March 20, 2000 close to then-US President Bill Clinton’s visit to India. The assailants wore Indian army uniforms. They lined up Sikhs from the village and shot them to death. Although the incident was blamed on the Pakistan-based Islamic extremists by the Indian government, many believe that this was a handiwork of either Indian forces or the Hindutva extremists operating as state sponsored vigilantes in the disputed territory where an armed insurgency has been going on for years.

One faction of insurgents wants complete independence, while the other wants Kashmir to be merged with Muslim-dominated Pakistan. Under immense pressure to solve the case, the Indian army later apprehended five Kashmiris and eliminated them in a staged shooting in Pathribal area. The army claimed that the dead men were foreign militants who died in an exchange of fire, while the families of those killed maintained that they were locals and were picked up by the army before the alleged shootout. People protested for an investigation into the incident, but the security forces killed nine more people in firing on the demonstrators in Barakpora.

Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) held the rally, lighting 50 candles in memory of all the victims, including those killed in Pathribal and Barakpora. The placards carried by the participants asked for Justice for Chittisinghpura and the incidents that followed the massacre.

Women and children were among those in attendance.

The speakers were unanimous in their criticism of the Indian authorities and demanded an independent inquiry by international agencies. There was a general agreement among those who addressed the gathering that a needle of suspicion points at the involvement of “inside forces” as the later incidents indicate “cover up”.

Those who spoke on the occasion included Gian Singh Gill, the Spokesman of Gurdwara; Dashmesh Darbar, a veteran Sikh activist who has been consistently raising the issue of 1984 anti-Sikh massacre; Barjinder Singh, a visiting leftist activist from India; Sardara Singh Mahil, independent social justice activist; Gurmukh Deol, a Sikh activist from Kashmir; Nirmal Singh; and local Sikh activists Kesar Singh Baghi and Kulwinder Singh. IAPI cofounder Gurpreet Singh also spoke at the event, which began with a moment of silence for 39 Indian migrants abducted and killed by Islamic State in Iraq.

None of the South Asian MPs from Surrey showed up in spite of having been invited by the organizers.


The recent incidents of vandalizing of the statues of Vladimir Lenin in India by supporters of the BJP government have made the book on the towering leader of Bolshevik revolution more relevant.

"Reminiscences of Lenin" is a memoir of Clara Zetkin, a German political activist, based on her interactions with an icon of the communist movement. The towering Indian revolutionary Bhagat Singh, who was hanged on March 23, 1931 for killing a British police officer, was reading this book before being taken to the gallows.

Republished by Jalandhar-based Universe Publications, Reminiscences of Lenin gives us an idea how Lenin had influenced the freedom movement in India. Universe Publications is run by a dedicated researcher of radical history, Sita Ram Bansal.  

Jagmohan Singh, a well-known social justice activist and nephew of Bhagat Singh, was instrumental in finding the copy of the book that was first published in 1929 by Modern Books Ltd, in London. Bhagat Singh was always interested in personal traits that enabled one to carry forward revolutionary tasks, Jagmohan Singh writes in the introductory note.

The book brings to life the portrait of Lenin as a humble leader who always had an ear for the masses and who had given hope for liberation to the oppressed nations, including India, by leading the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. He had a dream to educate and enlighten society and free them from illiteracy and superstition. Unlike the BJP leaders who continue to promote bigotry and blind faith and attack art, Lenin created a free atmosphere for artists and cultural activism. “I have courage to show myself a barbarian”, he told Clara during a conversation on literacy and art in Bolshevik Russia.   

Lenin stood for values that are despised by the Hindu Right under BJP. Rather than learning from Lenin and acknowledging the role he played in inspiring the revolutionaries who died fighting for India’s freedom, the BJP supporters are recklessly trying to destroy Leninism by targeting his statues, without realizing that Lenin is beyond these icons and continues to rule the hearts of the people everywhere. You can break his statues in pieces, but you cannot kill Lenin, who symbolizes an ideology that is much greater in size than the politics of hate preached and practiced by the BJP.




The recent incidents of vandalism targeting the statues of Vladimir Lenin - a towering Communist leader of the Bolshevik revolution - in India by supporters of the ruling Hindu right wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have captured international headlines.

This followed the defeat of the Marxists in the recently held assembly elections in Tripura state, where the Communists were in power for the past 25 years. Though outgoing Chief Minister Manik Sarkar was known for his integrity and secularism, he was unseated in the election that resulted into the victory of the BJP led coalition which won 43 out 59 seats in the legislature, ending the communist rule.

Not only did mobs of BJP supporters pull down two statues of Lenin in the state, some BJP leaders took to social media to applaud these acts of vandalism.

In Belonia town, one of the two statues was brought down with the help of an excavator. While this was being done, the miscreants chanted a patriotic slogan, “Long Live Mother India.” As the statue fell, its head was dismembered from the body.  A Marxist activist alleged that the BJP supporters were seen playing football with it.

One of the local BJP leaders claimed that this was the result of people's anger with the left government. Describing Lenin as a “foreigner”, who according to him, had nothing to do with the native population, he questioned why was the statue built with taxpayers’ money?

Some senior BJP leaders went to the extent of welcoming these incidents unashamedly. Not to be left behind, Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy tweeted: “What one democratically elected government can do, another democratically elected government can undo. And vice versa.” This is despite the fact that he holds a constitutional post. Yet, he is known for his political affiliations with the BJP.

Another BJP leader H. Raja posted on Facebook: "Who is Lenin and what is the connection between Lenin and India? What connection India has with Communists?”


The entire episode obviously reflects very badly on the BJP, which has shown its true colours of being intolerant. But this also shows the hollowness of its so called nationalism and disconnect with the freedom movement. 


India, which remained under British occupation for almost two hundred years, was liberated by the efforts of both pacifist and revolutionary freedom fighters. The founding fathers of the ideology of Hindu India, which is greatly cherished by the BJP, remained away from both camps. With an aim to establish Hindu theocracy, they either openly or discreetly served the interests of the British rulers. 


Instead, the Hindu extremists who are often glorified by many BJP leaders, were involved in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi – the world renowned leader of the passive resistance movement. He was murdered for standing up against Hindu zealots who terrorised Muslims and treated “low caste” people as untouchables. 


Contrary to these enemies within, Lenin became a guiding light for the Indian revolutionaries who were invited to Bolshevik Russia to learn how to liberate their motherland by organizing mass movements. He stood for the Indians who were fighting for the right to self-determination.


The BJP is trying to impose its own brand of patriotism, while doing nothing but scapegoating minorities, both cultural (read Muslims, Christians and other minority communities) and ideological (read left and secular parties) to polarize Hindu majority for political survival. Lenin is just one soft target they have picked to create divisions and re-frame the narrative of domestic nationalism. Every Indian should be indebted to Lenin for standing up for those who actually fought for our freedom rather than falling into the trap of the defenders of Hindu India, something that was strongly despised by Gandhi and the revolutionaries who fought for a secular republic which had no place for bigotry. What we need to recognize in these difficult times is the beauty of Lenin's internationalism, which can truly save humanity from falling apart, and bringing all of us together while at the same time embracing all nationalities without any malice or discrimination.   



The Georgia Straight Editor Charlie Smith and anti-racism educationist and activist Alan Dutton were honoured for standing up against white supremacy at the fourth annual Raise Your Hands Against Racism (RYHAR) campaign event held in Vancouver on Saturday afternoon.

Launched by Spice Radio 1200 AM in 2015, the RYHAR encourages people to celebrate Holi – a Hindu festival of colours - and make a statement against racism. 

As part of this campaign, Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt and her team honour individuals who stand up against hate every year. This year, Smith and Dutton were picked for challenging white supremacy.

While Smith has been consistently writing against racism, Dutton has been on the frontlines of many anti-racism campaigns for which he has been receiving death threats from the white nationalists. Smith too had faced a racist backlash for advocating for the rights of visible minorities through his editorials.

University of British Columbia professor Dr. Sunera Thobani presented the first award to Smith. Dr. Thobani was honoured by Spice Radio last year for challenging Islamophobia. She had received many hate messages for questioning the racist policies of the US that led to the 9/11 attacks.   

Datt had presented the very first annual award to senior Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer Baltej Singh Dhillon in 2016. Dhillon, who was the first turbaned Sikh officer to be recruited by the RCMP, had faced a hostile campaign both inside and outside the force.

BC Premier John Horgan also became part of this initiative by posting his picture with hand raised against racism on social media. A message from his office was read out by Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh at the event held at Roundhouse Community Centre.  Singh has been instrumental in organizing anti-racism events in Surrey and is very vocal on these issues. Minister Bruce Ralston was also in attendance.  

The event that invited people who dipped their hands in colour and left their hand prints on a white paper along with statements against racism was opened by Cecilia Point, Indigenous activist from Musqueam Band, with a traditional song to recognize that Canada was built as a nation state on the lands belonging to the First Nations. 

Another indigenous activist associated with BC Federation of Labour, Joyce Galuska, also addressed the gathering. Galuska had started a letter writing campaign asking the Canadian government to launch a national inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women.

Dr. Arun Garg, an authority on Hindu religion, told the gathering about the significance of Holi, which encourages people to bury their prejudices and differences and come together and throw colours at each other to become one.

Spice Radio News Director Safeeya Pirani introduced the gathering to budding newscaster Sohila Sethi, who is being groomed by Pirani as part of her initiative to train child news reporters.

Raya Arya, a young animal rights activist, also spoke on theoccasion and encouraged people to give up meat eating and respect other species on earth as well. 

Team Shiamak and South Asian Arts Society also performed at the event.

Another RYHAR event was simultaneously held at Surrey North Recreational Center that also received a huge response. Minister Jinny Sims was among those who showed up in Surrey.  

Renowned Punjabi director Gurvinder Singh says that his film based on the Sikh militancy that engulfed his home state during the 1980s is still relevant, considering growing attacks on religious minorities under a right-wing Hindu nationalist government in India.

Singh, who is currently visiting Vancouver, told RDNB that it is important to remember history and learn from it. He feels that nothing has really changed since the Sikh insurrection ended, as the cycle of violence continues to be repeated. Chauthi Koot screened at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and won the Silver Screen Award at the Singapore International Film Festival later that year. 

“Earlier, the Sikhs were being targeted during militancy in 1980s in the name of war against terror," Singh said. "Today, other minority communities, such as Muslims, Dalits (so-called untouchables), tribals, Kashmiris, and northeasterners are being attacked by the state.”

Chauthi Koot is based on two short stories, "The Fourth Direction" and "I Am Feeling Fine Now", by Toronto-based writer Waryam Singh Sandhu.

They focus on the sufferings of Hindus and Sikhs during the Sikh separatist movement that started in the 1980s and ended in the 1990s. Sandhu has been critical of both Sikh extremists and the Indian state for using repressive measures to crush the movement.

Singh believes that state violence and violence by extremists outside the mainstream cannot be equated.

“The state should not use violence as a tool," he said. "If the state becomes repressive, it won’t be able to break the cycle of violence.”  

Singh was 10 years old during an anti-Sikh massacre in India in 1984 following the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

The bloodshed was organized by supporters of the slain leader’s ruling Congress party with the help of police.

Born and raised in a Sikh family in Delhi, Singh remembers being protected at the time by Hindu neighbours.

“From inside the confines of our home I witnessed a gurdwara being burned by the mobs,” he stated. “It was like a virtual house arrest as we couldn’t step out and connect with our relatives."

Singh said those impressions from childhood have been hard to forget and impacted him on a subconscious level, motivating him to make a film on such a sensitive subject.

He does not agree with those who keep suggesting that the events of 1984 should be forgotten.

“We definitely need to move on, but must not forget the history.”

His second film, Anhe Godhe Da Daan, deals with caste-based discrimination in Punjab, which he said also needs to be addressed.

The film is based on a novel by award-winning author Gurdial Singh, and reveals the plight of Dalit Sikhs. Anhe Godhe Da Daan received several national awards in India.

Even as Sikhism denounces the caste system, discrimination still prevails within the community against those looked down upon as untouchable in Hinduism.

Singh said that he was disturbed to discover how deeply entrenched the caste system is, even among followers of a very modern and progressive religion.

“By simply assuming that caste system does not exist in the Sikh community, you cannot have a debate on the subject.”

Singh purposely chose Dalit actors for the film so that they could truly connect themselves with the script.

“Only those who have Dalit blood in the veins can understand what it means to be a Dalit.”

Singh initially wanted to be a photojournalist and has consistently followed news and politics. This might explain why he picked inconvenient and controversial subjects for his films.

Even otherwise, he is pained by popular cinema and its impact on society.

For example, he feels that the attention generated by the recent death of Bollywood star Sridevi is not matched when it comes to the deaths of children in Syria and other conflict zones.

“The filmmakers have a responsibility to tell the truth rather than suppressing it,” Singh insisted.

Singh also touched upon the growing penetration of Hindu nationalists in India's educational bodies.

He's an alumni of the Pune-based Film and Television Institute of India. It was in the news after the ruling Hindu Nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) appointed one of its supporters as the chair. This sparked angry protests from students.

Singh believes that there's a trend in the BJP trying to Hinduize such bodies across India by appointing its hand-picked persons. He pointed out that such interference has led to confrontations between left-wing and right-wing student groups in many universities.

This has further complicated the situation, which has already deteriorated as a result of violent attacks on minority communities.

Gurvinder Singh is in Vancouver on the invitation of UBC's Department of Asian Studies. His first film, Anhe Godhe Da Daan, will be screened on Saturday (March 3) at 7:30 p.m. at UBC Robson Square. His second film, Chauthi Koot, will be screened on Sunday (March 4) at 4:30 p.m. at Surrey Centre Stage at Surrey City Hall. 

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