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Courageous author and journalist Rana Ayyub – who exposed the involvement of the Indian officials in the systematic killings of Muslims was honoured by Radical Desi in Surrey on Saturday.

She was presented with Courage in Journalism Award at a well attended event held at Dr. Ambedkar room in the Surrey Central Library. Those who presented her the award included Amandeep Singh- a lawyer and a human rights activist who was recently honoured by Radical Desi for drafting the petition seeking release of disabled Delhi University Professor G.N. Saibaba who continues to be persecuted by the Indian state for standing up for minorities and the oppressed communities. Others who joined Singh for presenting the award were one of the Radical Desi founders Parshottam Dosanjh and the leader of the Prof. Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation Sahib Thind.

Ayyub is the author and publisher of Gujarat Files – based on her undercover investigation of the administrative and police officers who were responsible for the murders of the members of the minority community had risked her life by taking part in sting operation for Tehlka magazine.

She was sent to Gujarat following the anti Muslim pogrom of 2002 and spate of murders of Muslim men by the police in staged shootouts.

Thousands of Muslims were targeted by the goons led by BJP activists. Human rights activists and survivours continue to allege the complicity of the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi in the mass murders. The bloodshed was followed by series of murders of Muslim men by the police in fake encounters. The slain men were frequently branded as Jihadist extremists.

Ayyub told the gathering how she posed herself as a Hindu woman with strong family affiliations with the BJP and befriended people in the police and administration. She later spoke to them about the violence against Muslims and found how thickly the BJP government and Modi were involved in these crimes. Being a Muslim woman,she was playing with the fire by secretly recording these conversations in an extremely hostile environment.

She added that the event being held in Dr. Ambedkar room was a fitting tribute to the author of the Indian constitution that is under attack by the BJP government and also because her book brings out the fact that how Dalits or so called untouchables were used for getting the dirty job done by the Hindutva forces.

She called upon the members of Indian diaspora to break silence over the growing threat of Hindutva extremism under Modi and urged all minorities to join hands to fight back against repression.

 

There was a pin drop silence in the room as she shared her story. Her speech was followed by a Questions and Answers session after which she signed the copies of her book.
Those in attendance included well known community activists, such as Chinmoy Banerjee of South Asian Network of Secularism and Democracy, former BC Human Rights Commissioner Harinder Mahil, Indians Abroad for Pluralist India founder and documentary filmmaker Ajay Bhardwaj, Sikh Nation volunteer Sunil Kumar, research scholar and activist Kamal Arora, besides Progressive Pakistani activists Shahzad Nazir Khan, Saif Khalid, Masood Punjabi and Fauzia Rafique.

Just ask yourselves this: if Krishna was to be born today would he not stand up against these (evil) acts by a government that is using religion for ulterior motives -- to divide people-- and stick to power?

It is time that Hindus stand up against the new avatar of the arrogant Kauravas whose ideals are people like Godse and not Karkare who was a far better Hindu than Modi. 

 

 On the auspicious occasion of Janamashtami,  our Hindu friends, brothers and sisters need to revisit the story of one of their most adorable and adored gods. Especially because India is presently ruled by a right wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government that claims to be the defender of the Hindu faith. 

Ever since the BJP came to power with a brute majority in 2014 under Prime Minister Narendra Modi - the attacks on religious minorities have grown, while there is no end to sexual violence and state repression either. 

Lord Krishna who grew up in the backward community of cattle raisers had finished off the tyrannical Kans, broke gender barriers by mingling with girls, fought for the five Pandavs and their small family unit against the powerful Kauravas, stepped in to save Draupdi from sexual assault and preached to the world through Bhagwad Gita the time-tested words: we must focus on our duty rather than worrying about the consequences. 

Yet, under the BJP rule and those who wish to see India turned into a Hindu theocracy, who have also been trying to make Gita a national text an entirely different kind of value system from that espoused by Krishna, is being imposed. The actions of Modi supporters (or bhakts) resemble more the deeds of Kans and the Kauravas while nothing seems to be in line with the teachings of Lord Krishna. 

The backward classes and Dalits -- so called untouchables -- continue to be oppressed through structural violence. Their lands are being taken in the name of development and are being given away to the extraction industry. The BJP government is more inclined to safeguard the corporate interest over people's interest.  

If Kans enjoys a reputation of being one of the worst tyrants, the BJP government has proved to be even worse. This government has been persecuting political prisoners, throwing dissidents in jails, charging them for sedition and muzzling any voice of reason. The killings of political activists through extra judicial means is another addition to the long list of excesses this establishment is known for. 

Whereas, Krishna introduced modernity to Hinduism and allowed an open relationship between men and women, BJP supporters have been indulging in moral policing and attacking and shaming dating couples. 

Unlike Krishna who chose to side with Pandavas over the powerful Kauravas, the BJP government is giving patronage to majoritarian extremist groups and suppressing activists from minority communities with an iron fist. It remains a mute spectator to the continuous violence against Muslims, Christians and Dalits, unleashed by goons owing allegience to Hindutva. 

While Draupadi was fortunate to have been saved from disgrace by Krishna, there are many like her who have been subjected to sexual harassment and violence under the BJP rule. Only recently, the son of a BJP leader from Haryana was caught stalking a woman in Chandigarh. A few months earlier, a young woman Gurmehar Kaur was threatened with rape by the BJP supporters for questioning right wing politics on social media, and even speaking up for peace, not war, with Pakistan. Not only that, the BJP supporters are known to have been involved in anti Muslim and anti Christian violence during which the women from the minority communities were raped in the past. 

What can be more hypocritical than asking for Gita to be adopted as national text, when you do not follow its principles in practice?

One of the values that the Gita teached us is to focus on our Karma or the duty without worrying about the consequences.

The BJP wants the intelligentsia, the judiciary, the police and the intelligence to behave in a manner that suits their agenda. It does not want the protectors of the law to work independently and that's why the penetration of prejudiced officials have increased under the current government. This has made the lives of the minorities miserable. Most of the time its the Muslims or the tribals who are at the receiving end. They can be easily branded as Jihadists or Maoists and charged under false cases.

On the other hand, there is no action against Hindutva terrorists. Rather, the late Hemant Karkare, a police officer who had smashed the Hindutva terror network was hounded by the BJP. Though Karkare was a practicing Hindu who drew inspiration from Gita and was only doing his karma he was constantly harassed by the BJP until he died during a terror attack in Mumbai.

Modi himself came to the defence of the Hindutva extremists back then. As a Chief Minister of Gujarat at that time, he was responsible for anti Muslim pogrom in 2002 when the police was made to protect the BJP activists involved in the violence against the very spirit of Gita. Likewise, the appointments of scholars and judges who agree with the ideology of the BJP isn't something surprising. 

This is not to suggest that the previous governments were perfect. State violence and sexual abuse have also been happening during other regimes, but what is unique about the BJP is that due to its Hindu nationalist (supremacist) mandate the attacks on minorities have grown. More importantly, the BJP has always been playing the card of religion and has been using the Hindu gods as political icons to further their agenda.

It has to be therefore challenged for its double speak and only devout Hindus whose brand of Hinduism is more open can do that.

Courageous author and journalist Rana Ayyub - who exposed the involvement of the Indian officials in the systematic killings of Muslims will be honoured by Radical Desi in Surrey this Saturday. 

The writer of Gujarat Files - based on her undercover investigation of the administrative and police officers who were responsible for the murders of the members of the minority community had risked her life by taking part in sting operation for Tehlka magazine. 

 She was sent to Gujarat following the anti Muslim pogrom of 2002 and spate of murders of Muslim men by the police in staged shootouts. 

 The violence against Muslims was followed by the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims leaving more than 50 people dead. The Gujarat government under right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) had blamed the Muslim fundamentalists for the incident.

 Thousands of Muslims were targeted by the goons led by BJP activists. Human rights activists and survivours continue to allege the complicity of the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi in the mass murders. The bloodshed was followed by series of murders of Muslim men by the police in fake encounters. The slain men were frequently branded as Jihadist extremists. 

Rana posed herself as a Hindu woman with strong family affiliations with the BJP and befriended people in the police and administration. She later spoke to them about the violence against Muslims and found how thickly the BJP government and Modi were involved in these crimes. Being a Muslim woman,she was playing with the fire by secretly recording these conversations in an extremely hostile environment. 

The first challenge came to her from none other than Tehlka that chickened out as she was close to secretly interviewing Modi- who became the Prime Minister of India in 2014.  She was told by her bosses that they cannot afford to get into any trouble with the future Prime Minister. 

Later, she unsuccessfully tried to get her book published, but due to political pressure nobody dared to publish her work. Finally she had to go for self publishing. Rana took personal bank loan to get her book printed and circulated. Until now she has published more than 1,50,000 prints in different languages. 

But her fight did not end there. She was unable to get a full time job in the media as most potential employers wanted her not to talk against Modi. So much so, the Indian officials tried to get her event cancelled in Doha while on many occasions she got threats from the BJP supporters.  

Rana believes that the history of Gujarat episode remains relevant today as the violence against minorities, particularly Muslims has now spread across India under Modi government. 

She feels that the majoritarianism is the root cause of the problem as the previous Congress government also tried to divide people on the basis of religion. She never forgets to make a connection between the 1984 and 2002. Thousands of Sikhs were murdered by the mobs led by the so called secularist Congress party in India in 1984 after the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.  

Rana was only nine when she experienced first hand the pain of sectarian killings in 1993. She lived in Mumbai that was rocked with anti Muslim violence by Hindu fanatics. She still remembers how a Sikh family came to their rescue and saved her family from death when the Hindu fundamentalists targeted Muslims at the behest of the police that remained a mute spectator. 

She will be speaking at an event being organized by Radical Desi and Indians Abroad for Pluralist India on Saturday August 12 at 2pm in Dr. Amebdkar room of the Surrey Central Library. Following her talk,she will be presented with Courageous Journalism Award. Both English and Punjabi editions of her book will be available at the event and Rana will be present for book signing. 

***

Human Rights activist and lawyer Amandeep Singh was honoured by Radical Desi at an event held at Surrey Central Library on July 30. 

Singh who had unsuccessfully contested the May provincial election as New Democratic Party candidate from Richmond Queensborough had drafted the petition seeking Canadian intervention for the release of Prof. G.N. Saibaba was presented with Radical Activism Award for 2017. 

Prof. Saibaba is a Delhi University lecturer who is 90 percent disabled below waist and is being persecuted for standing up for oppressed communities in India. He was sentenced to life after being branded as Maoist sympathizer by an Indian court. His medical condition continues to deteriorate as his wife fears for his life. 

The petition that was signed by almost 1,000 Canadians seeks intervention of the Canadian government in his case on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. At least two MPs Sukh Dhaliwal and Peter Julian have accepted the petition that is likely to be tabled in the house of commons this fall. Dhaliwal has already submitted it in the parliament. 

Singh had taken out time from his hectic election campaign to look into the matter and draft a petition without fearing for backlash. 

The award was given to him by the founders of Radical Desi magazine Chinmoy Banerjee and Parshotam Dosanjh and the Dashmesh Darbar Gurdwara Spokesman Gian Singh Gill - who was instrumental in getting signatures for the petition through the temple congregation. 

Among those who spoke on the occasion were former BC Human Rights Commissioner Harinder Mahil, a progressive documentary filmmaker Ajay Bhardawaj and Radical Desi Director Gurpreet Singh. 

A small video on the case of Saibaba was presented while Banerjee threw light on his story. Gill pointed out that under a right wing Hindu nationalist government in India attacks on the left and minorities have grown. 

Boojha Singh, a revolutionary communist activist whose death anniversary falls on July 28 was also remembered at the event. He was killed in a fake encounter in 1970. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gurpreet Singh

Breaking the myth about the passive involvement of Sikhs in the liberation movement of India, The Black Prince gives a fresh perspective on the struggle against the British occupation of their homeland.

It's based on the story of last Sikh emperor Maharaja Ranjit Singh's son Duleep Singh, who was exiled to England following the annexation of Punjab in the mid-19th century.

Until now it has been widely believed that Sikhs were largely loyal to the British, who ruled India until 1947. 

This is despite the fact that the British were only able to occupy Punjab in 1849, 10 years after Ranjit Singh died. Since then there have been two Anglo-Sikh wars.

Yet many historians influenced by European schools of thought have tried to make us believe that Sikhs were one of Britain's most favoured communities in India—and that Sikhs helped the colonial power suppress the first rebellion in 1857.

This movie, written and directed by former St. Elsewhere cast member Kavi Raz, sets the record straight, challenging this history that's been told through a Eurocentric lens.

The Sikh empire eventually fell as the British took over Punjab. In the film young Duleep Singh is separated from his mother, Maharani Jindan, and exiled to England.

In this English environment, Duleep Singh is forced to give up his religion and become Christian. As he grows older, he realizes that England is not where he belongs and insists on meeting his mother.

Once he reconnects with Jindan, Singh—played by Satinder Sartaaj—gradually comes to understand more about the theft of their homeland by the British and starts talking back against colonialism and racism.

Inspired by his mother, Singh reconverts to Sikhism and, with the help of other nations, makes a failed attempt to overthrow British rule. Years later, other political activists tried to follow the same route.

It's sad that Duleep Singh's contribution to the freedom struggle remains unacknowledged.

Undoubtedly, he wanted his kingdom back. His father Maharaja Ranjit Singh's state was very progressive and secular. The father abolished capital punishment and treated non-Sikhs fairly.

Duleep Singh's fight needs to be situated in the broader context of the struggle against foreign occupation of India. Jindan, for instance, never accepted British rule and despised their deception. Her reference to Ranjit Singh as sarkar (ruler) still resonates with many Sikh elders.

Writer Gurpreet Singh's great-grandfather, Sham Singh, was in Ranjit Singh's army.

 

My own great-grandfather, Sham Singh, was in Ranjit Singh's army and he and other Sikhs refused to work under the British when this was offered. I learned from my father that they clearly told the British that they could not work for anyone other than sarkar as they considered him the real ruler.

In the film Jindan is played by famous Bollywood actor Shabana Azmi. As the story suggests, she inspired her son to give up the Christian identity that was forced upon him and to see how their valuables, including the Kohinoor diamond donned by Queen Victoria, was robbed from the Sikh kingdom under the guise of justice and fairness.

It is important for those who want to understand the perspective of a colonized nation to watch The Black Prince. It's a good attempt to bring to light a truth hidden under the shadows of history and created by the builders of an empire that not only suppressed resistance, but also the reality of it.

 Gurpreet Singh is an independent journalist and one of the founders of Radical Desi.

Federal NDP leadership candidate Jagmeet Singh is getting reports that the pro-India lobby in Canada is trying to dissuade people from getting involved in his campaign. 

Talking to RDNB during his Vancouver tour, Singh said he's learned from his supporters that people within the South Asian community are often discouraged from participating in his fundraising events. 

Singh noted that some people who had earlier shown interest in donating money to his campaign later changed their minds after receiving some kind of pressure.

"I am still trying to get as many witnesses as I can to prove this so that an appropriate action can be taken," he said.

He pointed out that if any foreign government is found to be interfering in Canadian politics through its agents, this matter should be taken seriously. 

Singh is also receiving opposition from racists in the mainstream community because of his turban and facial hair.

"In spite of these challenges I continue to receive tremendous support from ordinary people," he said. 

The Indian government previously denied Singh a visa for constantly raising human-rights issues in that country.

In 2016, the Ontario MPP brought forward a motion in the legislative assembly seeking to recognize the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre in India as a Sikh genocide. It didn't pass, but this year Singh supported a similar motion by a Liberal MPP, which did pass.

Thousands of Sikhs were murdered all over India in November 1984. The bloodshed followed the assassination of then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Supporters of the slain leader's Congress party were seen leading the mobs targeting innocent Sikhs. 

Apart from speaking out for justice for the victims of anti-Sikh violence, Singh has been raising the issue of political prisoners in India, as well as caste-based oppression of Dalits, or so called untouchables.

He has been equally critical of anti-Muslim violence that rocked the  western Indian state of Gujarat in 2002.

That carnage was started by the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was allegedly torched leaving more than 50 people dead. The Gujarat government under Narendra Modi  (now prime minister of India) blamed Muslim fundamentalists for the incident. 

When Modi was welcomed by the Canadian government in 2015, Singh was one of the rare politicians who pressed the Canadian government to raise its voice on the human-rights situation in India.

Singh's great-grandfather was an Indian freedom fighter who died fasting for the rights of political prisoners, yet the Indian government continues to bar Singh from entering the country.

"Though it hurts that I cannot go to the country my parents came from, I have no regrets for standing up for the right thing," Singh said. "If my great-grandfather could sacrifice his life for the nation, how does it matter if I don't get a visa?"

 

The Member of Parliament from Surrey Newton Sukh Dhaliwal has submitted a petition seeking the release of Delhi University lecturer Prof. G.N. Saibaba in the House of Commons.

Signed by 500 residents of BC, the petition was launched by the Radical Desi publications. Another set of petition with more signatures is yet to be submitted through other elected officials. Dhaliwal is the only Liberal MP so far who has taken interest in the case. Notably, he had submitted a petition seeking justice for the victims of 1984 anti Sikh violence in the past and has been consistently raising voice for human rights. 

The petition that was drafted by a well known community activist and lawyer Amandeep Singh asks for the intervention of the Canadian government in getting the disabled professor released. Saibaba was given life sentence after being dubbed as a supporter of Maoist insurgents.

A wheelchair bound Saibaba is being persecuted for opposing state repression on tribal people and other marginalized sections of the Indian society.  

In the meantime, Radical Desi team also submitted a letter to the Minister responsible for people with disabilities Carla Quoltrough asking for her intervention in the case on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. The letter was signed by 100 residents in her riding. The minister's staff has been very cooperative and listened to the case of Saibaba carefully.

Among other groups that actively supported this initiative were Chetna Association, Sikh Nation, Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar and Gurdwara Sukh Sagar Sahib, besides few individual members of the Ross Street Sikh temple in Vancouver.

 

Gurpreet Singh

Sixteen years ago I made Canada my home. Like most South Asian immigrants I also came to Canada from India for a better livelihood. Like other immigrants from India where corruption and human rights abuses are very common, I was also impressed by the Canadian system and influenced by its openness to accept other cultures and diversity.

However, as I discovered the history of the struggle of our community elders in Canada against racism, I gradually learned that the Canada wasn't always a great country that accepted immigrants with open arms. To keep Canada as a white man's nation, rulers of the land formulated policies that were aimed at discouraging permanent settlement of immigrants from South Asia. These immigrants were disfranchised in 1907 and were not allowed to bring their families. Also, a ship carrying more than 350 passengers from India was forced to return in 1914 under a discriminatory immigration law.

Community elders fought against these injustices. One of them, Mewa Singh, was hanged in 1915 for assassinating a controversial Immigration Inspector, William C Hopkinson, who had penetrated his spies in the community to keep a watch on political activism. Among those spies was Bela Singh, who murdered two community leaders, Bhaag Singh and Badan Singh, in a shooting inside Vancouver's oldest Sikh gurdwara in September 1914. Mewa Singh killed Hopkinson to avenge the sacrilege of the temple.

Indian immigrants gained the right to vote in 1947 and as years passed they became politically influential. Currently, Canada has its first turbaned Sikh defence minister, Harjit Singh Sajjan, and in B.C. alone there are seven MLAs who trace their roots back to Punjab. In the meantime, Canada gave refuge to Sikhs who fled India to escape from state violence and persecution during 1980s. This was a time when Sikh activists were fighting an armed struggle for an independent Sikh homeland in Punjab.

The shift indicates how Canada has changed over the period of 100 years. There were times when Sikh men had to cut their hair to get jobs, and both Sikh men and women avoided stepping out of their homes in traditional attire to avoid racial taunts and attacks from white supremacists.

They also avoided speaking Punjabi, fearing violence at the hands of racists.

More than 350 South Asians onboard the Komagata Maru were denied entry to Canada in 1914.

 

Nowadays, not only do Sikhs proudly sport their religious symbols, Punjabi has now become an integral part of the communications messages from Crown corporations. Caucasian politicians have picked up some key words in Punjabi to greet constituents in ridings with a sizeable South Asian population.

Indebted to Canadian authorities, many Sikhs now see themselves as proud Canadians. They believe that apart from providing religious freedom, Canada also offers them freedom of speech. After all, they can openly speak here in support of a separate homeland in Punjab without fear of getting arrested for sedition, a charge that is freely used by Indian police against minorities.

Not surprisingly, supporters of a Sikh homeland who have lost faith in Indian nationalism have no problem celebrating Canadian nationalism. On July 1 when 150 years of Canadian Confederation was being celebrated all over the country, many Sikh temples organized special prayers for the well-being of the Canadian state.

One can understand the compulsions and passion of Sikhs behind these gestures, but there is a need to acknowledge that Canada was built on stolen lands of the indigenous peoples. The white supremacy that hounded Sikhs and other immigrants has its roots in the colonization of Canada.

European settlers who came to this part of the world brought indigenous peoples under subjugation through wars and deceitful trade relations. The sense of cultural superiority, because of the strong backing of the church, gave these settlers a reason to believe that they had right to capture this land and turn indigenous communities into Christian enclaves.

Since then, Eurocentric scholars have tried to portray indigenous culture as inferior and their identity as that of a savage. It's a shame that the indigenous peoples who are the original inhabitants of Canada make up only four percent of its total population. Their numbers were reduced through wars, diseases such as smallpox brought by the Europeans, and the policy of assimilation through the residential school system, in which they were forced to give up their language and traditional names.

All these factors contributed to create poverty among indigenous tribes. That they are overrepresented in jails suggest that the structural violence and systemic racism against them continue to prevail in Canada, which claims to be a human rights leader and showcases its diversity and multiculturalism by opening its doors to immigrants.

So when Sikhs and other immigrant communities are excited about Canada 150, they need to understand the anger of the indigenous activists, whose Resistance 150 campaign is an attempt to reject Canadian nationalism. For them, Canada 150 is a celebration of the genocide of the First Nations.

Sikhs and other immigrant groups must take a moment from their celebrations to see this reality and show their solidarity with indigenous peoples. As both South Asians and the indigenous communities share history of racism and colonialism, they must stand up for each other in the face of growing bigotry under U.S. president Donald Trump right across the border.

Not only should Sikh leaders acknowledge that we are on traditional lands of indigenous groups, but that the indigenous communities were forced to give up their spiritual beliefs, languages, and traditional names.

Gurpreet Singh says more people of South Asian ancestry should support the legitimate aspirations of indigenous peoples.

 

It should not surprise anyone that indigenous peoples were always more welcoming to immigrants than the white settlers. When "East Indian" males were denied entry to bars and pubs in the past and no white woman dated them, some elders in our community remember it was the indigenous women who accepted them with open hearts. As the men from India were not allowed to bring their wives, they got into relationships with indigenous women.

Perhaps those were the times when community elders starting addressing the indigenous peoples as Taaye Ke (those from elderly uncle's family) in Punjabi, just as those of European ancestry referred to them as "Red Indians". That bond needs to be made stronger.

There is also a need to acknowledge that indigenous peoples obtained the right to vote in 1960, only after the Indians and other immigrant groups. Whereas Sikhs celebrated the election of seven Punjabis in the May provincial election of B.C., the provincial legislature has only four indigenous MLAs (Carole James, Melanie Mark, Adam Olsen, and Ellis Ross).

Sikh activists who've had success in getting the ant-Sikh pogrom of 1984 in India called a genocide in Canada must also see that the indigenous peoples were subjected to cultural genocide when the Canadian state was being established.

This is not to suggest there is a complete silence around indigenous stories in the immigrant communities. There are a few dedicated Sikh and other South Asian activists who have been raising voices in support of grassroots movements within indigenous communities. A few Punjabi-language authors have written stories and poems dedicated to the indigenous peoples. But that is not enough. 

Racial bias against indigenous peoples also exists among South Asians, who are often influenced by stereotypes about First Nations widely reinforced by the mainstream media and populist leaders. This is why they can sometimes be insensitive toward the sentiments of indigenous communities. Those who understand these issues need to educate their compatriots and break these myths and make them understand how deep-rooted racism has marginalized First Nations and pushed them to impoverishment.

On Canada's 150th birth anniversary it's time to rethink Canadian nationalism rather than getting blinded by it. A nation is not just represented by its government, insignias, and power structure but by its people.

And if its real stewards for centuries are now fighting discrimination every day and opposing the ongoing appropriation of their lands by the extraction industry, there is hardly any reason to rejoice. Particularly when this industry is backed by the Canadian state and those historical stewards are met with police brutality and bad press.

Gurpreet Singh is an independent journalist and one of the founders of Radical Desi.

Arundhati Roy's latest novel gives voice to the most condemned groups in the world's so-called largest secular democracy.

From transgender people to tribals and from Dalits (a.k.a. untouchables) to religious minorities, they all make appearances in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. And especially Muslims, who are forced to live under constant threat in a country governed by the right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP).

Through many characters and with numerous stories that constantly intersect, Roy consistently writes through the lens of the poor, challenging the myth of a great country that is said to have benefited from neoliberalism. 

All these narratives woven together in fiction unmask the real face of India where the dominant culture has frequently othered powerless sections of the society. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, referred to as Gujarat Ka Lalla in the book, this tendency has grown.

Modi's real-life complicity in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat finds a mention in the novel, even as the major part of the story is dominated by the conflict in the northern Indian state of Kashmir, where Indian forces continue to suppress the Muslim population in its struggle for self-determination.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness also touches upon other tragedies in the distant past, such as the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 and the anti-Sikh massacre of 1984.

Anjum, the central character of the story, is both Muslim and a eunuch, and therefore remains vulnerable in a society where religious orthodoxy against LGBT people and non-Hindus prevails. She survives the Gujarat massacre and remains anxious about the future of her own community, especially the younger generation.

However, she gives hope for all condemned groups to live with self-respect and dignity through Jannat Guest House in Delhi. It becomes refuge to an orphaned child of a tribal woman, Maoist insurgents enduring state repression, and a Dalit man who lost his father at the hands of Hindu fanatics terrorizing people in the name of a cow-protection campaign.  

Roy's imagination is at its best when she makes Anjum use the expression "Laal Salaam Vaalekum"—a combination of the Communist slogan of "Red Salute" and Muslim greetings as a last respect to the dead Maoist militant. It is a statement against the growing onslaught on left-wing activists and Muslims, who are often harassed as potential terrorists by state agencies in India. 

In a nutshell, the novel makes one see an unseen India. This India remains obscured and hidden because of the hype created by its growing economy and powerful global capitalists' greed for investment in that part of the world. 

Though some passages give an impression that the author is overly influenced by her nonfiction political writings, overall the story is very gripping and makes one angry and sad. Yet it ends with an optimism for a future that lies in the hands of the people who can unite and resist against power.


 

 

Pityful a rethoric question ran over her cheek When she reached thre first hills of the Italic Mountains, she had a last view back on the skyline of her hometown Bookmarksgrove, the headline of Alphabet Village and the subline of her own road, the Line Lane.

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