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

Lucky Kabootar indeed Featured


Gurpreet Singh

A news item from India published in the National Post on Thursday, February 8 left me amused.

Right on top of page four, the headline of the story screamed, “India frees pigeon wrongly accused of spying for China”.

After reading the dispatch credited to The Washington Post, I thought of a comedy Hindi movie titled Lucky Kabootar, and a song with similar lyrics which means a fortunate pigeon.

The story goes on to tell how the Indian police became suspicious of a pigeon that strayed into its territory, and took the bird into custody for eight months. The metal rings on its leg had something they believed to be written in Chinese. Since India and China have long-standing issues and hostile relations, the Mumbai police couldn’t take a chance. However, it was later revealed that the bird was from Taiwan and had lost its way. 

The investigation did not find any material to suggest espionage, and the pigeon was eventually released, bringing a happy ending to the tale.

What is really interesting to note here is how a Canadian daily picked the story and displayed it. This has not been the case for scores of political prisoners cooling their heels in Indian jails for years under trumped up charges. Among them is former Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba, a wheelchair bound scholar, who is disabled below the waist, and is grappling with several ailments. There have been a series of protests for him in Canada, and thousands of people signed a petition asking for his release on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.  No Canadian daily ever took pains to share his story.

Saibaba was convicted for life in 2017 after being branded as a Maoist sympathizer, merely because he has been advocating for the rights of the tribal people whose lands are being acquired by the extraction industry with the backing of the Indian state. As Maoist insurgents have been active in those areas, Saibaba was labelled as anti-national and thrown behind bars.  He wasn’t given an opportunity to see his dying mother for the last time or to attend her last rites, whereas right wing Hindu extremists, in spite of being involved in mass murders, have been given bails and paroles on medical grounds. Notably, attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown in India under the current Hindu supremacist Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Saibaba is just one instance, while many other scholars, human rights defenders, and political activists from minority communities, are being incarcerated under draconian laws and inhuman conditions.  

The Taiwanese pigeon is surely lucky to have been freed after eight months and to capture headlines across the globe.

It’s a shame that the Canadian media has chosen to avoid looking at the way the world’s so-called largest democracy is treating its people. Such empathy and interest in the story of a bird, over the brutal experiences of human beings in India, reflects very poorly on the fourth estate of our society. How different is it than the approach of a Hindu nationalist government in New Delhi towards humanity? While the supporters of Modi continue to attack Muslims suspected of carrying beef in their tiffin boxes in the name of cow protection, the western media is enamoured with the story of a bird over jailed political activists.




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Gurpreet Singh

Cofounder and Director of Radical Desi


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