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

Canadian politicians show selectivity over violence against religious minorities in South Asia. Shed tears for Sikhs murdered in Afghanistan; remain indifferent to the killings of Muslims in India. Featured


Gurpreet Singh


Wednesday, March 25 will go down as another black day in history.

25 people were brutally murdered when Islamic State extremists attacked a Sikh temple in Kabul. The incident shook the entire world. Questions were raised by many about minorities being unsafe in Muslim-dominated Afghanistan, where the Taliban had once made the life of non-Muslims miserable in the past.  

The incident evoked a prompt and sharp reaction in Canada where Sikhs have a sizable population.

Elected officials of Sikh heritage across the political spectrum took to social media to condemn the terrorist act.

Notably, Canada had recently opened its doors for Hindus and Sikhs being persecuted in Afghanistan.

Not to be left behind, MLAs belonging to the BC NDP government were quick to respond. Among them were Minister for Labour Harry Bains and former Minister Jinny Sims.  

Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal and his conservative colleague and former federal minister Tim Uppal also denounced the bloody episode.

While this unanimous condemnation of the massacre was the right thing to do, there is one fundamental problem with their reaction. Such promptness remains missing when similar situations arise in India.

Minorities, especially Muslims, are under constant attack in India ever since the right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government came to power in 2014.

During recent months hate crimes against Muslims have spiked under the BJP, which wants to transform India into a Hindu theocracy. In February, there was large scale violence against Muslims in Delhi by BJP supporters who targeted the community with the help of police, leaving many dead. 

Earlier, Muslims and secular activists had been peacefully protesting against the divisive Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that discriminates against Muslim refugees coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The BJP tried to instigate violence against the opponents of CAA, leading to the killings of 53 people, mostly Muslims.

This resulted in rallies and protests even in Canada. But the Indo-Canadian politicians who are now shedding tears over the deaths of Sikhs in Afghanistan remained silent and never came out with any statement to flay what is happening in India.  So much so, they have also ignored frequent calls by community activists to stand up for minorities in India. 

This hasn't been noticed for the first time. These politicians have mostly remained disinterested in the issues of minorities being mistreated in India. 

It goes without saying that they are too timid to criticize the Indian government, as they have business and family ties in that country. After all, the Indian government can easily deny them visa.

Notably, Dhaliwal was once denied visa by the Indian government for trying to bring a motion on the Sikh Genocide. Thousands of Sikhs were slaughtered across India in the first week of November, 1984 following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The massacre was orchestrated by the ruling Congress party.

Then there are politicians like Sims, who are known for their proximity with the Indian Consulate in Vancouver; their silence is understandable.

This is despite the fact that Canada claims to be a human rights leader in the world, and some of these politicians, like Sims and Bains, come from trade unions that championed for the rights of people oppressed anywhere on the globe.  

It is pertinent to mention that the violence in India was state sponsored, and is much more difficult to question than the violence of rogue elements that killed Sikhs in Afghanistan.

Such selectivity only strengths Islamophobia. It has become a norm to identify terrorism with Muslims, which overlooks the fact that majoritarian extremism also exists under the garb of democracy in places like India, where the establishment openly patronizes Hindu fanatics killing Muslims at will.

The latest incident might give an excuse to the Indian government to justify the necessity of CAA, as it opens doors for Hindus and Sikhs who wish to migrate from Afghanistan. It’s time that these politicians should equally criticise such a law, that excludes Muslim refugees on the basis of religion. One must keep in mind that the Islamic State is not only against non-Muslims, but has also been targeting fellow Muslims from Shia communities and those who believe in Sufism. The CAA is therefore flawed as it specifically allows non-Muslims from Afghanistan to seek refuge in India.

Canada must not remain quiet to this injustice, and raise its voice against exclusion of Muslims and ongoing violence against them in India.  Its silence on the situation so far suggests only one thing - that it has chosen to side with the oppressors as far as the Indian state is concerned.    


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Last modified on Saturday, 28 March 2020 00:45
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Gurpreet Singh

Cofounder and Director of Radical Desi


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