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

Chuck Puchmayr kickstarts Spice Radio’s sixth annual campaign against racism Featured

 

Raise Your Hands Against Racism, launched by a Burnaby-based radio station, today formally entered its sixth year.

Started by Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt on the birth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. in January, 2015, this year’s campaign was flagged off by New Westminster City Councillor Chuck Puchmayr.

Puchmayr, a vocal activist for social justice, was instrumental behind a recent proclamation recognizing January 11 as Bhai Mewa Singh Day in commemoration of a Sikh political activist who was hanged in 1915.

Jonathan Cote, the Mayor of New Westminster where Singh was executed, created history by reading the proclamation on January 13 in the presence of members of the South Asian community.  

Mewa Singh was part of a radical movement launched by the Indian immigrants in North America against the British occupation of India and racism abroad.  

A devout Sikh, Singh assassinated controversial Immigration Inspector William Hopkinson in Vancouver in 1914. The incident was the culmination of infamous Komagata Maru episode.

The Japanese vessel carrying more than 300 South Asian passengers was forced to return under a discriminatory immigration law that was enacted to keep Canada as a “white man’s country”.  This had led to bloody clashes between the political activists and a pro-establishment faction of the community.  As a result, Bela Singh, a mole of the Canadian authorities within the Sikh community, went inside a gurdwara and shot to death a revolutionary community leader Bhaag Singh and his associate Badan Singh.

Since Bela Singh was patronised by Hopkinson, who had precipitated the conflict among the local South Asians through his spies, Mewa Singh murdered him and courted arrest soon after. Hopkinson had been keeping an eye on the activists and tried to weaken the movement to serve the interests of the British Empire.

Mewa Singh faced his trial with courage and conviction, and chanted prayers while being taken to the gallows in New Westminster jail. His testimony establishes that he had taken such an extreme step in response to racism and sacrilege of the temple.  

As a fitting tribute to Mewa Singh, who laid down his life fighting against racism, the City of New Westminster decided to proclaim January 11, 2020 as “Bhai Mewa Singh Day”.  

Puchmayr admitted that this was a difficult thing to do and the city had to face some backlash from those who see Singh as a killer without acknowledging the history of extreme racism.

Spice Radio had invited the entire city council to start this year’s campaign, to reciprocate this important gesture on behalf of the South Asian community. While Cote could not make it, Puchmayr along with his colleague Jaimie McEvoy came to Burnaby to participate in the campaign that encourages people to dip their hands in colour and leave behind their handprints on a white sheet with messages against bigotry.    

The city of New Westminster had earlier removed the statue of controversial colonial era Judge Mathew Begbie, who had ordered the execution of six Chilcotin Chiefs in 1864 for the murder of 14 white road construction workers who were harassing the indigenous peoples and their women. Likewise, the City had previously displayed leadership by apologizing to the Chinese Canadians for injustices of the past. 

 

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Last modified on Monday, 10 February 2020 12:42
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