"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
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Braving cold weather and rain on a weekday afternoon, social justice activists came together on Tuesday, December 3, to raise their voices for a physically challenged Delhi University Professor incarcerated in an Indian jail.

Wheelchair-bound G.N. Saibaba, who is ninety percent disabled below the waist, is serving a life sentence under inhuman conditions. His health continues to deteriorate because of 19 ailments.

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) held a demonstration at Surrey’s Holland Park, where the speakers unanimously demanded the immediate release of Saibaba on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. They felt that the current right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government is indulging in double standards by openly shielding Hindu extremists who spread violence and terror, while punishing a scholar like Saibaba who is facing persecution for standing up for the rights of religious minorities and oppressed communities, particularly Adivasis or the indigenous peoples of India who are being forcibly evicted by the Indian state from their traditional lands in the name of development. The attacks on minorities and Adivasis have grown ever since the BJP came to power with a brute majority in 2014.  

Saibaba was charged and convicted after being branded as a Maoist sympathizer. Since Maoists are fighting a class war in the tribal belt, not only Saibaba, but others like him have been frequently labelled as ultra-leftists to suppress any voice of dissent.

The Sikh activists came out in big numbers to show their solidarity. Among them were members of the Banda Singh Bahadur Society, Ranjit Singh Khalsa and Inderjit Singh Bains, and members of the Guru Nanak Sikh temple Surrey-Delta were also present. Notably, the Sikh community in Vancouver had enthusiastically supported a petition asking for the Canadian government to intervene by calling to get Saibaba released.

Those who spoke on the occasion included anti-racism educator Annie Ohana, anti-poverty activist Dave Diewert, independent Sikh activist Gurmukh Singh Deol, Sikh Nation volunteer Sunil Kumar, besides IAPI members Rakesh Kumar and Gurpreet Singh. No elected official showed up.

The participants held placards asking for freedom of Saibaba and raised slogans against the high handedness of the Indian government, which continues to ignore the international outcry over its mistreatment of Saibaba.

The rally was started with a moment of silence in memory of another scholar and activist, SAR Geelani, who passed away recently. Geelani, who also taught at Delhi University, was close to Saibaba and had been tirelessly campaigning for the release of all political prisoners. He himself was falsely implicated by the police in connection with a terror attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 and was thrown into jail. After being acquitted by the court, he began advocacy for political prisoners.

 

Radical Desi in partnership with Mehak Punjab Dee TV, People’s Voice and Spice Radio released its annual calendar in Surrey on Sunday, December 1.

Dedicated to the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, the calendar was unveiled by the Editor of the Georgia Straight, Charlie Smith. Others who joined him in the ceremony included Surrey Newton MP Sukh Dhaliwal and Surrey Greentimbers MLA Rachna Singh, besides the members of Guru Nanak Free Kitchen and Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI).

The painting of Nanak ploughing fields like an ordinary and hardworking farmer printed on the calendar was made by Jarnail Singh. It has several important dates related to the radical history of South Asian elders alongside significant days, such as International Human Rights Day and International Women’s Day.

Smith was also honoured on the occasion with Radical Desi medal of courage for standing up against bigotry by anti-racism activists, Annie Ohana and Avtar Singh Dhillon. Ohana is an anti-racism educator, while Dhillon has been fighting for the right to wear turbans at workplaces in Canada.

The event was started with a moment of silence for Zofia Cisowski, a Polish woman from Kamloops who passed away recently. Her son Robert Dziekanski was tasered to death by the RCMP at Vancouver Airport in 2007. She had fought for justice and became an icon of human rights struggles in Canada.

Guru Nanak himself was a human rights defender and a revolutionary who had challenged the barbarity of the state. The speakers were unanimous in their views that the legacy of Nanak has become even more relevant today with the rise in racism and hate all over the world. They emphasized that repressive governments across the globe need to be made accountable as a fitting tribute to Nanak in these difficult times.

Smith was honoured for refusing to interview Peoples’ Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier for his racist views.He noted that Nanak was way ahead of his times, and by teaching his followers to respect the Mother Earth and denouncing discrimination on basis of caste, colour and gender, had laid the foundation for a just society.

Others who spoke on the occasion were Sukh Dhaliwal, Annie Ohana, Rachna Singh, Sikh activist Kulwinder Singh, Omni TV Reporter Haroon Gaffar, Independent Broadcaster Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal, IAPI member Sayyad Wajahat and Pakistani activist  Furquan Gehlen.

Gehlen brought with him postcards addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him to break his silence on Indian occupied Kashmir, which has been under lockdown since August 5. The participants signed the post cards at the event that coincided with the martyrdom day of the ninth master of the Sikhs, Guru Teg Bahadur, who had laid down his life for Kashmiri Hindus. Charlie Smith also signed one post card to show his solidarity with Kashmiri Muslims who are being persecuted by the Indian forces.

 

Gurpreet Singh

The ruling right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government has come to the defence of a terror accused who is now sitting in the parliament of the world’s so called largest democracy.

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, who was elected as a BJP lawmaker in the recent general election, had described the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi as patriot.

Nathuram Godse was a member of a group that wanted to establish a Hindu theocracy in post-independent India. Since Gandhi was opposed to the idea, he was murdered by Godse on January 30, 1948. As a result, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu supremacist group of which BJP is a part, was banned for some time. The current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an RSS man. It is not surprising that the BJP has many supporters who continue to glorify Godse and despise Gandhi. This is despite the fact that Modi claims to be an admirer of Gandhi, who remains an indisputable icon of India’s freedom movement.

Thakur, a fiery ascetic, faces criminal charges for the 2008 bomb blasts that left 10 people dead and close to 100 injured. The conspiracy was hatched by those who want to transform India into a Hindu state. The blasts were targeted at the minority Muslim community. Thakur was given bail on medical grounds, after which she fought and won the election. Notably, the trial isn’t over yet. Modi personally endorsed her candidacy, blaming the previous Congress government of implicating her in a “false case” to “malign Hindus”.

Following her remarks on Godse, there was an uproar in the parliament. The opposition was up in arms against the government for shielding a terror accused, to which the BJP government has responded by saying that she isn’t convicted.

Well, if Thakur isn’t convicted and deserves to be an MP, then what about others who were not given fair trials, and were killed illegally in the name of war on terror? Why these double standards on terrorism?

A case in point is Talwinder Singh Parmar, who was a suspect in the Air India bombing of June 23, 1985. Parmar was killed by the Indian Police in 1992. Flight 182 was bombed mid-air above the Irish Sea. The incident killed all 329 people aboard. The crime was blamed on Parmar and his militant organization that was fighting for a separate Sikh homeland. Parmar, who was a Canadian citizen, was arrested on unrelated charges, but released. While he still remained a suspect, he went back to India to pursue his struggle for a Sikh homeland.

The police claimed that he was killed in an exchange of fire, although ground realities suggested that he was killed using extra judicial means that were blatantly used against Sikh militants to suppress armed insurgency. So Parmar never got a fair trial, and yet the Indian agents in Canada continue to raise objections to commemorative prayers organized in his memory every year in local Sikh temples. They miss no opportunity to criticise Canadian politicians who visit the temples that glorify Parmar.  Sikh MPs are often forced to take a stand against Parmar to silence their pro-India critics and the Indian diplomats.

Considering that Modi and his government have been shamelessly backing people like Thakur, Canadian MPs need to ask, what moral right do they have to question their intentions? If Parmar was a terrorist, even if he was never convicted by the courts, why shouldn't Thakur be described as such? Also, Canadian politicians who respect Gandhi need to ask Modi to clarify his position on terrorism, especially in relation to his party’s ideological ties with Godse. It also raises questions about the integrity of the Indian police and legal justice system. How come the state allowed its police to kill Sikh militants at will in the name of peace, but is not using similar methods to liquidate Hindu extremists who terrorise minorities with impunity? Haven’t they ruined the peace and harmony in India? This only suggests that India has actually become a majoritarian Hindu state that openly discriminates against minorities, and treats majoritarian extremists more leniently than extremists from minority communities. If this pattern is allowed to prevail, nothing can stop the revival of Sikh separatism and Balkanisation of India. 

The Editor of the Georgia Straight will be given Radical Desi's medal of courage on Sunday, December 1.

Charlie Smith had recently refused to interview Maxime Bernier, the leader of far right People’s Party of Canada, because of his anti-immigrant views.  This was in sharp contrast to many editors of mainstream media outlets who provided Bernier with a platform to air his opinions that fuelled racism during the federal election.

Smith has frequently faced backlashes for his advocacy of diversity.  

Radical Desi, which covers alternative politics, will honour him at a public event being held at Strawberry Hill Library in Surrey on Sunday afternoon between 1-3 pm.  Not only will Smith be presented with a medal, he will also be unveiling the annual calendar of Radical Desi on the occasion.

The year 2020 calendar of Radical Desi is dedicated to the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Devji, who had denounced discrimination on basis of caste, colour and gender.

Smith believes that Nanak was ahead of his time and had taught his disciples about the values that are even more relevant today, when bigotry and inequality continue to grow. He has a deep understanding of the Indian society and history, besides the progressive aspect of Sikh religion.

Smith had openly asked for a street in Vancouver to be named after Gurdit Singh, a Sikh activist who had chartered the Komagata Maru. The Japanese vessel carrying more than 300 South Asian passengers aboard was forced to return in 1914 under then-discriminatory immigration laws passed by the Canadian government, to keep Canada as a white man’s country. Singh’s act of resistance was against racism, but his image has often been distorted by Eurocentric historians. Smith came under online attack for suggesting this.

 

 

On the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Canada’s first turbaned Sikh Defence Minister joined Hands Against Racism – a campaign started by Spice Radio in 2015.

Harjit Singh Sajjan dipped his palm in colours and left a handprint on a sheet of paper alongside a message that read, “All of us must do our part to stop racism!"

As part of the campaign initiated on Martin Luther King’s birthday several years ago by the Burnaby-based radio station, participants are encouraged to colour their hands and put handprints on paper, and write down a message against racial discrimination.

It was a special occasion for Sikhs, including Sajjan, who were celebrating the birthday of Guru Nanak Devji on Tuesday, November 12. Nanak established the Sikh religion, denounced discrimination on basis of caste, colour and gender, and stood up for human rights.  

On that morning Sajjan went on Spice Radio to to share his own story of the fight against racism as a young child. But he also cautioned  listeners about growing bigotry in Canada, insisting that there is a need to be vigilant about divisive politics and polarization. 

A day before, Sajjan had attended Remembrance Day events that coincided with a controversy stirred by hockey commentator Don Cherry, who questioned the nationalism of immigrants. According to Cherry, immigrants weren’t wearing poppies on the day to show respect to fallen soldiers. Deeply disturbed by those remarks, Sajjan said that this was uncalled for, since not only do immigrants wear poppies, but the Sikhs had also participated in World War II and gave their lives.

Ironically, Sajjan, who served in the Canadian forces before jumping into politics, earlier headed a regiment that was responsible for forcing  the Komagata Maru to leave in 1914. The Japanese vessel, carrying more than 300 South Asian passengers who were not allowed to disembark in Vancouver, was forcibly returned under a discriminatory immigration law. The Canadian authorities back then wanted to keep this country as a "white man’s land". As a result, the Komagata Maru ship driven out under the shadow of guns. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has officially apologized in Parliament for that racist incident. Sajjan explained to Spice Radio how emotional it was for him to know that he headed the same regiment that drove away the ship with Sikh elders aboard.

 

The BC government headed by New Democrats has declined an application seeking proclamation of the Sikh Remembrance Week.

Moved by Radical Desi, the application had urged the provincial government to declare the first week of November, 2019 as "Sikh Remembrance Week" in recognition of the Sikh massacre.

Thousands of Sikhs were murdered across India in the first week of November, 1984 following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The pogroms were orchestrated by the slain leader’s ruling Congress party activists in connivance with the police. Among the dead were 50 Sikh soldiers, some of them in uniforms travelling by trains. Their killings coincided with Remembrance Day commemorative events taking place in different parts of the world.

For the past 35 years, Sikhs have been fighting for justice and closure. In Canada, the Sikhs have saved close to 150,000 human lives through  an annual blood drive organized every year since 1999, in memory of the dead.

The draft proclamation mentions that the Sikhs have contributed to the growth and progress of British Columbia. Yet the government refused to support the request, despite the fact the Federal New Democrats issued a statement in recognition of the tragedy on November 1.

No reason has been given, but an email from Legal Services Branch of the Ministry of Attorney General says that after careful consideration, the ministry has advised that “they are unable to support the proclamation request.”

The Indian authorities and their diplomats have repeatedly tried to prevent foreign governments from raising the issue of the Sikh massacre. 

Federal New Democratic leader Jagmeet Singh was denied an Indian visa for raising this issue in the Ontario legislature in the past. Singh, who was an MPP back then, had brought a motion asking for the massacre to be recognized as Sikh Genocide.

 

Gurpreet Singh

This past Sunday, the Sikhs in Canada celebrated Bandi Chhor Divas, which means Prisoners’ Liberation Day.

The occasion is held every year to mark the freedom of the sixth master of the Sikh faith, Guru Hargobind, from prison in 1619.

Guru Hargobind was arrested and detained for standing up against the tyranny of the then Islamist rulers of India. Sikhism since the time of its foundation by Guru Nanak teaches its followers to challenge the power and stand up against repression. As part of that mandate, the Sikh Gurus continued to fight against oppression. Earlier, Guru Hargobind’s father and the fifth master of the Sikh religion, Guru Arjan Dev, was executed by the authorities for similar reasons. 

Following mediations by those who understood that Guru Hargobind was a spiritual leader with a massive following, he was released.  But he ensured that 52 royal prisoners detained in the same jail should also be liberated.  So, the event became significant not only because of his release, but also the release of all political prisoners.   

Recognizing the importance of Bandi Chhor Divas, which coincides with Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and BC Premier John Horgan issued greetings to the Sikh community. 

While it is good that the two leaders care for diversity and have tried to take different cultures into their embrace, their silence over the ongoing state violence in India is highly problematic.

This year’s Bandi Chhor Divas came amidst the backdrop of a crackdown in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

In the name of peace and security, the Indian forces have detained thousands of Kashmiris. The whole disputed territory has been turned into an open jail. The Indian authorities claim that the step was necessary to deal with armed insurgents who have been fighting for the right to self-determination, but the real intention of the right wing Hindu nationalist government is to polarize the Hindu majority against the minority Muslim community that dominates in the Kashmir region.

The state of Kashmir has been turned into heavily militarized territory since August 5. There have been protests all over the world, including Canada, and yet Canadian leaders have remained silent and indifferent. Though Federal New Democrats have made a strong statement, the BC NDP government and Trudeau’s cabinet have each remained neutral.  

Notably, a vigil was held in Surrey on the night of Sunday, October 27. But none of the elected officials showed up. This is despite the fact that it’s a South Asian issue and Surrey has no dearth of South Asian MPs and MLAs. Even Surrey Center Liberal MP Randeep Singh Sarai, in whose riding the vigil was held, was conspicuous by his absence. The only political activist who came and spoke passionately was Annie Ohana, who recently ran as a New Democratic candidate for Fleetwood-Port Kells. None of the MPs from Trudeau’s Liberal Party joined the vigil. Likewise, none of the South Asia MLAs from Horgan’s NDP was present. They did not even find it necessary to send a message of solidarity to the organizers. 

The officials of Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, Surrey-Delta were busy because of prayers and festivities at gurdwara and couldn’t make it, but they spread the word about the vigil and had lent the sound system to the organizers. The temple president Hardeep Singh Nijjar made a personal appeal to the Sikh community to go and join the protesters. He has participated in several other rallies held for Kashmir during the recent months. If a temple president and his associates can be so considerate, why can’t our MPs and MLAs?

Trudeau and Horgan should know that they are heading minority governments and shouldn’t be taking the support of progressive voters for granted. Apparently, Trudeau's team has not learnt anything from the recent election results. They lost their majority in the Commons only a week ago, but still they are not getting it.

Simply recognizing Bandi Chhor Divas won’t do. If you cannot speak up for the people of Kashmir or other political prisoners then these greetings mean nothing. The issue isn’t just confined to Kashmir. The case of disabled Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba, who is incarcerated under inhuman conditions for standing up for the oppressed groups and religious minorities in India, has also been ignored by the Trudeau government in spite of many protests for him in Canada. Then there are political prisoners who are fighting for freedom in Palestine and people fighting for democracy in China. Canada has also remained silent on these issues. It is better that these two leaders walk the talk rather than making such tokenistic statements.

Teenaa Kaur Pasricha was honoured in Surrey on Sunday, October 27.

Her documentary, When the Sun Didn’t Rise, is based on the sufferings of the victims of state sponsored massacre of the Sikhs following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.

Thousands of Sikhs were slaughtered across India during the violence that was well-organized by the slain leader’s ruling Congress party with the help of the police.

The film is based on her interviews with survivors of the violence, and orphaned children who have grown into drug addicts because of a lack of support. It is the first serious effort to open a dialogue with those who continue to suffer long-term inter-generational effects of the bloodshed.

Close to the 35th anniversary of the genocide, the members of Guru Nanak Singh Temple, Surrey-Delta presented her with the robe of honour in the presence of the huge congregation which had gathered to celebrate Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas. Speaking on the occasion, Pasricha appealed to the gathering to continue to raise voices against repression anywhere in the world according to the Sikh traditions.

Being a Sikh woman herself, Pasricha was personally affected by the violence. One of her uncles was attacked by the mob, and his hair was forcibly cut by the assailants. For a practising Sikh, keeping long hair is a sacred duty. She had learnt from her mother how her uncle remained depressed for some time because of the humiliation.

She went beyond making the film and has been trying to help people suffering long-term consequences of the massacre, especially those who have become drug users.

Pasricha is here for the screening of her film on Saturday, November 2 at Room 120, C.K. Choi Building in University of British Columbia, between 1 – 6 pm. The screening is part of the event titled "Patterns of Political Violence: 35 Years Since 1984" being organized by the Centre for India and South Asian Research.

 

Gurpreet Singh

The recently concluded federal election has proved to be was a mandate for an inclusive Canada.

Even though Liberals were not able win another majority, the defeat of right wing Conservatives and decimation of the far right People’s Party of Canada can be seen as a clear rejection of divisive politics by the electorate on October 21.

Out of 338 seats in the House of Commons, the Liberals have got 157 - way less than the 177 seats they held in the previous parliament - but they were able to crush the Conservatives’ hope for a majority government.

As the Conservatives lick their wounds with only 121 seats, the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) lost their only riding, held by its leader Maxime Bernier, to the Conservatives. The two right wing parties were tough on immigration, with Bernier being more outspoken against multiculturalism. So much so, PPC had ties with white nationalists, in sharp contrast to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The two parties have been constantly attacking Trudeau for opening doors to Syrian refugees and foreign students. It is a separate matter that the New Democrats’ much more diverse team and platform could not make a huge impact. The party have got only 24 seats in the house, down from 39 under the leadership of Jagmeet Singh.

Singh is the first turbaned Sikh to become a leader of any national political party in Canada, and constantly faced racism from both within his own party and outside during the campaign that was partly vitiated by the anti-minority rhetoric of PPC. None of his other turbaned Sikh candidates were elected, while three of the turbaned Sikh Liberal MPs, Harjit Singh Sajjan, Randeep Singh Sarai and Navdeep Singh Bains got re-elected. Two turbaned Sikhs - Tim Uppal and Jasraj Singh Hallan - also got elected as Conservative MPs. Notably, some of these candidates also faced racist attacks during the campaign. It is pertinent to mention that such negativity wasn’t just directed at the male Sikh candidates. Female candidates such as Liberal MP Hedy Fry and others from various visible minority groups also encountered racism.

The election of Jody Wilson-Raybould as an independent MP from Vancouver Granville can also be seen as a symbolic defeat of structural racism against Indigenous Peoples in Canada, and a slap in the face of Justin Trudeau. She was the first Indigenous woman to become Justice Minister in Trudeau's government. Trudeau had kicked her out of Liberal caucus to protect the interests of a controversial company that was facing investigation. This widened a gulf between the First Nations and Trudeau, who came to power with a huge majority in 2015 on the promise of making bridges with Indigenous communities who have faced mistreatment ever since Canada was founded on their stolen lands. This was a time when minorities, including the indigenous peoples, were outraged by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose government had become infamous for infringing on the rights of Muslims and other marginalized sections of the society.

Wilson-Raybould fought as an independent candidate this time, in the face of hostility and vicious propaganda. Her victory is definitely a big jolt for Trudeau whose poor showing can be attributed to his mishandling of the situation involving SNC Lavalin.

As if this was not enough, the old pictures and videos showing Trudeau having painted himself brown and black in the past dented his image internationally. However, former US President Barak Obama, the first black American President, gave Trudeau a major boost close to the final days of campaigning by endorsing him on twitter.

Another significant aspect of the election was that voters of Indian origin frustrated the attempts of the pro-India lobby to bring a Conservative government in Canada by using its influence in predominantly South Asian ridings. The right wing Hindu nationalist government, under which attacks on religious minorities have grown, was never fond of Trudeau or Singh, and always saw Conservatives as their real allies. Trudeau is often accused by the Indian government of patronising Sikh separatists who want to establish a homeland of their own to be carved out of northern India. Likewise, Singh has always been seen as a threat to India for being vocal against human rights abuse and repression of minorities in that country.

The apologists of the Indian state in some of the targeted constituencies with sizable South Asian population worked hard to ensure a Conservative victory, and the defeat of Liberal and NDP candidates. This is not to suggest that the Conservative party is completely wedded to the cause of the pro India lobby, and the Liberal Party and NDP have also been penetrated by supporters of the Indian government.

While the South Asian Conservative candidates had a cakewalk in some of the ridings, thirteen Liberal candidates of Indian origin got elected this time, which doesn’t go in the interest of those who owe loyalties to their overseas masters in New Delhi. Certainly, few of them have a rapport with India, but that does not represent the whole picture.   

The election results may not be one hundred percent according to the wishes of those who care for a just society, but they give some solace to those were anxious about Canada going back to Conservatives and join the growing list of countries being taken over by populism and alt right movements. Hopefully, Trudeau will try to learn from his mistakes and fix them to be more careful for the next time.

 

***

 

Gurpreet Singh

 

As the federal Election Day gets closer, the surge in popularity of New Democratic leader Jagmeet Singh following political debates is giving anxiety to the Indian establishment and its apologists within the South Asian Diaspora in Canada.

The Indian state sees Singh - the first turbaned Sikh leader of any national party in Canada - as a threat to its sovereignty.

Ever since Singh ran for the leadership, the Indian agents in Canada have been trying hard to get him defeated. Now when the polls are suggesting that the election might result in a minority Liberal government with the balance of power coming into the hands of New Democrats, they will apply every tool in their tool box to bring Conservatives to power through their supporters in predominantly South Asian ridings.    

The reason for their hostility toward Singh is rooted in his campaign for justice to the victims of 1984 Sikh Genocide. 

Thousands of Sikhs were murdered all over India following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in the first week of November 1984. The massacre was engineered by supporters of the slain leader with the help of police. For years, the Sikh Diaspora has been fighting for justice and closure. Because Singh had vehemently participated in the campaign as an MPP in Ontario, the Indian government declined to give him visa to visit the home country of his parents.

The matter did not end there, as Singh remains critical of human rights abuses in India. He refused to meet the current right wing Hindu nationalist Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visited Canada in 2015. 

Modi was complicit in the anti-Muslim massacre of Gujarat in 2002, when he was the Chief Minister of the state. The violence followed the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. Over 50 people died in the incident, which was instantly blamed on Muslims by Modi,  even though one commission of inquiry found that it was an accident.  

Recently, Singh came out with a strong statement against repression of Muslims in Indian-occupied Kashmir.      

For this, the pro-India lobby has repeatedly branded him as a Sikh separatist. This may be partly because he endorses the right to self-determination by all minorities and oppressed groups anywhere in the world.  

Unfortunately, this narrative has not only been accepted by the right wing Hindu nationalists in Canada, but also by a section of pro-India leftists. They have decided not to support him in the election, which is obviously going to help Conservatives and to some extent the Liberals. It is a separate matter that the Indian government is also suspicious of the ruling Liberals, who have been often accused of pandering Sikh separatists in Canada by the Indian politicians.

For the record, Conservatives have a cozy relationship with Modi, who they see as a strong ideological ally in India.  

It’s a shame that the Indian establishment has stooped to such a level and isn’t willing to respect the mandate of Canadian citizens. At the same time, they are patronizing political figures like Tulsi Gabbard across the border, a Democrat who is seeking to run for US President. Many of her positions in terms of domestic politics are seen as progressive, but her allegiance to the Hindu Right in India has never come into question. 

A practising Hindu, Gabbard is a staunch supporter of Modi and has gone to the extent of justifying violence against Muslims in Gujarat. When Modi was denied visa by the US government because of his involvement in the pogrom, Gabbard came to his rescue. So much so, she has been supported both financially and politically by the followers of a powerful Hindu supremacist organization, the Rashtriya Sawayamsewak Sangh (RSS) of which Modi is a part. 

Recently, Gabbard had tried to rationalise the repression of Muslims in Kashmir. A senior RSS leader attended her wedding a few years ago and brought with him a personal message from Modi, with one Indian diplomat being present.

If the Indian government can give protocol and respect to such a divisive political figure in US, why is Singh being ostracised? Singh too is of Indian origin, and an elected official who could be a future leader of Canada. He has every right to see things differently. If Gabbard can be pardoned for being supportive of an ideology that is blatantly racist, why not forgive Singh who has only been asking for justice?     

Consider some of these contrasting headlines from the Indian press used for the two leaders to understand this hypocrisy:  

Jagmeet Singh’s rise in Canadian politics could be of concern in India;  Jagmeet Singh faces criticism for pushing Canada’s parliament to give ‘genocide’ tag to 1984 riots etc. versus Tulsi Gabbard could be first Hindu to run for US presidency in 2020; Tulsi Gabbard, 1st Hindu-American to run for US president. 

Like it or not, this prejudice has a lot to do with the fact that Singh belongs to a merely two percent minority community of India, whereas Gabbard is the poster girl of the Hindu Right. This showcases how India remains a majoritarian Hindu state under the garb of secularism and democracy. It’s time to defeat the nefarious designs of RSS and its followers in Canada on election day by giving Singh every support he deserves. This is not to suggest to support him blindly, but at least be considerate about the inconvenient truth of him being a marked man. It remains important to recognize that he is a victim of foreign interference because of his identity and political beliefs. 

 

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