Gurpreet Singh: Indian Marxist MP Sitaram Yechury promotes secularism in visit to Surrey
A visiting Marxist Member of Parliament from India has called upon the South Asian diaspora to uphold the secular values of the Ghadar Party.
Speaking at a seminar that was held to celebrate the 100 years of the Ghadar Party in Surrey, Comrade Sitaram Yechury, a member of the upper house of the Indian parliament, urged everyone to work together to defeat the "nefarious designs" of sectarian and fundamentalist forces that are bent upon dividing people on religious lines.
The Ghadar Party was established in 1913 by South Asian immigrants along the Pacific Coast of North America to launch an armed rebellion against the British occupation of India. The party was secular in character and vehemently denounced caste and religious prejudices.
A senior member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Yechury warned that India’s unity and diversity were under threat from the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party, which is indirectly projecting the chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, as a future prime minister.
The Modi government is blamed for an anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002. Yechury cautioned his audience at the Dogwood Community Hall in the Newton Hockey Arena that any attempt to turn a pluralist Indian society into a theocracy needs to be challenged.
He recently received threats for questioning the condolence motion introduced in the Indian parliament following the death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray.
Shiv Sena is a staunch BJP ally accused of bashing Muslims and non-Maharashtrians in Mumbai. Interestingly, Yechuri shared the dais with an Akali Dal MP, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, at the event. Akali Dal is another trusted ally of the BJP and supports Modi.
The event was organized by the Indo Canadian Workers’ Association—a CPI (M) offshoot inVancouver. The CPI (M) had fought the last assembly election in Punjab in partnership with People’s Party of Punjab formed by Akali Dal rebel Manpreet Singh Badal. The Indo Canadian Workers’ Association had expressed its support to Badal when he came here before the election.
Yechury was also critical of Sikh fundamentalists who are trying to appropriate the Ghadar history.
"The Ghadar Party was not just a party of the Sikhs," he said. "It had supporters from other religious communities as well. How can one ignore the participation of the Hindus and Muslims in the Ghadar movement?"
He noted that Ghadarites did not just confine their struggle to the freedom of India from foreign rule, but continued to fight for a just society even after the country had gained its independence. According to him, bigger challenges from Imperial forces still prevail.
Yechury observed that the free-market economy and liberalization have created a yawning gap between the rich and the poor. "As a fitting tribute to the Ghadarites we must keep this struggle alive."
Yechury also released a souvenir dedicated to the Ghadar history. Others who spoke were Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and local MPs Jinny Sims and Jasbir Sandhu.
Former MLA Dave Hayer was also present. Among other notable speakers included the consul-general of India, Ravi Shankar Aisola, and prominent historical researchers and scholars Sohan Pooni, Dr. Raghbir Singh Sirjana, and Naveen Girn. Indian Workers’ Association leader from the U.K., Harsev Bains, and Indo Canadian Workers’ Association leaders Surinder Sangha, Surinder Dhesi, and Kuwant Dhesi also spoke.