Indo Canadian politicians who've been known for their strong secularist views will find it hard to explain their presence at a dinner in Surrey hosted by supporters of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party of India.
On the occasion of India’s Independence Day on August 15, the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) held an event at the Bombay Banquet Hall in Surrey where various elected and nonelected officials belonging to different political parties were present.
The venue was completely packed and organizers claim that close to 800 people showed up.
A news release issued by an OFBJP leader Aditya Kumar Tawatia stated that newly elected prime minister of India “Narendra Modi was hailed in Canada.” Since the BJP led by Modi won a large majority in the May general election, the mood was understandably upbeat.
Modi was previously chief minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat that witnessed an anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002. Because of concerns that the Modi government was involved in the massacre, he was denied a U.S. visitor's visa back in 2005.
Modi, like many other BJP leaders, belongs to the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS)—a group of volunteers dedicated to the cause of transforming pluralist Indian society into a Hindu state. The BJP is known for its pro-Hindu nationalism and has been accused of threatening religious minorities in different parts of India.
Besides, the party is mainly pro-business and shares social and fiscal conservative values with other right-wing governments across the world. It is not surprising therefore that supporters of the ruling Conservative party were present at the event. Before the May election when Tawatia organized a meeting in Vancouver, it was attended by prominent Indo Canadian conservatives.
What was interesting about the Independence Day dinner was the presence of Indo Canadian politicians with very strong ties with the moderate camp of the local Sikh community. Among them were NDP MP Jinny Sims and former B.C. Liberal MLA Dave Hayer. Hayer is currently fighting for a federal Conservative nomination.
Moderates have been fighting against fundamentalist supporters of Khalistan, an imaginary Sikh homeland in northwestern Indian. Hayer is the son of Tara Singh Hayer—the slain editor of Indo Canadian Times. Tara Singh Hayer, who previously supported the pro-Khalistan movement later, fell out with the extremists and died as a critic of violence.
His son is known as die-hard opponent of terrorism and has the strong backing of moderates in the community.
Sims was helped by a section of the moderates in the last federal election against former Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal, who was accused of coming too close to Khalistan supporters. Moderates had heavily criticised another NDP MP, Jasbir Sandhu, for organizing a parliamentary dinner for the World Sikh Organization (WSO). Many moderates view the WSO as a supporter of theocracy.
Surprisingly, a complete silence prevails in the moderate camp that is supposedly secularist over the presence of their allies at an event held by the BJP. In fact, some moderates belonging to the leftist organizations purposely skipped the event, but nobody has come out with any strong statement against Sims or Hayer.
It appears that for these people it is too easy to criticize the supporters of Khalistan, but not the state power. This can only explain their double standards.
How can you be a secularist in one situation and choose to remain quiet in the other? The politicians too could have avoided going to the BJP dinner as the official and neutral Independence Day celebrations were held at the Indian consulate the same morning. Perhaps, they knew that nobody is going to question them, not even about their selective secularism.