Gurpreet Singh: Former Indian Consul General Ashok Das given a warm sendoff by moderates
The outgoing Consul General of India in Vancouver, Ashok Das has been honoured by moderate Sikhs and pro-India groups in a series of events held in Greater Vancouver.
Das, who is the new Indian Ambassador to Iceland, was credited for taking a tough position against local separatist forces who wanted new state carved out of Punjab.
Widely known for his no-nonsense approach, Das gained much prominence within the Indo-Canadian community over the past three-and-a-half years for tightening the visa policy for Sikh separatists and ultra-leftists during his tenure in Canada. He left for Iceland on May 23.
At a function held on May 18 in Surrey, the Hindu Sikh Forum of North America and the India Canada Association jointly organized a farewell dinner for Das where speakers appreciated his hawkish stand against "antinational forces".
The president of the Vedic Hindu Temple in Surrey, Purshottam Goel, who is also associated with the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), commended Das for "blacklisting those from visiting India who actually work against the national interest of India".
Likewise, the former president of the Surrey Sikh Temple, Balwant Singh Gill, offered appreciation to Das for "discouraging the extremists from visiting India". Gill is an outspoken critic of Sikh fundamentalism.
A prominent moderate Sikh scholar, Gurnam Singh Sanghera, also spoke on the occasion. He insisted that Das is a staunch supporter of united India and that’s why he and others at the event were proud of what he did.
Vinay Sharma, leader of the Hindu Sikh Forum, acknowledged that Das became infamous with the anti-national elements for his tough position against them. "They must be happy with his departure,'' he said.
Das however, emphasized that he was only doing his job and meeting his professional obligation.
On May 20, Das was separately honoured by another pro-India group, the Indo Canadian Workers’ Association, for his "bold stand against subversive elements on Canadian soil'".
During a separate event organized by Team Ravidasi—a group of Dalit activists who support the cause of those considered "untouchables" in India—to honour Das in Vancouver, the ICWA leader, Kulwant Dhesi, said that he respects the diplomat because he never compromised with sectarian forces. Team Ravidasi leader, Jai Birdi, said he agreed.
Gurpreet Singh is Georgia Straight contributor, and the host of a program on Radio India. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings.