Gurpreet Singh: NDP MP Jasbir Sandhu ruffles feathers by sponsoring WSO dinner

A New Democrat MP from Surrey North, Jasbir Sandhu, has raised many eyebrows within moderate circles in the Sikh community.

This comes as a result of Sandhu sponsoring a dinner organized by the World Sikh Organization (WSO) in Ottawa early next month.

The WSO, which supports an independent Sikh homeland, is holding its annual parliamentary dinner on June 1 at the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa. NDP leader Jack Layton is expected to attend.

Colin Henry Gonsalves, a human-rights activist and a senior advocate from India, will be a keynote speaker. The event is being held in memory of those who died during a military raid on the Golden Temple complex, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, in Amritsar, India in the first week of June 1984.

The army action, known as Operation Blue Star, was launched to flush out religious extremists who had fortified the shrine. The attack stirred angry protests by Sikhs around the world.

The WSO came into being in the wake of the controversial military operation and has been organizing events since then.

WSO office manager Ajit Singh Sahota, who sent out invitation for the June 1 dinner, confirmed to the Straight that the annual event was aimed to remember "martyrs of the June 1984 holocaust".

He also confirmed that the WSO supports the formation of Khalistan, a Sikh homeland, through democratic and peaceful means.

According to Sahota, Sandhu agreed to sponsor the event when he was approached. Sahota maintained that previous Liberal MPs, like David Kilgour, Herb Dhaliwal, and Sukh Dhaliwal, had also sponsored the WSO's annual parliamentary dinners in the past.

Ironically, Sandhu is the son of Ajit Singh Ankhi, a veteran Marxist leader from India who opposed Khalistan and Sikh extremism.

Pro-Khalistan terrorists are blamed for the murders of about 300 Communists in the Indian state of Punjab.

Sandhu, who is the NDP public-safety critic, claimed that he was asked by his party to sponsor the event.

He told the Straight that there is no big deal with the event as WSO dinners have been sponsored by Liberals in the past.

After being asked whether or not the WSO supports Khalistan, Sandhu said, "I have nothing to do with their agenda."

Meanwhile, Indo Canadian Workers’ Association leader Kulwant Dehsi, a Marxist himself and a staunch opponent of Khalistan, told the Straight that Canadian politicians have been courting the Sikh separatists for years, but this was not expected from Sandhu.

"We are shocked," Dehsi said.

Surjit Kalsi is a former moderate Sikh temple leader who lost his first cousin in the 1985 Air India bombing—a terrorist act blamed on Sikh extremists.

"The progressive politicians often take our support for granted but end up courting the fundamentalists to please everybody," Kalsi said.

Gurpreet Singh is a 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.

Comments (13) Add New Comment
Ken Lawson
You could never put your trust in Taliban Jack
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Tej Singh
Another regular annual even being given a controversial twist by a biased writer with his own agenda of defaming Sikhs who seek justice and freedom. The frequent use of term Terrorists,. Khalistani, religious extremists etc clearly has the stamp of GOI's propaganda /talking points which are distributed through their missions to their agents.
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Shepsil
This article could also be put in the context of our own Quebec separatist option. We do not call our Quebec separatists terrorists. Some Sikh's believe in separatism for their state and some do not, just like Quebecer's.

In Vancouver (as in Quebec) you cannot deal with the Sikh community without dealing with separatists. It does not matter which party Sikh's vote for, some of those votes will always come from Sikh separatists.

Thankfully in Quebec, the New Democratic Party did what no other party had been able to do. They got those previously voting for the separatist party to vote for a federalist party. The NDP was the only party with the values that appealed to Quebec voters.
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Guruka Singh
any sikh should support Khalistan in every gurdwara in the world they say Raj Karega Khalsa and doesnt this insensitive writter write about the murders the indians have commited to sikhs innocent children and women. and destroyed many gurdwara around the country. no one has been arrested or tried. what a great human being this writter is he completely forgets about this.
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Commenter
As far as Sikh groups go WSO is fairly mainstream and moderate. Upon doing some research it seems the Indian Workers Association are radicals who hold an annual 'revolutionary martyrs festival'. Did the author not know he was talking to a fringe radical Marxist group?
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gupta what
what does any of this have to do with BC or Canada?
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Jag
Perhaps our newly elected people in government should focus on the political responsibilites here in Canada rather than being concerned about politics in India.
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Jagtar Singh
Does this mean that "moderate" sikh circles do not believe in the right of sikhs to peacefully propagate sikhs' right to self determination in India?

How many people support the marxists and communits in Punjab?

If Khalistan is a dead concept in Punjab, then these Marxists need to tell their position in present day Punjab, which is zilch, zero, nada.....Also, it would be nice to know about their heroes who fought the British...killed innocent British soldiers and terrorized people in the name of Inquilaab (Revolution). These Indian marxists have also been shown the door in West Bengal..they are a defunct political group in Punjab and have nothing better to do than take cheap shots to get some desperate publicity. Sorry guys, you need better role models than Lenin and Stalin, murderers to the core.
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Mansher
Wow..!!! Is WSO banned in Canada by any way...??? Is WSO involved in any "illegal" activities any way..?? Or Is this writer.. trying to "influence" minds of people, with his "own thoughts"..??

Did this guy write anything about "Killers" like Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar, Naredra Modi, H K L Bhagat, etc....? who are the mass killers and still hold top positions in Indian politics...??

Mr. Writer... June first week is coming now... Are you going to write about 1200 innocent pilgrims killed in attack on temple by Indian forces...??? Ah... what you are gonna write is that, because some Sikh extremists were hiding in there, and to flush them out... Indian forces attacked the temple (instead of creating blockades) and flushed them out.... without mentioning killing of 1200 innocents too inside....
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kiddaa magazine
Why is finding justice for all the Sikhs who died in 1984 riots wrong? This article really is not a big deal. So he is hosting the event and? The mainstream media tries to tie everything negative to Sikhs whenever something is mentioned.
To much negativity spent on criticizing the Sikh community and all Punjabis in Canada.
The reality is we have done incredible things and continue to help the mainstream regardless of race or colour.
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SinghaSingha
This is what happens when politicians rely on the ethnic block to vote for them. Fundamentalist types prefer politicians like Sukh, Malhi, etc. Who through poor English will express views about what happened almost 30 years ago in India. Thats the starting point of becoming 1 issue candidates. The ones that actually got clout and rub elbows with the blue bloods of Canada avoid these things and relied on all voters for support, like Dhaliwal and Dosanjh.

Whst do these guys hope from Canada declaring India committed genocide on our people? It's an India issue. Ask Badal to do it. He's Sikh and "religious.". Or ask any other of the hundreds of high ranking Sikhs in India. Sandhuif you want to play Samosa politics you will forever rub elbows with local "apna community leaders", cabbies truckers and family sponsorsers. If you want to make a positive mark, please aim higher.
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Fan'o Truth
Will the soon be a special column on this matter by Ujjal Dosanjh?
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