Gurpreet Singh: Sikh separatists can celebrate Khalistan day instead of forcing politics on Vaisakhi

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      As controversies surrounding the annual Vaisakhi parade in Surrey refuse to die, Sikh separatists should consider celebrating Khalistan Day instead of forcing participants at a community festival to endure propaganda for a Sikh homeland.

      Though Vaisakhi is a harvest festival celebrated across India, it has religious significance for the Sikh community.

      The 10th master of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, picked this day in April 1699 to announce the formation of the Khalsa, an army of pure and devout Sikhs who sport long hair and four other articles of faith.

      Since then, Sikhs also celebrate the event as the Khalsa Day.

      However, the annual Vaisakhi parade in Surrey organized by the Dashmesh Darbar Gurdwara (Sikh temple) continues to stir controversies every year.

      This is mainly because the Dashmesh Darbar Gurdwara management vehemently support Khalistan, an imaginary Sikh homeland—a demand that is opposed by the Indian government.

      During the annual Surrey parade, organizers not only hoist Khalistan flags but also display the pictures of the slain militants, whom they describe as martyrs. 

      Not all participants at the parade are religious or supporters of Khalistan. 

      For years, Canadian politicians have attended the Surrey parade despite various controversies and the opposition of the Indian government, which has accused Canada of being soft on Indian separatists.

      The post 9/11 environment and increasing trade relations between Canada and India have somehow changed the perceptions of many Canadian politicians.

      Some elected officials have turned vocal in their criticism of the organizers, while others continue to rub their shoulders with them to attract ethnic votes. Some are consistently opposed to the Sikh separatists.

      The recent parade generated more controversy when one of the Dashmesh Darbar officials, Inderjeet Singh Bains, warned two elected officials, Ujjal Dosanjh and Dave Hayer, against attending the event.

      Dosanjh and Hayer have both been critics of religious extremism.

      Bains suggested that they should join the event at their own risk, prompting a police investigation.

      Premier Gordon Campbell asked temple officials to apologize, which they finally did on April 21. The organizers acknowledged there was no need for Bains's comment. In the meantime, Surrey mayor Dianne Watts has indicated that the city might review the status of next year’s parade.

      Though it is not a bad idea if any secular group takes over the event to avoid such sectarianism, Khalistan supporters can also avoid controversies on Vaisakhi by celebrating a separate Khalistan Day in Surrey.

      Khalistan was proclaimed on April 29, 1986 from inside the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, in the Indian city of Amritsar.

      The same shrine was attacked by the Indian army to flush out religious extremists who had fortified the place in 1984, leaving many innocent people dead.

      The military assault also offended moderate Sikhs. As a result of this operation, then-Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards.

      Subsequently, innocent Sikhs were systematically murdered in different parts of India by goons led by Gandhi’s Congress party leaders. These political events alienated Sikhs from the mainstream, which only strengthened the hands of the separatists.

      Since then, separatists mark April 29 as Khalistan Day. Why then do they have to raise the Khalistan issue on Vaisakhi?

      Is it some kind of camouflaging to give the impression that tens of thousands of participants at the event want a Sikh homeland?

      Perhaps the separatists are worried that not enough people will show up at an event in the name of Khalistan.

      After all, the Khalistan movement has died in Punjab, India.

      The people have rejected it by defeating radical Sikh leaders who promote Khalistan during election campaigns. Besides, people have learned bitter lessons from the senseless killings in the name of religion and theocracy.

      Even apart from this, Khalistan was never a popular demand of the Sikhs. The disillusioned Sikh youth were lured into the separatist movement for numerous reasons, such as unemployment, uneven development, and police repression.

      In addition, there was the Indian government’s double talk in handling the political situation of Punjab, where moderate Sikh leaders struggled for a federal political structure and some basic religious demands.

      Instead of addressing these demands, India’s ruling elite groomed rogue elements to weaken the moderates.

      Ultimately these rogue elements turned into an organized separatist force that challenged both the moderate Sikh leadership and the Indian government.

      The people of Punjab who were caught between the guns of the militants and the Indian armed forces had to endure a decade of violence between early 1980s and 1990s.

      Because Canada allows its citizens freedom of speech, Khalistan supporters should think about holding a separate peaceful event instead of pushing their political agenda onto a purely religious celebration.

      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.




      Apr 25, 2010 at 7:27pm

      Sikhs tend to forget about the Hindu Punjabi's who have lost their homeland Pakistan which has been their home for 1000s of Pakistan is 98% muslim its the only country created in the world on religious grounds..khalistan would be the next??where does this leave Hindu Punjabi's..this is all just so wrong..


      Apr 25, 2010 at 8:06pm

      The so called hindu Punjabis gave their language as Hindi and moved to Haryana, So they have got their share already.

      Now, Live peacefully in Punjab.


      Apr 25, 2010 at 8:24pm

      how about isreal northern ireland ,east timor. So the canadians are going to stop tibets making free tibet slogans as it may offend a trading partner.The canadians are willing to wine and dine a indian politician responsible for genocide, but deny its citizens the right to free speech


      Apr 25, 2010 at 8:29pm

      you can be quebec separatist but not a sikh separatist in canada.

      Vancouver Sikh

      Apr 25, 2010 at 9:13pm

      The media sensationalism surrounding these events is more concerning to me than the actual controversies being reported. The days of terrorism in Punjab in the 80s and 90s (by the state, state sponsored thugs, Sikh extremists and everybody in between) is a chapter no Sikh wants to see repeated. However, as a Sikh, and as a Canadian, I, like many fellow Sikhs, refuse to put this chapter behind us as we feel we have been greatly wronged by the state of India. One example, in October 1984 3000 (official government number) - 10,000 (amnesty groups) innocent Sikhs were killed after the assasination of Indira Gandhi, in all the major cities of India. Females were gang-raped while the men in the family were torched alive. Many government officials were involved in this campaign, one of those individuals was recently invited to Canada for meetings with our trade minister (there's a story about this in today's New York Times). The fact that we don't want to "forget about this chapter and move on" like India's prime minister recently suggested we should, does not make us terrorists, or terrorist sympathisers. I think the local media (namey Canwest and the Vancouver Sun) has treated us very unfairly, and has blown several instances, attributed to specific individuals, way out of proportion, for there own reasons, whatever those may be. Politicians like Ujjal Dosanj, in my opinion have also magnified such controversies for there political gain.

      Hello Mr Gurpreet

      Apr 25, 2010 at 9:30pm

      Is it possible for the Georgia Straight or Mr Gurpreet Singh to publish a picture of the "Khalistani" Flag so that we can distinguish it from the flag that has been flying outside Sikh Gurdwaras for 500 years? Please help...I have yet to see one and I am having trouble trying to locate a picture of one...I have searched all over the Internet! Does it exist or is it a figment of Mr Singh's imagination? Could you please provide proof?

      Isvinder S G

      Apr 25, 2010 at 10:54pm

      The figth for Khalistan is not just about sikh in punjab, its about all punjabi.
      The figth is with the system and for human right. Got it kkh

      Dosanjh Celebrates Bhagat Singh

      Apr 25, 2010 at 11:24pm

      Georgia Straight: please investigate a conference held from June 12 to 14 at Vancouver, Delta and Surrey in 2004 which was presided over by Mr Ujjal Dosanj.

      Here Mr Dosanjh released posters of Bhagat Singh who was executed in India in 1931 for terrorist activities against the British. He was instrumental in throwing a bomb into an assembly and the killing of a British police officer.

      This seems to contradict Mr Dosanjh's stand on it ok to celebrate those who were terrorists and criminals because they 'fought' to free India and yet young Sikhs who support the ideology of Khalistan are branded as 'poisoned minds' by him? Is it wrong to celebrate the lives of those who have fought for Khalistan...why ...because Khalistan is not a trading partner to Canada and unable to 'award' medals to the like of Mr. Dosanjh?

      Given his hysterical stance, will this utter hypocrisy be the end of his credibility and political career?



      Apr 26, 2010 at 1:16am

      gallan mardha panchod, the slaughter and terror was unleashed on the young Sikh women and men intentionally and it was organized and encouraged by the state, we will not forget the cold blooded murders of 1984 and the attack on our Darbar Sahib or the Akal Takht...Raj Karega Khalsa... Indian media is first to report news to their people when Sikh have problems, but no coverage on our nagar kirtan in Toronto where 70,000 Sikh gather in support of justice and equality for humankind.... the same media that was blocked by the government and international outlet in 1984... we will not be silent.


      Apr 26, 2010 at 2:54am

      Canadain Citizen can talk Abot Sepret Quebec , Whay Not Khalistan ?? Khalistan Mean Place Off Khalsa so whay we cant Speek Khalsa Place On Khalsa Birthday thees are anti Sikh Popel we dont want any Advise frome them we dont want bad Indian Poli. In over Country Canada . Khalistan Zindabad . Ever Thees Popel Talk abut 150000 Sikh Kild In India or Muslam Kild In India or Christan Kild in India naver .