Gurpreet Singh: Visiting Indian human rights activist Teesta Setalvad meets B.C. premier John Horgan

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      B.C.'s premier has been apprised of the deteriorating human-rights situation in India by a harsh critic of the country's prime minister, Narendra Modi.

      Mumbai-born author and human rights activist Teesta Setalvad met John Horgan at his office in the B.C. legislature on April 18 on a trip to Canada.

      Setalvad has been spearheading a campaign for justice for the victims of the 2002 anti-Muslim massacre in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

      Modi was chief minister of Gujarat back then. Human rights activists and survivors of the pogrom continue to allege his complicity in the crime, though he has never been charged or convicted.

      Setalvad arrived in B.C. for the launching of the Punjabi translation of her memoir, Foot Soldier of the Constitution, which is based on her struggle for justice.

      On April 13, she was honoured with a medal of courage at an event organized by Radical Desi and Indians Abroad for Pluralist India in partnership with Mehak Punjab Dee TV.

      During a brief meeting with Horgan, she not only presented him with a copy of her book, but also described the current situation in India under a right-wing Hindu nationalist government led by Modi.

      She pointed out that the politics of bigotry and attacks on minorities have grown  under the present administration.

      As a journalist, Teesta Setalvad covered three horrific Indian human rights outrages in 1984 (against Sikhs), 1992 and 1993 (against Muslims), and 2002 (against Muslims).

      Setalvad herself has faced many challenges for standing up against state violence. For example, the Indian government slapped some legal cases against her to prevent her from being permitted to travel abroad.

      However, she finally got respite from the Supreme Court and was able to come to North America.

      She separately met with the Labour Minister Harry Bains and the parliamentary secretary for multiculturalism, Ravi Kahlon, presenting them with copies of her book. She also informed Bains about the increasing assault on labour rights in India by its right wing government.

      Others who interacted with Setalvad included Citizens' Services Minister Jinny Sims, Deputy Speaker Raj Chouhan, and MLA Jagrup Brar.

      Setalvad was accompanied by Buta Singh, who translated her book into Punjabi. Singh is also a social justice activist from Punjab.

      Teesta Setalvad met NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh as the Vaisakhi parade in Surrey.

      Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also met Setalvad at the Vaisakhi parade in Surrey, which is the second-largest city in British Columbia.

      If Singh's party were to win the most seats in the 2019 federal election, he would likely become prime minister of Canada. 

      Singh is a Canadian-born human rights activist who has been denied a visitor's visa by the Indian government for speaking out against state violence and repression of Sikhs and other minority communities in India.

      In addition, Setalvad gave a presentation at the University of British Columbia on April 16 on the politics of bigotry and growing state repression in India. The event began with a moment of silence for Asifa Bano, an eight-year-old Muslim girl who was raped and brutally murdered in India by supporters of the Hindu right.

      On Sunday (April 22), Setalvad and Buta Singh will be at the Newton Library (13795 70 Avenue, Surrey) from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. to discuss how sexual violence is being used to terrorize religious minorities in India.

      Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor and a founder of Radical Desi.

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