Gurpreet Singh: Canadian politicians so enamoured by Indian democracy need to come out of denial

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      When South Asians recently came together at Surrey's Holland Park to protest the arrests of five political activists in India, not one elected official of South Asian ancestry showed up.

      This is despite the fact that Surrey has a sizeable South Asian population represented by two South Asian MPs and four MLAs. Nor did any other politicians appear at the gathering.

      Indian police arrested the five under malicious charges for standing up for poor and marginalized Indians and questioning the power of the state. This police action enraged social justice activists all over India, including Booker Prize–winning author Arundhati Roy and respected Indian historian Ramachandra Guha, and concerned Indians abroad.

      As a result, Indians Abroad for Pluralist India organized the rally in Surrey on August 31.

      Dozens of progressive activists, including short-story writer Harpreet Sekha and documentary filmmaker Ajay Bhardawaj, came out to show their support.

      A veteran community activist, Chin Banerjee, spoke at length to explain what is going on in India under the right-wing government of India led by Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi.

      Even though organizers invited two Indo Canadian MPs belonging to the federal Liberal party and sent an invitation through the caucus communication to the ruling New Democrats in Victoria to draw their support on this important issue, none of the elected officials acknowledged receiving the message, leaving aside the question of their attendance at the rally.

      A day later however, a number of them were present at a cultural event organized by Namaste Canada, a group patronized by the Indian consulate in Vancouver.

      Some of them tweeted about their presence at the program in spite of the fact that the attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents continue to grow under a right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India.

      Those arrested in India have been raising their voices since Modi's BJP came to power in 2014.

      Though it was disturbing, it wasn’t surprising at all.

      Three months ago, when a Sikh activist was murdered in Pakistan by suspected Islamic extremists, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was prompt to condemn the incident on social media.

      Similarly, when some Hindus and Sikhs died in a bombing incident in Afghanistan, Indo Canadian MPs reacted sharply over Twitter.

      Such eagerness remains missing whenever there are news stories of brutal attacks on religious minorities in India.

      Video: Respected Indian historian and Mahatma Gandhi biographer Ramachandra Guha calls the recent arrests in India "chilling and awful".

      Rallies and demonstrations organized in response to these incidents in Canada hardly ever attract politicians, including those of Indian origin.

      This only reflects badly on Canada's claims to be a human rights leader in the world.

      Apparently, politicians in Canada are either too enamoured by the growing economy of India and see it as potential business partner, or they are blinded by the notion that India is the world’s largest democracy.

      Whatever may be the explanation, they need to come out of denial. India is increasingly becoming an intolerant and fascist state.

      All they need to do is to rip off India's mask of secularism and democracy.

      It is easier to point fingers at already maligned nations, like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

      Novelist and essayist Arundhati Roy talks about the importance of truth with Indian human-rights activist Teesta Setalvad.

      Stung by Islamophobia, western democracies have failed to see and accept the fact that India has virtually been turned into Hindu theocracy where Muslims and other minority groups continue to suffer at the hands of Hindu extremists.

      Unless Canadian politicians recognize this, the Indian state will continue to persecute its critics and minorities with impunity.

      It's time for Canada to stand up and break this deafening silence or stop claiming to be a human rights defender.

      Video: Historian Ramachandra Gupta tells Indian journalist Karan Thapar that Narendra Modi is a "study in self-love".
      Gurpreet Singh is cofounder of Radical Desi magazine and Indians Abroad for Pluralist India. 

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