The world was shocked on February 14, when a suicide attack in Indian Kashmir left more than 40 paramilitary personnel killed.
Those targeted belonged to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which is deployed in Kashmir where an armed insurgency for independence has been going on for years. A Pakistan-based Islamic extremist group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The majority of the soldiers who died came from less privileged families. This has obviously devastated those who not only lost their loved ones, especially when you consider that they may have been the sole breadwinners.
The incident has been widely condemned. Certainly, it is painful to see so many lives being lost and people’s anger is justified.
But such outrage remains missing when it comes to the killings of civilians or so-called suspected militants by Indian forces who continue to enjoy immunity by virtue of draconian laws imposed on Kashmir to suppress political dissent.
So much so, the extra-judicial murders of political activists and custodial rapes of Kashmiri women rarely elicit responses in the form of candlelight vigils or protests.
What was more hypocritical to see was the promptness with which Canadian politicians expressed their solidarity with India.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland issued a statement saying “Canada strongly condemns the terrorist attack that took place in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir today."
The statement further said: “We stand in solidarity with the government and the people of India in the fight to prevent radicalization and defeat terrorism in all its forms.”
Not to be left behind was B.C.'s labour minister, Harry Bains, who expressed his outrage on Facebook.
“I'm alarmed by the senseless attack that killed 40 CRPF men and left many injured in Kashmir—I strongly condemn this terror attack," he wrote.
Bains too expressed his sympathies with the people of India.
Both Freeland and Bains did an excellent job in condemning these deaths.
However, their sympathy for “people of India” continues to overlook the growing repression of minorities and political dissidents in the world's so-called largest democracy under a right-wing Hindu nationalist government led by Narendra Modi.
Ever since Modi came to power in 2014, violence against non-Hindus has grown and anyone who questions the power can face imprisonment under repressive laws.
Despite many incidents of state violence, including the use of excessive force on protesters in Kashmir, the extra-judicial murders of political activists and rapes by the security personnel in the name of national security never alarmed cabinet ministers in Canada. They have largely ignored the demonstrations organized by South Asians in protest against injustices in India. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to raise these concerns with his counterpart during his official visit to India last year.
Only recently, when a rally was held in Surrey in protest against the witch hunt of political activists in India, these politicians stayed away. Provincial politicians decided to remain neutral, citing limitations of jurisdictional boundaries, but they won’t ignore a chance to side with the Indian state, which is rather convenient to maintain good trade relations.
Nevertheless, exceptions are always there. NDP MP and human rights critic Cheryl Hardcastle issued a statement on February 13 condemning the current political situation in India under Modi and urged the Canadian government to intervene.
The statements by other Canadian politicians on the attack in Kashmir are not only selective, but a sham as they do not tell the whole truth.
It means nothing to say that “we stand with the people of India.”
After all, those on the receiving end of state violence are also the people of India, many of whom are only being punished for fighting for the rights of ordinary Indians and thinking differently.
Is it for Canadian politicians to say whether they are standing with the real people of India or with the people in power?
I would argue that they have already picked a side and their solidarity is with the Indian state and certainly not with its people.