Gurpreet Singh: Hari Sharma fondly remembered for his relentless opposition to bigotry and oppression

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      A towering South Asian activist and scholar, the late Hari Sharma, was remembered at an event organized in Abbotsford on March 17.

      It came nine years and one day after Sharma passed away on March 16, 2010 after a losing battle with cancer.

      A Punjabi literary group, Punjabi Sahit Sabha (Mudli), organized the program at the Sikh Heritage Gurdwara. Significantly, the gurdwara was established by the supporters of Ghadar Party—a radical group of political activists formed in 1913 to fight back against racism in North America and British colonialism in India.

      Sharma was among those social justice activists who believed in the policies of Ghadar Party, which wanted to establish a secular and socialist republic in post-British India.

      Sharma was a tireless champion of human rights who consistently raised his voice against the repression of minorities and political dissent in India. He staunchly opposed the draconian state of emergency and suspension of civil liberties imposed by the late Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1975.

      He also remained a vocal critic of massacres engineered against Sikhs and Muslims by the so-called secular Congress party and the currently ruling right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), respectively. The attacks on religious minorities have grown in India ever since the BJP came to power with a brute majority in 2014. 

      The former acting chief commissioner of the B.C. Human Rights Commission, Harinder Mahil, shared his memories of Hari Sharma at the event.
      Gurpreet Singh

      Sharma was instrumental in inviting activists from India to raise awareness of the prevailing circumstances in India in North America. In addition, he was a force behind the Indian People’s Association in North America and the South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy.

      He was equally active in campaigns against war and racism. 

      The main organizer of the March 17 event, Dr. Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal, believes that with the rise in populism and bigotry all over the world, including in India, Sharma’s legacy has become even more relevant today.

      The event began with a moment of silence for the victims of Christchurch mosque shootings.

      NDP MLA Rachna Singh frequently speaks out against bigotry, just as Hari Sharma did for decades before his death.

      Among the speakers were the deputy speaker of the B.C. legislature, Raj Chouhan, Surrey–Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh (full disclosure: my wife), former B.C. Human Rights Commission acting chief commissioner Harinder Mahil, Sikh Nation volunteer Sunil Kumar, veteran Marxist activist Gurmeet Singh Tiwana, and poet Mahima Singh Toor.

      Notably, Sharma was a mentor to both Chouhan and Mahil, while Singh and Kumar shared their personal memories of the deceased activist.

      Speakers were unanimous in their observation that Sharma is greatly missed now with the growth of right wing forces all over the world.