Gurpreet Singh: Burnaby commemorates unarmed victims of colonial-era slaughter in Punjab

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      The City of Burnaby has issued a proclamation in recognition of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

      At an April 8 public meeting at Edmonds Community Centre, the proclamation was read out by Coun. Sav Dhaliwal on behalf of Mayor Mike Hurley in the presence of several members of the Indo Canadian community.

      On April 13, 1919, close to 1,000 people were killed at Jallianwala Bagh—a public park in Amritsar, Punjab—in British-ruled India.

      This occurred when troops opened fire on peaceful demonstrators who had gathered to protest repressive laws and the arrests of anticolonial, passive-resistance movement leaders.

      Dhaliwal himself is of Indian origin and was instrumental in bringing forward the proclamation. And Burnaby is the first municipality in B.C. to do this in connection with this horrific massacre.

      Video: This scene from Richard Attenborough's film Gandhi depicted the bloody Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919.

      Notably, Dhaliwal was also instrumental behind similar proclamations in recognition of the birth centenary of Bhagat Singh in 2007 and the 100th anniversary of the Ghadar Party in 2013. Bhagat Singh was a towering Indian revolutionary who was executed for assassinating a British police officer, while the Ghadar Party was founded by a group of radical activists in North America who advocated armed rebellion against the British Empire.

      The proclamation made by Mike Hurley declared April 13 as “Commemoration Day”.

      It was later presented to community activists who have been trying to keep the history of Jallianwala Bagh massacre alive in Canada.

      Burnaby councillor Sav Dhaliwal (seen with New Westminster mayor Jonathan Cote) appeared on the cover of the Georgia Straight after he was elected chair of Metro Vancouver.

      Among them were Mehak Punjab Di TV producer Kamaljit Singh Thind and Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation spokesperon Sahib Thind (no relation).

      Both of them have launched a campaign to pressure the British government to make a formal apology for the bloody incident.

      Others present on the occasion were Dr. Raghbir Singh Sirjana—who is an authority on the history of Ghadar Party—and former Burnaby school trustee Baljinder Kaur Narang. They were joined by members of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India, which had lobbied for the proclamation.

      Coun. Sav Dhaliwal reads out the proclamation from the City of Burnaby.
      Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor and a cofounder of Radical Desi.