Gurpreet Singh: #HandsAgainstRacism gathers steam with support of a human rights defender and a philanthropist

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      Two very highly regarded residents of India have raised their hands in Burnaby against racism.

      Lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat has fought for justice for the family of a girl who was raped and murdered in January 2018.

      Dr. Chandrasekhar Sankurathri lost his wife and two children in the Air India bombing of June 23, 1985, and later created a hospital and school in their name.

      They both added their handprints to Burnaby-based Spice Radio’s campaign against racism in late May during visits to the station.   

      Rajawat had stepped forward at personal risk to defend the family of Asifa Bano, a nomad Muslim girl who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and killed by Hindu fundamentalists in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

      Those involved in the conspiracy wanted to terrorize and humiliate Muslims in the area by using rape as a weapon.  

      Rajawat faced threats and intimidation in the deeply polarized society of India.

      This has occurred as the accused continue to enjoy the patronage of the ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party under which attacks on religious minorities have grown.

      Rajawat was at Spice Radio on May 21 when she left her coloured handprint on a white sheet with a message against bigotry.

      “Colours bring happiness. Let’s be together to bring colours,” she wrote.

      Below her signature, she also wrote: “Secular India”.

      Read Deepika Singh Rajawat's message above.
      Gurpreet Singh

      The campaign was launched by Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt in 2015 on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth.

      The annual campaign coincides with Holi, a Hindu festival of colours, and encourages people to come and dip their hands in colour and leave their handprints on a white sheet.

      Datt is a strong advocate for women's empowerment. She previously supported Rajawat’s struggle for social justice by using social media to condemn the rape and murder of Bano and challenging Indian prime minister Narendra Modi over his silence.

      Notably, both Rajawat and Datt are devout Hindus, and yet they came out in support of the campaign for justice for a Muslim child. 

      A week later, Dr. Sankurathri went to Spice Radio to leave his handprint on a white sheet along with this statement: “Let’s live together, work together and make this world proud of us.”

      Dr. Chandra Sankurathri raises his hand against racism.
      Gurpreet Singh

      Sankurathri was a scientist who previously worked for the Canadian government.

      On June 23, 1985, his wife Manjari, seven-year-old son Srikiran, and four-year-old daughter Sarada died in the Air India bombing that claimed 329 lives.

      The explosion took place on Air India Flight 182 above the Irish Sea, and was blamed on Sikh separatists seeking revenge against the Indian government.

      Eight months before, innocent Sikhs were targeted all across India by political goons following the assassination of the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, by her Sikh bodyguards.

      The assassins wanted to avenge the storming of the Golden Temple Complex, the holiest Sikh shrine, by the Indian army on Gandhi's orders in June 1984.

      Read Chandresekhar Sankurathi's message above.
      Gurpreet Singh

      The bombing turned the life of Sankurathri upside-down.

      But he decided to channel his grief into his strength by establishing a charitable organization in India to help poor children.

      The Manjari Sankurathri Memorial Foundation, named after his wife, provides free education and eye treatment to those marginalized. He has moved back to India and has forgiven those responsible for the bombing.

      During a live interview on Spice Radio, he urged religious fanatics to shun hate and embrace humanity.

      He also said that no religion teaches us to kill anyone and we should love not only fellow humans, but all species on Earth.

      Spice Radio founder Shushma Datt was pleased that Dr. Chandrasekhar Sankurathri visited her Burnaby radio station.
      Gurpreet Singh
      Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor and a cofounder of Radical Desi.

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