Gurpreet Singh: Newly appointed federal minister Anita Anand has been part of a pro-India lobby group

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      Anita Anand, a rookie Liberal MP who has been inducted into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, is associated with Canada India Foundation (CIF).

      The CIF website has listed her as a member of its advisory board.

      Anand is on leave as a professor of law at the University of Toronto and on November 20, she was sworn in as the minister for public services and procurement. 

      Elected in the Oakville riding on October 21, her appointment comes when the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India is not having cozy relations with Canada.

      The BJP government and its supporters have frequently accused Trudeau of pandering to Sikh separatists active in Canada. And some members of the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) supported Conservative Party candidates in the recent election.

      Meanwhile, a former Conservative MP, the late Deepak Obhrai, is still listed as member of the advisory board on the CIF website. Obhrai was close to the OFBJP and annoyed Sikh separatists by calling for a special debate in Parliament on their activities in Canada.

      The CIF has generally worked aggressively to defend the interests of the Indian state. A case in point is its stiff opposition to efforts by Canadian Sikhs to get the 1984 Sikh massacre recognized as a genocide.

      Thousands of Sikhs were murdered all across India following the October 31, 1984, assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

      Though this was seen by many as state-sponsored violence directed at the Sikh community, the CIF objected to a 2017 private member's bill in the Ontario legislature seeking to recognize the pogrom as genocide.

      The Canada India Foundation website still lists Anita Anand as a member of its advisory board.

      The CIF honoured former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper on July 5. The Indian High Commissioner, Vikas Swarup, was present at that event.

      Harper used the occasion to advocate for a strong relationship between India and Canada and blasted Sikh separatists. The former prime minister also predicted close ties between Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, should there be a Conservative government in Canada after the federal election.

      Notably, Harper welcomed Modi in Canada during his first official visit to this part of the world in 2015. This was despite many protests against Modi by South Asian activists.

      Modi was chief minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat when it was the site of an anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002. Human rights activists and survivors of the violence continue to allege Modi's complicity in the crime, although he was never charged and has repeatedly denied any involvement.

      However, a number of countries, including the United States, continued to deny him a visitor's visa for years because of Gujarat massacre, until he was elected as prime minister in 2014. 

      Protesters denounced Narendra Modi when he visited the Ross Street temple in Vancouver in 2015.

      Violence against religious minorities has increased in India ever since Modi came to power with a brute majority.

      In February, following a suicide attack on paramilitary forces in Kashmir that left 40 Indian soldiers dead, Kashmiri Muslims came under vicious attack by supporters of the BJP in different parts of India. The incident was blamed on Kashmiri insurgents fighting for the right to self-determination.

      If this was not enough, the BJP government also scrapped special status given to Kashmir in August without any consultation with the local leadership. The entire region has been turned into an open-air jail in the name of national security.

      It is pertinent to mention that the CIF raised $20,000 for the families of the soldiers who were killed in the February attack.

      Meanwhile, the Canadian government has largely remained silent over growing attacks on minorities in India.

      Trudeau hasn’t spoken out against the ongoing repression in Kashmir in spite of many protests across Canada. Many believe this could be due to the growing influence of Indian agencies in Canada. 

      Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor and a founder of Radical Desi

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