Narendra Modi critics in Canada achieve breakthrough as national media cover Citizenship Amendment Act protests

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      Regular readers of are well aware of the creeping fascism in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

      This is largely thanks to contributor Gurpreet Singh, who's chronicled ongoing outrages in the country of his birth, including a clampdown on civil liberties in Kashmir and the assassination of journalist Gauri Lankesh.

      He's frequently covered majoritarian violence directed against Muslims and Christians—decried as "beef eaters" by Hindu fanatics—as well as the appalling treatment of Dalits, otherwise known as "untouchables".

      In addition, Singh has written about new books by Arundhati Roy and M.G. Vassanji, who have also raised an alarm about rising discrimination against minorities in the Modi era.

      Hindu terrorists have not only escaped punishment, one accused anti-Muslim bomber, Pragya Singh Thakur, was nominated and elected to high political office with Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party.

      Journalist Rana Ayyub has linked the BJP's president, Amit Shah, to the mass murder of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. He's the home minister in the Modi government.

      But until this weekend, all of these outrages in the world's so-called largest democracy have been underreported or simply ignored by the Canadian media.

      Canadian politicians, with extremely rare exceptions, have also kept their mouths shut about what's taking place in India.

      That cloak of silence was lifted, however, when supporters of secularism in India held rallies this weekend across Canada to protest the Modi government's Citizenship Amendment Act.

      For the first time since Modi visited Canada in 2015, protests against his government in Canadian cities were covered on national newscasts.

      The growing outrage in Canada has finally penetrated the national consciousness. The heartbreak felt many South Asian immigrants to Canada over what's occurring in the subcontinent is finally being acknowledged.

      That marks a breakthrough.

      However, Canadian politicians avoided these noisy demonstrations and the vast, vast majority of elected officials in this country remain insensitive to the community's fears about what Modi might do in the future.

      And these same Canadian politicians have proven to be utterly useless to the brave Indians who challenge the prevailing Hindutva ideology of Hindu supremacy being advanced by Modi and his cohorts in the BJP.

      Already, 23 people have died in India in uprisings against the citizenship legislation. It allows people fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan to obtain Indian citizenship, as long as they're not Muslims.

      Indians Abroad for a Pluralist India held their demonstration in Holland Park in Surrey, B.C.
      Jaffar Bhamji

      Annie Ohana honoured at protest

      Indians Abroad for Pluralist India's demonstration in Surrey's Holland Park began with a moment of silence. It was for those who've lost their lives in the recent Indian demonstrations.

      Speakers included Muslim community leaders Itrath Syed, Furqan Gehlen, and Dawood Ismail; Hindu interfaith chaplain Arun Chatterjee; Sikh activists Gian Singh Gill and Kulwinder Singh; Niovi Patsicakis of the Global Peace Alliance; leftists Prabhjot Kaur Hundal, Rawait Singh, and Joseph Theriault; and educator and former NDP candidate Annie Ohana.

      Ohana, who ran in Fleetwood–Port Kells in the last federal election, was presented with a medal of courage by Indians Abroad for Pluralist India for her willingness to speak up about what's happening in India and her long record of antiracism.

      She and another NDP candidate in the last federal election, Svend Robinson, are among the very few who've raised Canadians' awareness about what's occurring in India. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has also spoken out on the odd occasion.

      In contrast, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Industry Minister Navdeep Bains, and members of B.C. premier John Horgan's cabinet have not leveraged their high political positions to advance the cause of human rights in India since Modi became prime minister.

      This is despite growing outrage among the South Asian diaspora, which is now seeping into the Canadian mainstream.

      Canada's new foreign affairs minister, François-Philippe Champagne, met India's external affairs minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, on December 19 in Ottawa.

      This was to "reinforce the long-standing friendship between Canada and India, based on a shared commitment to democracy and the rules-based international order", according to a Global Affairs Canada news release.

      "Minister Champagne also discussed pluralism, human rights and issues of regional concern, including the situation in Jammu and Kashmir," the news release added. "Human rights, diversity and inclusion are at the core of Canada's foreign policy; their importance is reflected in all of our discussions with international partners."

      There was no direct quote from Champagne in the news release relating to the conduct of the government of India.

      One of Champagne's top foreign-policy priorities is freeing two Canadians—Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig—from Chinese custody. Jaishankar was India's ambassador to China from 2009 to 2013 and its foreign secretary from 2015 to 2018, so it's likely that this topic came up in their conversation.

      Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah embrace a radical form of Hindu nationalism known as Hindutva.

      Another genocide around the corner?

      In the words of Amnesty International, the Indian state is "criminalizing protest".

      Ominously, the Modi government plans to extend a National Register of Citizens from the northeastern state of Assam to all of India by 2021. If that happens, everyone will carry national identity cards.

      The cabinet minister who will oversee this is none other than Amit Shah, the same minister who shut down the Internet in Kashmir, which is the only Muslim-majority region in the country. Politicians have been jailed and an entire region was turned into an open-air prison.

      This has prompted fears that the BJP, which argues that India is a Hindu nation, may embark on a genocide against Muslims along the lines of what occurred in Gujarat in 2002 when Modi was the state's chief minister.

      It's worth reviewing the words of Arundhati Roy in an essay about the anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat.

      "The genocide began as collective punishment for an unsolved crime—the burning of a railway coash in which fifty-three Hindu pilgrims burned to death," she writes in My Seditious Heart. "In a carefully planned orgy of supposed retaliation, two thousand Muslims were slaughtered in broad daylight by squads of armed killers, organized by fascist militias, and backed by the Gujarat government and the administration of the day.

      "Muslim women were gang-raped and burned alive," Roy continues. "Muslim shops, Muslim businesses, and Muslim shrines and mosques were systematically destroyed. Two thousand were killed and more than one hundred thousand people were driven from their homes." 

      Later in that same essay, she points out that the Congress politician who campaigned against Modi was "publicly butchered". After Ehsan Jafri was cut to pieces, his body was set on fire so he could be burned alive.

      "While the mob that lynched Jafri, murdered several people, and gang-raped twelve women—before burning them alive—was gathering, the Ahmedabad commissioner of police, P.C. Pandey, was kind enough to visit the neighbourhood," Roy writes. "After Modi was reelected, Pandey was promoted and made Gujarat's director general of police. The entire killing apparatus remains in place."

      Yes, the killing apparatus remains in place.

      And the Canadian government, which professes such a keen interest in human rights, can't be bothered to utter a peep of concern about this in public.