Gurpreet Singh: Canadian silence over Hindutva terror is troubling

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      It was 2010. One of the organizers of the annual Vaisakhi parade in Surrey told a Punjabi radio station that former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh and then-MLA Dave Hayer were not invited to the event. If they wished to attend, they were advised to bring their own security.

      The Vaisakhi parade in Surrey is organized under the aegis of Dashmesh Darbar Sikh temple, which supports a movement for a separate theocratic Sikh state carved out of the Indian state of Punjab.

      Most years, Sikh militants who supported violence and armed insurgency are glorified in the Surrey parade. Since Dosanjh and Hayer are known as staunch critics of Sikh extremism, the statement by Inderjit Singh Bains was taken as a threat.

      Dosanjh was assaulted in 1985, while Hayer's father, Tara Singh Hayer, was murdered in 1998. Hayer senior died for being a critic of violence.

      There was a very strong backlash from the mainstream media and the B.C. government to Bains's statement. Many commentators, including those in India, saw it as a sign of a growing threat of Sikh militancy in Canada.

      The ugly memories of the Air India bombings were evoked. That's when 331 people died in two blasts on June 23, 1985. This mass murder was blamed on Sikh separatists who were seeking revenge for ugly political events of 1984, including an anti-Sikh pogrom after the assassination of Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

      Now let’s fast-forward to 2015. In February, a man in Edmonton threatened to kill Anna Hazare, a renowned anti-corruption activist in India.

      Hazare is a follower of Mahatma Gandhi—leader of the pacifist liberation movement in British India. Hazare has recently launched an agitation against the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Narendra Modi.

      Hazare opposes a controversial land acquisition bill that might hurt farmers. Gagan Vidhu posted on Facebook in February that he will be the next Nathuram Godse and will kill this modern Gandhi.

      Godse was a Hindu extremist who assassinated Gandhi in 1948. Godse was associated with Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS)—a Hindu nationalist organization that has hold over the BJP. The RSS was banned following Gandhi’s murder.

      Vidhu has told some South Asian media outlets that he had once contested a local election in Punjab as a BJP candidate and has been associated with the RSS, but claims to have made the post in anger and had read nothing about Godse. He also claims that he once supported Hazare, but was upset at his decision to challenge the Modi government.  

      As compared to the 2010 incident involving the Dashmesh Darbar Sikh temple, this Facebook threat from someone in Canada against Hazare did not capture the attention of the mainstream media.

      This is despite the murder of Govind Pansare—a leftist activist from the Indian state of Maharashtra in February. Pansare was opposed to glorification of Godse by Hindu extremists. His killing remains unsolved.

      Both Pansare and Hazare are from Maharashtra, the birthplace of Godse. Only recently, a BJP MP described Godse as patriot while another Hindu nationalist group has launched a campaign to install Godse’s statues across India. Taking no chances, the Maharashtra government has beefed up security of Hazare.

      Godse and his group wanted to establish a Hindu nation and saw Gandhi as a major roadblock in their designs. Following partition of India along religious lines in 1947 when Muslim Pakistan came into being, there were religious riots on either side of the border. Muslims were targeted by Hindu and Sikh fanatics on the Indian side, whereas Hindus and Sikhs were slaughtered by Islamic extremists across the border.

      Gandhi tried to save as many Muslim lives he could during this violence. Even otherwise, Gandhi was against theocracy.

      After five failed attempts on his life, Gandhi was shot to death by Godse on January 30, 1948. In spite of such threats, India chose to be a secular country.

      However since then, Hindutva (pro Hindu state) forces have remained active and today, the BJP enjoys a brute majority in the parliament. Not surprisingly, under the Modi government these forces have become emboldened and are seeking removal of secularism from the preamble of the Indian constitution.

      Modi has been widely blamed for anti-Muslim carnage in the Indian state of Gujarat during 2002 when he was chief minister there. The massacre followed the burning of a train that left over 50 Hindu passengers dead.

      The Gujarat government accused Islamic fundamentalists of torching the train, which triggered anti-Muslim violence. Over the past several years, Hindutva extremists have also been caught in bomb explosions and clandestine terror activities against Muslim targets.

      Godse’s niece has reportedly supported these activities. Yet, the Facebook threat did not create much sensation in Canada or India.

      Credit goes to Ujjal Dosanjh that he sought action against Vidhu and is openly challenging Hindutva forces through his blog these days. But overall, a general silence prevails within the South Asian community and the mainstream against the increased threat of Hindutva extremism.

      Moderates in the South Asian community (with exception of Dosanjh) who were critical of Sikh extremists in the past have maintained a studied silence, perhaps because the BJP rules India. There has not been a single public event in Vancouver to denounce the murder of Pansare or violence by Hindu fanatics by secularist groups within the Indian community.

      There is no question that Sikh separatists have been involved in violence and hate crimes, but one cannot be selective in criticizing extremist elements of one community and ignoring extremist activities of others. Religious extremists from both communities complement each other.

      Sikh separatism is a demon being fed by the Indian state and its apologists in Canada and the mainstream by remaining silent over Hindutva extremists. If most Indo Canadians were afraid to speak up against Sikh extremists due to fear of physical violence during 1980s, they are now fearful of a Hindu nationalist government that wields influence through consulates in Canada.

      Apparently, Canadian leaders have not learned anything from the Air India tragedy. Rather, it took 9/11 for Canada to ban Sikh terror groups, like Babbar Khalsa and the International Sikh Youth Federation.

      If the government is sincere, it must keep an eye on activities of Hindutva supporters in Canada. There are groups in India who have Canadian backers and if Canada really cares, it must expand its terror list to include Hindutva organizations alongside Islamist and Sikh terror groups.

      Or is Canada waiting for more bloodshed or another Air India–like tragedy? 

      Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor and a founder of Radical Desi. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India BombingsHe has a Facebook page called We Are All Untouchables!!! 

      Comments

      6 Comments

      Mazzy652

      Mar 15, 2015 at 2:45pm

      What is so uprising about it? Narendra Modi and his supporters are extremely popular among Hindus in the US (http://pando.com/2014/02/28/ro-khanna-silicon-valleys-owned-man/) and I have no doubt the same is true here. He will help enrich them and bring some much needed good PR to India. Canadians in mining will also benefit as the new government in India does its best to wipe out insurgencies in the mineral rich states in the far north of India.

      "Apparently, Canadian leaders have not learned anything from the Air India tragedy. Rather, it took 9/11 for Canada to ban Sikh terror groups....Or is Canada waiting for more bloodshed or another Air India–like tragedy?"

      I think it is pretty clear why this is. Very few people considered the Air India bombing to be anything but the deaths of a bunch of foreigners from a 3rd world country, the perpetrators had a Canadian connection but those who died were not and are not seen as Canadians. It took the post 9/11 crackdown on any sort of terrorism to make a difference

      gurpal

      Mar 16, 2015 at 4:12pm

      Sikhs have the power not the Hindus. They are just pandits. World sikh organization is here to bring Khalistan to light. The Lions will rise once again.

      syunus

      Apr 1, 2015 at 8:02am

      Author, in his other writings, clearly eulogizes the violence and militant ideology and methodology of Ghadar Party particularly "Bhagat Singh", and yet he criticizes Sikh separatists for resorting to violence and militancy. It seems, to author, militancy in furtherance of a political cause or agenda is acceptable only if its done in the name of "secularism". Since when secularism obtained exclusive rights over political violence/militancy..? Also, its easy to criticize the Sikh separatists but its hard to criticize the Indian hegemony which has been denying right to self determination to many nations including Sikhs. If India were a true democracy, they would have no problem holding referendum on the question of self determination for Sikhs or Kashmiris.

      Omni

      Apr 10, 2015 at 12:42am

      @Mazzy652: You wrote:

      "Apparently, Canadian leaders have not learned anything from the Air India tragedy. Rather, it took 9/11 for Canada to ban Sikh terror groups....Or is Canada waiting for more bloodshed or another Air India–like tragedy?"

      The Canadian government learnt what it had to, immediately after the Air India tragedy; a bit too much actually, as it erased the tapes and never pressed charges for 14 long years and then too a case with no legs as it did not even stand a snow ball's chance in getting any convictions (or getting to the real culprits for that matter) according to law experts across the country at the time. Just so as to close the chapter for good.

      What they did learn is for the consumption of secret service, not ordinary citizens, as it will be an important piece of reference to keep such "players" from pulling off something like that via this country in the future.

      Asim

      Apr 20, 2015 at 3:06am

      The author seem biased and a closet Sikh sympathizer of Khalistan. Cherry picking a few incidents where assailants were Hindus and comparing them with an actual terrorist organisation is juvenile at best.

      Yes Canada has learnt nothing from the Air India tragedy. Still like an ostrich, it buries its head in the sand.

      Nishant

      May 18, 2015 at 3:12pm

      Goverment really needs to control sikh terrorism..it is a major concern