Gurpreet Singh: General silence over Hindutva extremism prevails in the South Asian media ahead of Modi's visit

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      As Canada gears up to receive the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, general silence prevails in the South Asian media over Hindutva extremism. Its supporters have become emboldened in India under his government.

      The prime minister's critics feel that there is hardly any debate on this ticklish issue, which reflects how Modi government is "gagging" the media through Indian officials and slighting the voices of dissent. Modi will be in Canada from April 14-16, including a stopover in Vancouver. This will be his first visit to the country as prime minister of the world's largest democracy.

      Modi represents the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which enjoys a large majority in the Indian parliament. Since the alleviation of Modi as prime minister last year, the demand for removing secularism from the preamble of Indian constitution has grown.

      There have been spate of attacks on Christians and Muslims, too. More than a decade ago, Modi was the chief minister of in the Indian state of Gujarat that witnessed an anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002. As a result of this, he was denied a U.S. vistors' visa for several years.

      With Modi's official visit to Canada around the corner, a U.S.-based group called Sikhs For Justice is getting ready to hold protest rallies with the support of other minority communities. It is pertinent to mention that the Sikh settlers in Gujarat have also been harassed under the BJP government.

      It is a separate matter that the BJP shares power with the Akali Dal, a mainstream Sikh political party of Punjab that treats the BJP as a better alternative to the Congress party, which was involved in anti-Sikh carnage in 1984 after the assassination of the then-prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

      Ironically, the BJP and the Congress were virtually on the same page back then on the question of dealing with Sikh extremism. The prime minister was murdered in response to her decision to send the Indian Army into Sikhism's holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, to confront armed extremists who were inside the complex.

      Interestingly, the Akali Dal continues to glorify Sikh militants while at the same time sharing power with the BJP in Punjab and shielding police officers involved in disappearances and murders of Sikh political activists.

      Sikhs For Justice. which supports Sikh sovereignty, has been highlighting the opportunism and atrocities of all the political parties, including the Akali Dal. The U.S. group has been instrumental behind demonstrations against visiting Indian politicians in the past.

      This time, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a legal advisor to the group, complains that he organization is not being given space in the media. In a statement he declared, "Hardly two weeks left before Modi will land in Canada on his first trip to the country after many years and a decade-long visa ban, not a single word from any community or human-rights activist is being published in the Indo-Canadian media concerning role of PM Modi in anti-Muslim violence of 2002 in Gujarat under his Chief Ministership."

      Pannun attributes this silence to a "threat of denying visa to India", which according to him is a "primary weapon used by Indian envoys in Canada to goad community journalists to remain silent about nefarious actions of attacking religious minorities". (His allegation has not been proven in any court of law.)

      He has filed complaints against Indian officials to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Barring a few media outlets, a majority of the media organizations are mainly promoting the positive side of Modi's visit while ignoring alternative voices. 

      One may disagree with the politics of Sikhs For Justice, but any kind of official or undeclared censorship is unacceptable and reflects very badly on Indian democracy. Both Modi supporters and his opponents have a right to be heard.

      The latest statement by Sikhs For Justice reinforces what I had reported last year after quitting Radio India. That is the growing interference of pro-Modi lobby in our communities. My previous employers wanted to slight Pannun when he was voicing similar concerns close to Modi's visit to U.S. in September 2014.

      Personally, I oppose the political agenda of Pannun's organization, but as a journalist nothing can stop me from listening to all sides of the story. And that's one reason behind my decision to leave a job instead of compromising with my professional integrity. 

      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

      13 Comments

      Anil Bhandari

      Apr 5, 2015 at 12:57pm

      People like you (Gurpreet Singh) spreading false news/message in world about India and Modi. Please don't spread wrong propaganda. You people never go in deep and follow like sheeps. Compare attacks on Christian or Muslim in India during congress and now. You don't have statistics.
      people like t you divide societies and not Modi. Stop writing false things

      Mitchell

      Apr 6, 2015 at 12:14am

      There is another long-standing disturbing issue on the table that has caused the the cancellation of the Brussels leg of Modi's trip.
      The shadow of the illegal detention in India of two Italian Marines held without formal charges now for more than 3 years looms large on Mod's trip to Europe and Canada.
      For the untold truth behind the Italian Marines case, you can watch this short video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpopTBBV2q0
      Merkel, Hollande and Harper (i.e. Germany, France and Canada) should not close their eyes and denounce the abuse.

      Amakant

      Apr 6, 2015 at 5:41am

      The Canadians should ask what is the objective of Sikhs for Justice. Other than being Pakistan aligned and dreaming of a separate country without justification, SFJ is a group of rabble rousers. Canadians are better off ignoring them and sane Sikhs will be so much the wiser by marginalising and causing the disintegration of SFJ.

      modi visit

      Apr 6, 2015 at 5:51pm

      Wouldn't you say that Sikh for Justice have a case when Sikhs/Punjabi ppl are NOT allowed to buy and keep land outside of India ( Gujurat)...if they are in the same country shouldn't it be acceptable...for instance can't a person from British Coloumbia buy , move and hold land in Alberta without being forced to go back to their " own land" and vice versa? This is impt. question that needs to be addressed by PM MODI considering he is from Gujarat...

      modi visit

      Apr 6, 2015 at 5:59pm

      Also can you explain how Sikh for Justice would gain long term from aligning with Pakistan (Muslim/Urdu) who are obviously NOT Sikh/Punjabi...Sikhs would be a minority in Pakistan just like they are in Hindostan(India/Bharat) ...( historically both were previously British India).

      Arvind Razdan

      Apr 6, 2015 at 9:35pm

      Insane, ignorant and most importantly a capricious state of mind represents the above ill-written article. You yourself are so called the founder of some organisation Radical Desi and you are blaming PM for being radical. Sitting far from the reality, of India and especially of people in Gujarat. I have been in Gujarat recently for some years, and have many Sikh friends, and I feel proud that every single one is benefitted with the growth of Gujarat under the leadership of PM Modi, who earlier was CM of the same state. PM Modi is the man with the iron fist and is working strongly for rebuilding the Nation.
      You guys don't deserve to preach you poison to the world. Grow UP.

      Ravi

      Apr 6, 2015 at 10:42pm

      In the name of freedom of expression, you give platform to people like Gurpreet Singh Pannun to spread their lies and propaganda, and also produce a tilted story. How many exonerations does Mr. Modi need to prove his innocence? He has not been found guilty in any court in India for his alleged role in 2002 riots, and you guys still keep peddling lies. Keep working for your paymasters while Mr. Modi will continue to work for India and her progress.

      Mister Singh

      Apr 7, 2015 at 7:23am

      Gurpreet Singh, you should admit your left wing bona fides... as a disclaimer for anyone who happens upon your articles. You should let people know what if any religious affiliation you have as well, since you aren't a Sikh as far as I know, if you plan on commenting on religious groups and organizations... It's well known that communists have done some pretty nefarious things and that many people in the indo Canadian community including the former premier of B.C. have strong ties to communists. If I'm not mistaken that includes you as well.

      You also claim some political agenda for Sikhs for Justice without providing any evidence.

      Gig

      Apr 8, 2015 at 2:32am

      Harassing Sikh settlers doesn't really tell the full story. Basically all these Sikhs were invited decades ago to Modi's home state by a PM to settle land and they did and made profitable farms. Now they are being attacked. The mentality of the Hindu fundamentalists there is that they have no right to own any land in Gujurat since they are not natives of that state, that they should get out and go back to Punjab. Some Sikh farmers who recently got attacked by mobs are also being arrested by the police. One day they will all be butchered and the land and money taken away anyway. The bank accounts and stuff apparently have been frozen for a while. The farms of Sikhs in Haryana are also at risk of being taken away. I think stuff like this is the recipe for causing people like Sikhs to want to have their own country once again.