Indian prime minister Narendra Modi will be greeted by protesters in Vancouver

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      The chorus continues to grow against the much-awaited and high-profile visit of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to Vancouver on April 16. About two dozen groups have come together to form a broad coalition under the banner Communities United Against Narendra Modi.

      Close scrutiny of the list of the organizations suggests that it has grown into a cross-sectional movement representing members of minority communities—such as Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, and so-called Dalits or untouchables—as well as leftists and LGBT people. And if the mood at the annual Vaisakhi parade in Vancouver on April 11 is any indication, the campaign is expected to grow as the day of his visit draws near.

      Members of the East Indian Defence Committee, Indian Rationalist Society, Ghadar Party Centenary Celebrations Committee, International League of People’s Struggles, and Sikh Nation were seen walking in the parade, circulating leaflets, and making announcements about their plans to protest against Modi. They're all connected with the initiative against Modi's visit.

      The opposition of Ghadar Party Centenary Celebrations Committee is particularly significant. The Ghadar Party was a group of radical freedom fighters formed in North America in 1913. It fought both against British occupation of India and racism abroad and wanted to establish a secular and democratic republic in an independent India.

      Ironically, the Ross Street Sikh temple where Modi will be visiting is run by an organization established by the Ghadar Party supporters. The Vancouver Vaisakhi parade is organized by the Ross Street Sikh temple every year. As its officials are getting ready to accord a warm welcome to Modi, Communities United Against Narendra Modi is likely to organize a rally somewhere near the temple that day.  

      Modi is the head of the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India and has a big following in the Indian diaspora. He rode to power with a brute majority in the general election last year. His supporters see him as a “charismatic leader” with “great oratory skills” and a “humble background”.

      Whereas his upcoming visit has generated lot of excitement in Canada, not everybody is impressed. Communities United Against Narendra Modi looks upon him as a “fascist leader” of a party that was not only responsible for the anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002, but has also been involved in systemic violence against other religious minorities.

      Modi was chief minister of the northwestern Indian state of Gujarat, which witnessed a well-organized anti-Muslim massacre in 2002. The mass murders of the Muslims followed the burning of a train, which killed more than 50 Hindu pilgrims. The Modi government had blamed Islamic extremists for torching the train.

      Human-rights groups and the victims’ families continue to allege Modi’s complicity in the violence, although he has not been charged, let alone convicted, of any offence in connection with the massacre. The U.S.-based advocacy group Sikhs For Justice launched a complaint against him with the Canadian government over his alleged involvement in the bloodshed. Its supporters are part of Communities United Against Narendra Modi.

      Sikhs for Justice had earlier filed similar complaints against visiting leaders of other Indian political parties, including the Congress, for its involvement in a similar pogrom against the Sikh community way back in 1984. Thousands of Sikhs were murdered following the assassination of the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, by her Sikh bodyguards. Congress leaders were seen leading mobs that targeted the Sikhs; Gandhi’s son Rajiv, who later became prime minister, justified the mass murders by describing them as a reaction to the assassination.

      Sikhs have some other grouses with Modi. His government has been held responsible for intimidating Sikh settlers in Gujarat, forcing some to flee lands allotted to them decades ago. Modi’s party also supported the June 1984 Indian military attack on the Golden Temple Complex, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, in Amritsar. Indira Gandhi ordered the operation to flush out religious extremists who had fortified the place of worship.

      This is what turned her bodyguards into killers. BJP allies have also often retaliated against ordinary Sikhs inside and outside Punjab whenever Sikh extremists targeted Hindus.

      Also, the BJP is the political arm of the ultra nationalist Hindu body, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), which dreams to transform India into a Hindu theocracy. The RSS considers Sikhism as part of the Hindu mainstream and treats Islam and Christianity as foreign religions. It is for this reason that a section of the Sikh community fears assimilation under the BJP government.

      The RSS and BJP have also been attacking Christian missionaries in India and believe in the caste system, which denounces Dalits or the so called oppressed caste people as "untouchables".

      Since the right-wing BJP is also against amending Indian laws to ensure equality for the LGBT community, fear among gays and lesbians in India is also understandable.

      Leftists and secularists have obviously been opposed to the BJP's right-wing and theocratic agenda from the very beginning.

      This explains why all these communities have found common ground to oppose Modi’s visit to Vancouver and other parts of Canada. 

      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

      18 Comments

      Tyler

      Apr 14, 2015 at 1:58pm

      Vancouverites will protest over anything. Let Indians in India protest if they want.

      Soum

      Apr 14, 2015 at 8:12pm

      This writer is completely biased and has wrong information in this post. This is height of ignorance and false propaganda. Do you think people of India are so stupid to vote a criminal person and militant party to govern them with full majority. The Author and organizations like Sikhs for Justice will honor Sikh Militants like Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale

      lundqvist

      Apr 14, 2015 at 10:16pm

      Sounds like an indian version of george double ya :(

      CPP

      Apr 14, 2015 at 10:24pm

      Hope he has a great visit to Canada, sounds like a smart leader

      Ankit Gupta

      Apr 15, 2015 at 3:24am

      Dear Gurpreet Paaji ,I am amazed how easily you forgot to tell the world that same BJP is part of punjab government and is in ally with Akali Dal for so many years.Now it has been proven beyond doubt that some attack on churches were doing of mischiveous person and had nothing to do with BJP.Modiji also come from backward society of India.Modiji ally in jammu and kashmir is an all an all a hard core muslim party(PDP).

      ron banerjee

      Apr 15, 2015 at 6:00am

      The way Muslims are going in Canada, there may soon occur here what happened to Muslims in Gujurat. Stephen Harper, I think, may enjoy that.

      Desi Singh

      Apr 15, 2015 at 12:10pm

      I am not a Hindu, but I think there is no dynamic leader as Narendra Modi for India. I become a biased reporting about Modi and India these days and Sourpreet Singh's article is nothing more than that. I am not quite sure, if the so called writer's decisions are above the Supreme Court of India's decision, Modi is a leader where he crossed across party lines to gather fame and trust among Indians. Lot and lot of Muslims have accepted him as a great leader that India demands and some lame writes like you still throwing up your crazy writings on him. There is a saying, "only a fruit borne tree gets a lot of stones".

      KUMVAR

      Apr 15, 2015 at 12:22pm

      Indian prime minister Narendra Modi will be greeted by protesters in Vancouver
      by Gurpreet Singh on April 14th, 2015 at 11:51 AM

      Should Read
      Indian prime minister Narendra Modi will be greeted by Millions in Vancouver
      by Gurpreet Singh on April 14th, 2015 at 11:51 AM.

      Hi Gurpreet,
      Are you out of touch, I am not a Modi Fan, but the truth is he is alternative to Corrupt Congress
      Let us listen to the man who has a Leadership and Guts to Lead India from Corruption.
      I seek Good for India, Let us give him the support and see the turnaround.....for Good

      Hah

      Apr 15, 2015 at 12:23pm

      What else is new??? People around here protest anything. That's why the rest of the world laughs at us.

      Lucky Singh

      Apr 15, 2015 at 12:59pm

      Modi is a charming leader for India who vows to take out the deep rooted corruption and bureaucracy in India. When someone like him take actions, people like Gurpreet shivers, luckily not many Sikhs in Canada believes in such shameful writer. What a disgrace to the community.