B.C. Greens run pro-India candidate in Delta North in attempt to defeat NDP human rights champion Ravi Kahlon

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      For 30 years, Delta North has been hotly contested by the B.C. Liberals and B.C. NDP.

      In the last seven elections, New Democrats have triumphed four times, most recently in 2017 when former Olympic field-hockey player Ravi Kahlon snared the seat.

      The B.C. Liberals won in Delta North in 1996, 2001, and 2013. This time, the opposition party is running a senior RCMP officer, Jet Sunner.

      The Greens have never been competitive. However this year, its candidate could siphon off enough votes from admirers of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to cost Kahlon his seat.

      That's because the B.C. Greens have nominated Radio India broadcaster Neema Manral, who's also secretary and spokesperson of Friends of Canada-India.

      In that capacity, she helped organize 73rd-anniversary celebrations of India's Independence Day in Metro Vancouver with a patriotic car rally on August 16.

      B.C. Green candidate Neema Manral helped organize a car rally in August to generate support for India in Canada.

      At this event, more than 200 motor vehicles waving Canadian and Indian flags travelled from Radio India's office in Surrey's York Business Centre to the Vancouver Art Gallery.

      This was the first "Tiranga Yatra" in the region, which the Financial Express newspaper has described as "PM Narendra Modi's initiative for New India". (Yatra is the Hindi word for "journey".)

      The Tiranga—India's tricolour flag—was created by the Indian National Congress and was later adopted by India after it became independent in 1947.

      However, it's since been appropriated by Modi, who leads the hard-right Bharatyia Janata Party. It's an arm of a Hindu nationalist voluntary paramilitary volunteer organization, the Rashtria Swayamsevak Sangh.

      As a young man in Gujarat, Modi was a regional organizer with the Rashtria Swayamsevak Sangh, which assigned him to the BJP in the mid 1980s. He later became chief minister of Gujarat, where a massacre of Muslims occurred in 2002 under his watch.

      Back in the the 1930s and 1940s, the Rashtria Swayamsevak Sangh openly admired the Nazis. Its leaders also vehemently opposed Indian National Congress anticolonial activists, such as Mahatma Gandhi and the first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

      In 2017, Modi announced a weeklong "Tiranga Yatra" to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the country's birth.

      At the time, he ordered MPs to ride a bike while carrying eight-foot-long flags as they led Tiranga Yatras in their constituency.

      Video: India Today

      Kahlon spoke out on Kashmir

      In March, Manral spoke in defence of the Modi government's controversial Citizenship Amendment Act at a New Westminster council meeting.

      This law discriminates against Muslim refugee claimants in India from Muslim-majority neighbouring countries, according to Human Rights Watch.

      At the time, New Westminster councillor Chuck Puchmayr introduced a motion, which passed, calling on the federal governmen to condemn this legislation. Manral's husband, Ashish, claimed that the Indian law was not discriminatory and that it was an internal matter for India, according to the council minutes.

      So why would Modi's supporters in Canada want to defeat Kahlon?

      In part, it's because he's been an outspoken human-rights advocate. In fact, Kahlon played a critical role in the restoration of the B.C. Human Rights Commission that had been abolished by a previous B.C. Liberal government.

      Moreover, Kahlon hasn't confined this passion for equality to British Columbia.

      As Straight contributor Gurpreet Singh has pointed out, Kahlon was recently honoured at the Guru Nanak gurdwara on 120th Street for writing to the United Nations twice about the plight of people in Kashmir.

      This came after Modi's government suspended article 370 of the constitution last August granting special rights to this region. Kashmir and Jammu had been the only Muslim-majority state in India until it was officially dissolved by Modi and reorganized into two territories.

      Last summer, the BJP government suspended civil liberties in the region, cut off access to the Internet, and jailed many democratic and peaceful advocates for independence.

      Amnesty International condemned this blackout, saying that the world "can only speculate on what grave human rights violations might be taking place right now in Kashmir".

      Photos taken at the recent Metro Vancouver Tiranga Yatra showed signs saluting the Indian Army.

      Kahlon raised concerns about 1984

      In addition, Kahlon delivered a statement in the B.C. legislature in 2017 drawing attention to a state-sponsored massacre of thousands of Sikhs in many parts of India in 1984.

      This collective punishment came in response to the assassination of the prime minister, Indira Gandhi, by two Sikh bodyguards.

      They killed her to retaliate for an Indian Army attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar four months earlier to flush out weapons-wielding militants.

      Manral, a mother of two and an early childhood educator, isn't the first candidate with ties to Indian nationalists to seek public office in Surrey.

      In the 2018 election, the Proudly Surrey party nominated Parshotam Goel—previously identified as a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh—to run for council.

      This Hindi-language video (with charts in English) highlights the Tiranga Yatra in Vancouver and the role of the Indian diaspora in helping build India's image abroad.

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