Gurpreet Singh: From Sikh genocide to anti-Asian backlash, the scapegoating of minorities continues across the world

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      If there is anything that binds Canadian Sikhs with people of Chinese ancestry in North America, it's the continued alienation that they've experienced at the hands of powerful forces.

      In the aftermath of COVID-19 that broke out in China, people of Asian heritage have been increasingly targeted in hate attacks in Vancouver.

      A report presented to the Vancouver police board has acknowledged an 878 percent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes this year.

      That trend is directly correlated with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, which has devastated the world.

      The report revealed that there have been 88 such incidents this year, while only nine anti-Asian hate crime incidents were reported in the region in the first nine months of 2019.  

      These revelations have come at a time when Sikhs in Canada are gearing up to commemorate the state-sponsored massacre orchestrated against the community all over India in the first week of November 1984.  

      Thousands of Sikhs were slaughtered by political goons in connivance with police following the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.  

      Every year, Sikhs in Metro Vancouver hold a blood-donation drive in memory of the victims of genocide.

      Canada has done a great job of keeping anti-Asian hate crimes under strict watch. The 1984 Sikh massacre in India has no parallel with these incidents in terms of its intensity and viciousness, due to the complicity of the Indian state.

      However, both scenarios are a reminder of how political forces anywhere on the globe can be used to polarize dominant groups by demonizing and alienating visible minorities to sustain control over power.

      The challenge continues to grow with the emergence of right-wing leaders, including U.S. president Donald Trump and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.  

      Both Trump and Modi have intensified their campaigns against China in an already toxic environment created by the pandemic.

      As a result, not only are people of Asian descent being targeted in North America, Indians from northern eastern states, too, are facing humiliations from fellow Indians because of their East Asian facial features.

      It is a separate matter the India has some territorial issues with China and its hostility isn’t just because of COVID-19.

      Notably, Modi was also on the scene during a massacre of Muslims in 2002 as chief minister of Gujarat. Innocent Muslims were murdered across this western Indian state by supporters of Modi’s right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

      This occurred after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire, leaving more than 50 passengers dead. Modi blamed the incident on Islamic fundamentalists, even though one commission of inquiry found that it was an accidental fire. For years, the United States denied Modi a visitor's visa until he became prime minister in 2014.

      His party's supporters also participated in the 1984 Sikh massacre, though it was mainly organized by the then-ruling Congress party, which claims to be a secular alternative of the BJP. 

      We've also seen how Christians were targeted by BJP supporters in the Indian state of Orissa following the murder of a controversial right-wing Hindu preacher in 2008.

      Even though Maoist insurgents claimed responsibility, the Hindu Right blamed the murder on Christians.

      In 2019, following a militant attack on the security personnel in Kashmir that claimed 40 human lives, ordinary Kashmiri Muslims were harassed and assaulted by BJP goons in different parts of India.

      Coming back to North America, we have seen how Muslims—as well as Sikhs mistaken for Muslims—became victims of hate crimes in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attack in the U.S.

      This November, let’s take a moment to remember the victims of Sikh genocide and reflect on how bigotry refuses to die. Let's try to build cross-cultural bridges to fight hate.

      We need to ask ourselves why only minorities have to suffer and endure such pain all the time. The murder of a prime minister or a pandemic must not be allowed to become an excuse to punish the defenceless.