Gurpreet Singh: Sikh temple honours Ravi Kahlon for standing up for human rights

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      Officials at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara honoured the NDP MLA for Delta North at a gathering on Sunday (September 13).  

      Ravi Kahlon was presented with a shield for raising the issue of Kashmir with the United Nations and for speaking out for justice for victims of the Sikh Genocide that occurred in 1984.

      The temple is on 120th Street on the border of Surrey and North Delta. 

      Kahlon, who is known for his strong advocacy for human rights and social justice, has written to the United Nations on behalf of his constituents who've raised concerns about the plight of their relatives in Kashmir. He asked for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the disputed region. 

      On August 5, 2019, the Indian government unilaterally scrapped special rights given to the state of Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian constitution, arresting local leaders on the pretext of maintaining public safety. 

      The right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP government claims that this was necessary to stop terrorism in the only Muslim-majority state of India. 

      Since then, Kashmir has been turned into an open jail, communication channels including the Internet have been shut, and leaders fighting for freedom and autonomy have been detained indefinitely.

      These include political figures and activists who have been advocating for peaceful resolution of the problem of Kashmir, where people have been struggling for the right to self-determination. 

      Kahlon wrote directly to the office of United Nations’ Human Rights Council Branch for the second time after October 2019. He hasn’t heard back yet. In his second letter, he reminded the UN High Commissioner about concerns raised by his constituents. 

      Kahlon shot off his first letter to the UN after meeting with a delegation of people of Kashmiri origin, who were having difficulty in connecting with their relatives back home. They remain deeply concerned about human rights abuses in the highly militarized zone. 

      In 2017, Kahlon read out a statement in the B.C. legislature about how "organized groups systematically destroyed Sikh places of worship, homes, and businesses" in India in the first week of November in 1984.

      It was part of a state-sponsored massacre following the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. 

      "It was well documented that police simply watched as innocent people pleaded for help," Kahlon said at the time. "Many elected officials that were involved walked free, and many have received promotions."

      He is also vocal about systemic racism in Canada, and recently concluded a B.C.-wide tour to learn about the firsthand experiences of people of colour with bigotry and prejudices. He was instrumental behind the restoration of the B.C. Human Rights Commission, which was disbanded by the previous B.C. Liberal government. 

      The temple president, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, and the chairman of B.C. Sikh Societies, Harbhajan Singh Atwal, presented Kahlon with the shield amid Sikh slogans of victory raised by those in attendance.