"The name of journalist Gurpreet Singh, husband of NDP MLA from British Columbia Rachna Singh, also figures as a provocateur against Malik."
— Author Shishur Gupta, writing in the Hindustan Times
This morning, I read an article in the Hindustan Times that cast a shadow over a longtime contributor to the Georgia Straight.
Gurpreet Singh, the author of several books along with countless columns on this website, was described as "a provocateur" against murdered Surrey businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik.
The Indian "journalist" who mentioned Singh did not cite any sources for this assertion.
Nor did this "journalist" explain why it was necessary to include the name of Singh's wife, NDP MLA Rachna Singh, in a column that conveyed an overall impression about a "Khalistani-gangsters nexus" linked to three Sikh temples, including two in Metro Vancouver.
The column implied that this so-called "nexus" may have had a hand in Malik's death.
The two men charged with first-degree murder in the July 14 murder of Malik, 21-year-old Tanner Fox and 23-year-old Jose Lopez, do not have Punjabi surnames.
But that didn't stop Gupta from conflating Malik's death with the murder of rapper Sidhu Moose Wala in Punjab in May, then linking it back to gangsters of Punjabi ancestry in B.C.
Gupta's wide-ranging column also included a rant about Canada's failure to extradite "terrorists" to India.
And for good measure, Gupta threw in that it took a very long long time for India to be able to extradite the accused killers of former Maple Ridge resident Jassi Sidhu—her mother and her uncle—from Canada.
Then there were the two bombs placed on Air India jets leaving Vancouver in 1985.
"The Canadian government has failed to carry out a proper investigation and trial into the first worst bombing in aviation history when Air India’s Kanishka bombing took place in 1985, killing 329 people mid-air," Gupta declared.
Not a proper trial?
In 2005, Malik was acquitted on 331 charges of first-degree murder, including two Japanese baggage handlers, in B.C. Supreme Court after a very lengthy trial.
Ever since Malik was charged, Gurpreet Singh has been providing exceptional coverage of this story in the Straight and other media outlets. For that, he received death threats in the early years.
In recent years, Singh revealed that Malik's brother had thanked the head of India's intelligence agency for taking Malik's name off a blacklist, enabling him to visit Punjab in 2019.
In addition, Singh wrote another column highlighting how Malik had written a letter of praise to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi in advance of elections in Punjab.
In that piece, Singh noted the hypocrisy of India's repeated criticism of Canada allegedly being soft on terrorism as Modi himself encouraged an accused terrorist to run for office in 2019. Meanwhile, terror attacks on Muslims and other religious minorities have grown since Modi took power in 2014.
Singh also pointed out that in 2012, a B.C. Supreme Court justice declared that Malik's acquittal on mass-murder charges was not a pronouncement of his innocence; it merely meant that the Crown had not proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
"Modi's government not only gave Malik a visa to travel back to his home country in 2019, but his family was given access to the head of the India’s spy agency, the Research and Intelligence Wing," Singh wrote last month. "That only gave credence to conspiracy theories behind the Air India bombings."
From my vantage point, Singh is doing his job as a journalist and commentator. He provides sources to back up what he writes.
Unlike Gupta, Singh doesn't engage in scurrilous guilt-by-association claims in a wildly imaginative detective story relying on unnamed sources.
Singh is most certainly not a "provocateur" against Malik. Nor is his wife, B.C.'s parliamentary secretary for antiracism initiatives.
But there's plenty of evidence to suggest that a Hindustan Times writer has served as someone's provocateur against Singh.
Who put Gupta up to it? And why now?
Those are the real questions that readers of his column should be asking.
Could it be because Singh has contributed to a website run by Indian civil-rights activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad?
She's now behind bars—a result of being a relentless critic of Modi's actions as Gujarat's chief minister when a massacre of Muslims occurred in that state in 2002.
Or maybe it's because Singh has spoken out in defence of Anand Teltumbde, a journalist and scholar who's also been jailed in India. Teltumbde is married to one of the granddaughters of Bhim Rao Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian constitution that guarantees religious freedom.
"In many countries, it is dangerous and risky to speak out for human rights and expose the truth," Amnesty International tweeted on July 20. "Governments often intimidate, harass and arrest people—and now, they rely on digital surveillance to do it. This must stop."
In the tweet, there's an image of an Indian human rights lawyer and activist, Bela Bhatia, who was targeted in India by the notorious Pegasus phone-hacking spyware.
I'll close with a comment by Singh at the bottom of an April column about the jailing of scholars like Teltumbde and G.N. Saibaba, a former professor at Delhi University now serving a life sentence.
"Let the tyrants in India know that they can neither get away by throwing scholars in jails nor browbeat those outside the country through their puppets," Singh wrote.
Having known Singh for nearly 20 years, I can confidently state that nobody will succeed by browbeating him.
Especially not some writer for the Hindustan Times.
After this article appeared, Gurpreet Singh complained to the Hindustan Times about how his name had been "unnecessarily dragged" into the Malik murder case. Singh also suggested that the writer had been fed "malicious propaganda" by Indian intelligence officials.
The paper responded by telling Singh that that Gupta's sources were India's National Investigation Agency, India's Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Indian consulate in Vancouver.