Dear President Ono,
It saddens me that the University of British Columbia has cancelled this year’s Harjit Kaur Sidhu Memorial Program in which the journalist Hartosh Singh Bal, the political editor at Caravan magazine, was scheduled to speak.
It is understood the cancellation came under pressure from the few radical Sikhs agitating for the dismemberment of India to create a theistic state for the Sikhs.
I understand the radical elements are critical of what Mr. Bal has written about his uncle K.P.S. Gill, whom they accuse of extrajudicially killing Sikhs during the post Operation Blue Star period of unrest and violence in the Punjab.
I don’t always agree with Hartosh Singh Bal but I know him as an outstanding and fearless journalist who has been unsparingly critical of the excesses of the police and of the Hindu and Sikh theistic/nationalistic elements in India, including the actions of the Modi government in mistreating minorities and undermining the secular fabric of the country.
I have felt for some time the once well-deserved reputation of Canadian universities for academic freedom has been on the wane. Unfortunately UBC is not an exception to this trend. The most ill-considered cancellation of the aforementioned lecture on the farm laws in India, the subject of massive ongoing protests in the country, doesn’t befit a world-class university.
I had threatened to publicly torch my UBC law degree if the university cancelled the aforementioned event due to pressure from anyone. A friend reminded me the City of Vancouver doesn’t allow the burning of waste within the city limits.
To conform to the city rules and to avoid causing pollution, I have consigned the degree to the yellow recycle bag picked up by the city.More