Huffington Post – The semantics of genocide and the bugbear of Khalistan

A long article, but worth the effort of reading it, both for Sikhs and non-Sikhs.
Man in Blue

Sarbpreet Singh, Contributor, Playwright, commentator and writer

Boston, 21 April 2017. On 26 December 2014, The Union Home Minister of India, Rajnath Singh visited Tilakvihar, a poor and blighted neighborhood in Delhi, also known as The Widow Colony where the wives and children of Sikhs who were murdered in 1984 had been settled.

Speaking about the violence that had raged in Delhi after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, which in an insidious game of semantics that had lasted for thirty years, had been disingenuously characterized as a ‘riot’, he said : “It was not a riot, it was genocide instead. Hundreds of innocent people were killed..”

On 6 April 2017 government of Ontario, Canada passed a motion declaring :

“In the opinion of this House, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, should reaffirm our commitment to the values we cherish, justice, human rights and fairness, and condemn all forms of communal violence, hatred, hostility, racism and intolerance in India and anywhere else in the world, including the 1984 Genocide perpetrated against the Sikhs throughout India, and call on all sides to embrace truth, justice and reconciliation.”

Particularly in the light of Rajnath Singh’s pronouncement in 2014, the response of the Indian government and the Indian media is extremely troubling and bears examination.

The official response to the motion was to reject it and call it misguided, suggesting that it was “based on a limited understanding of India, its constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and the judicial process”.

This response is problematic for many reasons, perhaps the most significant being the suggestion that somehow the Indian judicial process had adequately addressed the horrific violence of 1984, which even the most casual observer will recognize as newspeak.

The equally important and I would say subtler issue with this response is the suggestion that the ethos of Indian society condones the mis-characterizing of horrific sectarian violence and the rejection of justice. I know for a fact that this suggestion is patently false!

How can I say this with such confidence?

For the past two and a half years, I have been traveling the world with Kultar’s Mime, a play about the 1984 genocide, created and directed by J Mehr Kaur. Our travels have taken us to India twice, where the play has been presented in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Chandigarh and Amritsar.

In the cities outside the Punjab, our audience was mostly non-Sikh. Kultar’s Mime is a powerful and emotional play that pulls no punches as it tells the story of the 1984 Delhi genocide from the perspective of four young Sikh survivors.

It also unflinchingly draws attention to the organizers of the violence, who have been named in reports produced by unimpeachable Human Rights groups and intrepid journalists.

In the Fall of 2014, when the play was presented mostly on the East Coast in the US and Canada, we talked about the possibility to taking it to India. All of our well-wishers tried to dissuade us, suggesting that an attempt to draw attention to the 1984 genocide would be met with hostility or worse in India.

I have to confess that when we landed in Delhi in October 2014 and prepared to present for the first time in India on October 31, the thirty year anniversary of the genocide, we did so with great trepidation. I was convinced that we would be discredited as trouble makers, intent on reopening the wounds of the past.

I was delighted to be proven wrong! The play was met with an outpouring of support and empathy, eliciting positive coverage in newspapers such as The Hindu, The Telegraph, The Times of India, The Indian Express, The Pioneer, The Tribune, Mid-Day and many more.

Even more heartening was the response of young Indians, born after the horrific events of 1984 who had absolutely no prior knowledge of the genocide.

The important lesson that I learned when we took the story of the 1984 genocide back to India was that humanity of the common man is alive and well as is his ability to empathize. Nobody felt a need to vilify us for drawing attention to the horrific events of 1984.

Nobody accused us of having “… a limited understanding of India, its constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and the judicial process” even though we were absolutely willing to lay the responsibility for the massacre where it belonged!

Why then this response to the Ontario motion? Why is the government of India so afraid of any attempts to draw attention to a dark chapter in the nation’s history, while common people seem to have no issue acknowledging it and responding with compassion?

My question is of course, rhetorical.

This brings me to the second topic that I would like to address in this article : the bugbear of Khalistan.

As I was reading the coverage of the Ontario motion in the Indian press, I was struck by a common thread that ran through most of the coverage.

After reporting on the motion and the Indian government’s official response, most of the stories turned their attention to ‘pro Khalistan’ groups which allegedly played a significant role in getting the motion introduced and passed.

Captain Amarinder Singh, the newly elected Chief Minister of Punjab went so far as to label the Defense Minister Of Canada, Harjit Singh Sajjan, a much decorated war hero as a ‘Khalistani supporter’.

The powerful in India, particularly those affiliated with the Congress Party, responsible for perpetrating the 1984 genocide, have raised the specter of Khalistan over and over again every time attention is drawn to the fact that thirty-two years after one of the most heinous crimes perpetrated in independent India, those responsible continue to stalk the corridors of power with impunity.

This canard is particularly toxic because it immediately draws attention away from the victims and perpetrators by focusing it on a ‘threat’ that is so deeply rooted in the nation’s psyche that the mere mention of it is sufficient to banish empathy and supplant it with fear.

As a Sikh leader who has traveled extensively and participated in many Sikh fora over the last several years, and is somewhat aware of what is happening in the community at large, let me go out on a limb and say this.

This notion of a present day ‘Khalistani threat’ is utter nonsense! It is about as credible as the ‘Northwest Territorial Imperative’ to carve out an Aryan homeland in the US and Canada!

The fact that Indian press knows this, as does Captain Amarinder Singh only underscores the brazenness of their position!

I recently had a first hand encounter with the effect of this cynical propaganda that I would like to share with my readers.

On April 9, just three days after the Ontario motion was passed, the Harvard Pluralism Project presented Kultar’s Mime at Harvard University as part of a program designed to address the current climate of fear and uncertainty, wrought in no small part by the lingering effects of the US Presidential election.

After the performance, Dr Diana Eck, Harvard Professor and the Director of The Pluralism Project moderated a discussion with the audience, in which J Mehr Kaur and I participated.

The discussion progressed like many others before with the audience responding emotionally to what they had experienced, expressing both shock and empathy as we pondered the larger issues relating to sectarian violence organized by state actors.

And then a hand went up int he audience. It was a young woman, a recent immigrant from India who wanted to know what my opinion was of Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale and what I thought of the recent resurgence of the Khalistan movement! It was an unexpected question that left me nonplussed for a moment!

It is important here to set some context for those of my readers who are not intimately familiar with the history of the events of 1984. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, in June 1984 launched an attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, ostensibly to flush out a band of Sikh militants under the leader of the charismatic Sikh preacher, Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale, who had sought refuge in the complex.

Punjab had been wracked by violence for several yeas preceding the attack, which was attributed by the Indian Government and the Press to Sikh militants, who were agitating for the creation of a Sikh state called Khalistan.

The violence continued for almost a decade after 1984 and with the benefit of hindsight we now know that a plethora of actors, that included criminals, state police and paramilitary agencies, rogue government-sponsored vigilantes and Sikh militants contributed.

Unraveling the complex political realities of the Punjab from the mid seventies to the mid nineties is a subject worthy of discussion but far beyond the scope of this article. It is a well accepted fact that militancy in the Punjab was snuffed out by the mid-nineties through the crushing use of force by the government.

Suffice it so say that Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale was a polarizing figure who to this day is variously described as a knight errant whose only agenda was to rid modern day Sikhism of various corrupt practices that had set in, a bloodthirsty terrorist who ordered the killing of innocent Hindus with impunity, a dupe of Indira Gandhi’s political party who used him to play electoral politics in the Punjab, a simple minded village preacher etc. based on one’s viewpoint and worldview.

Why do I even bring this up?

The Sikh genocide of 1984 in inexorably linked to the political history of the Punjab in the eighties, which if one is not vigilant, can give credence to an extremely toxic narrative which goes roughly as follows:

The Sikhs were at odds with the Indian government and embraced militancy and the movement to create Khalistan to further their political demands, exemplified by the rise of Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale.

That caused Indira Gandhi to launch an assault on the Golden Temple and resulted in her assassination by her Sikh bodyguards. That in turn prompted retaliatory attacks against Sikhs, which were unfortunate but somewhat understandable. The Sikhs after all, in a certain sense, had ‘asked for it’.

That is the narrative that all right thinking people need to reject! As well as the implication that anyone who draws attention to the gross injustice of the 1984 genocide must somehow be a follower of Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale or a supporter of Khalistan!

This is the cynical game that The Indian Government and the Indian Media are playing in their response to the Ontario motion. Amarinder Singh is playing exactly the same game when he dubs Harjit Singh Sajjan a ‘Khalsitani’.

The young woman who asked the unexpected question, I am sure, did so with no malice at all! It is simply the effectiveness of the carefully crafted narrative speaking!

Let me say this! I honestly do not know who Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale was and in the context of the 1984 genocide, I do not care. Nor should anyone else!

No matter who he was or what he did or did not do, nothing can every justify the savagery of the 1984 Sikh Genocide. Trying to link the two is a thinly disguised attempt at justifying the killing of thousands of innocents and the unleashing of terror that continues to haunt an entire community thirty two years later, as it seeks acknowledgement and justice.

Those who seek to make this connection need to be ashamed of themselves. Those who allow themselves to be seduced by a Goebbelsian narrative to justify such savagery need to introspect.

The government of India needs to understand that acknowledging the 1984 Sikh genocide and making an honest attempt to address its festering wounds will only strengthen the ‘largest democracy in the world’. Embracing the Ontario motion rather than vilifying it can only enhance India’s reputation in the community of nations.

There is nothing to be afraid of!

Sarbpreet Singh is a playwright, commentator and poet, who has been writing while pursuing a career in technology for several years. He is the author of Kultar’s Mime, a poem about the 1984 Sikh Genocide. His commentary has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and Worldview, The Boston Herald, The Providence Journal, The Milwaukee Journal and several other newspapers and magazines. He is the founder and director of the Gurmat Sangeet Project, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation of traditional Sikh music and serves on the boards of various non-profits focused on service and social justice. He is very active in Boston Interfaith circles and serves as a spiritual advisor at Northeastern University.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/58f35005e4b04cae050dc850

DNA India – Punjab CM faces defamation suit

Canada-based Sikh group announces $10,000 reward for serving summons to Punjab CM in defamation suit; Sikh groups in Punjab criticise CM for one-sided attack on Harjit Singh Sajjan.

Chandigarh, 19 April 2017. Sikh Human rights Advocacy group has filed a defamation suit against the Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh for alleging ISI links to the group.

Captain Amarinder had recently sparked a controversy after he refused to meet Canada Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan alleging that he was among the five “Khalistani sympathisers” in the Canadian government.

The Congress leader came under attack from various Sikh extremist groups over his statement. The groups alleged that the CM was addressing his personal grouse against Sajjan for stalling his visit to Canada last year.

Hours after Harjit Singh Sajjan reached Delhi, a Canada-based Sikh Human Rights Advocacy group, Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) announced a reward of $10,000 to anyone who would serve the summon to CM.

Claiming damage of $1 million, the defamation suit was filed in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice against Captain Amarinder who had alleged that the Sikh human rights group had links with the ISI in Pakistan.

The group issued a statement that CM’s remarks had caused reputational damage to SFJ’s status as a non-profit organisation and hindered its ability to address issues of Sikh community in Canada.

SFJ had earlier got the summon issued for Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi for shielding leaders allegedly involved in instigating 1984 riots. However, various efforts by the group to legally implicate senior leaders in the past have been largely unsuccessful as the summons need to be personally served to initiate any legal action.

Several Sikh extremist groups condemned the CM’s remarks and rebuffed him for a one-sided attack and insinuating an unwarranted controversy. Dal Khalsa Chief H S Cheema alleged that it was an attempt on CM’s part to please the Hindu vote bank which voted for him in the elections.

The Canadian Minister is slated to visit the Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib] in Amritsar and meet his family members in Hoshiarpur.

It is Sajjan’s first visit to Punjab after being elected as the Minister of Defence, Canada. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which is the highest temporal body for Sikhs, has announced to honour the Canadian Minister. Other Sikh groups, including Dal Khalsa, also expressed interest in honoring the leader.

Sajjan is also slated to inaugurate the Canadian’s Consulate General’s new office in Chandigarh on April 21.

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-punjab-cm-faces-defamation-suit-2407300

The Hindu – India opposes ‘genocide’ charge

Jaitley tells Canadian Defence Minister that the charge by provincial parliament has caused disquiet

Special Correspondent

New Delhi, 16 April 2017. India has registered a strong note of protest before the visiting Canadian Defence Minister, Harjit Singh Sajjan, against a provincial Assembly legislation which had accused India of “genocide” in the events of 1984.

According to Defence Ministry sources, Arun Jaitley made this the focus during their bilateral discussion.

‘Unwarranted comment’

Calling the Bill an unwarranted comment on India’s internal situation, Mr Jaitley conveyed that there was considerable “disquiet” in India and the language was “unreal and exaggerated” which did not conform to reality.

“It was conveyed that as another liberal democracy, it is not in the spirit of India-Canada relations and did not help in furthering the relationship,” a Ministry source said.

In response to Mr Jaitley’s comments, Mr Sajjan dissociated himself from the situation, and said it was a private member’s Bill and moved in the context of the local elections. “He said it did not reflect the position of the Canadian government,” the source stated.

Early this month, Harinder Malhi, Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) from Brampton-Springdale, near Toronto, moved a private member’s motion in the Ontario Assembly.

The motion was passed after debate with 34 members voting in favour and five against of the total strength of 107.

Introducing the Bill, Ms Malhi had said, “The Legislative Assembly of Ontario should condemn all forms of communal violence, hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance in India and anywhere else in the world, including the 1984 genocide perpetrated against Sikhs throughout India, and call on all sides to embrace truth, justice and reconciliation.”

In their discussions, the two ministers had agreed to deepen the defence cooperation.

Official visit

Mr. Sajjan is on an official visit to India from April 17 to 23 during which he is scheduled to travel to Amritsar, Chandigarh and Mumbai apart from his meetings in Delhi.

Responding to questions on the Khalistan issue at a public event later, Mr. Sajjan said he did not want to “get sucked into internal politics of any province or nation”.

“I don’t promote the breaking up of any country… My job is to build relationship with India,” he said.

Ahead of his visit, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said he would not meet him as he is a “Khalistani sympathiser”.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-opposes-genocide-charge/article18115809.ece

Sikh24.com – Harjit Singh Sajjan: Not worthwhile responding to comments by Punjab CM

Sikh24 Editors

Toronto-Ontario-Canada, 18 April 2017. Ignoring the controversial remark of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, the Defence Minister of Canada Sardar Harjit Singh Sajjan has said that it’s not worthwhile to respond to such comments.

He has said that he will pay obeisance at the sanctum sanctorum Sri Harmandir Sahib on April 20 as a common Sikh and doesn’t have any desire to respond to comments by Captain Amarinder Singh when he will be at Darbar Sahib.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had said that he won’t attend the Canadian Defence Minister as he was a ‘Khalistan Sympathizer’. Captain’s statement had drawn sharp flak of Sikh masses as well as his political rivals.

Meanwhile, the senior leader of Shiromani Akali Dal Virsa Singh Valtoha has said that Captain Amarinder Singh was forgetting his duties as a Chief Minister of Punjab. He questioned Captain Amarinder Singh to clear his stance on his brother in law, Sardar Simranjit Singh Mann, who is a staunch Khalistani supporter.

Other senior Akali leaders including Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Balwinder Singh Bhoondarh and Prem Singh Chandimajra have said that the Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh was speaking against Sardar Harjit Singh Sajjan at the behest of his party supremo Sonia Gandhi.

They have said that the main reason behind it was the recognition of Sikh massacre committed by Congress led Hindu mobs in 1984 as a ‘genocide’ by the Ontario assembly.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/04/18/harjit-singh-sajjan-not-worthwhile-responding-to-comments-by-punjab-chief-minister/#.WPWg86IlHIU

The Tribune – AAP: CM opposing Sajjan at Congress behest

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 16 April 2017. Flaying Captain Amarinder Singh for refusing to meet Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, AAP today said it was actually a part of a larger political conspiracy hatched by the Congress high command under a “tit-for-tat” policy.

In a press release, AAP leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira said the Ontario Assembly of Canada had recently passed a resolution terming the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as genocide and state-sponsored annihilation of the Sikhs. This was something completely unacceptable to the Congress high command, as it put the party in an untenable position, he added.

Khaira said it was common knowledge that the Congress had been on the back foot for the past 32 years for its alleged nefarious role in the killing of thousands of Sikhs in Delhi and across India in the aftermath of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984.

To settle scores with the Canadian Government for passing the Sikh genocide resolution, the Congress high command directed Captain Amarinder to oppose Sajjan on flimsy grounds by calling him a Khalistani sympathiser, he said.

Grouse against Canada: Dal Khalsa

Chandigarh – The Dal Khalsa on Sunday accused CM Captain Amarinder Singh of indulging in Khalistan bashing to hide his grouse against the Canada Government, which could not arrange his visit to the country before the Assembly polls. In a press release, the Dal Khalsa said Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan’s stature won’t be lowered if the CMrefused to meet him. (TNS)

SGPC to honour Canadian minister

Fatehgarh Sahib – The SGPC will honour Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan by presenting him with a siropa when he visits the Golden Temple. Kirpal Singh Badungar, SGPC president, told this to the media here on Sunday after presiding over a meeting of Guru Granth Sahib World University Trust.

“Sajjan Singh is the pride of Sikhs. The Canadian Government has given him a responsibility by trusting his credentials. So, he deserves to be honoured,” he said. Badungar refused to comment on the CM’s statement, dubbing him a “pro-Khalistani”. (TNS)

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/politics/aap-cm-opposing-sajjan-at-cong-behest/393152.html

Sikh24.com – Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan to pay obeisance at Sri Harmandr Sahib on April 20

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar Sahib-Panjab-India, 14 April 2017. The first Sikh Canadian Defence Minister Sardar Harjit Singh Sajjan will pay obeisance at the sanctum sanctorum Sri Harmandir Sahib on April 20. He will reach at Sri Amritsar Sahib in the evening of April 19 and will pay obeisance at the central Sikh shrine on April 20.

As per the program shared by Canadian High Commission, Harjit Singh Sajjan will spend April 20 & 21 in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Chandigarh. Sardar Harjit Singh Sajjan hails from a village in Hoshiarpur district where he still has some relatives.

He will meet his family members during these two days and will also attend a party being hosted by the Canadian High Commission in Chandigarh. On 22 April he will meet the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, along with Arun Jaitley, Defence Minister of India and Army Chiefs in New Delhi.

Sikh24 has learnt that a team of Canadian security officials have reached Sri Amritsar Sahib where the Apex Sikh body SGPC was making special arrangements for the first visit of Sardar Harjit Singh Sajjan after becoming Defence Minister of Canada. The SGPC will also honour the Canadian Defence Minister in a specially organized program.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh has come under fire of Sikh masses for releasing a statement to not attend Sardar Harjit Singh Sajjan by terming him a Khalistan sympathizer. Even the Canadian High Commission has criticized Captain Amarinder Singh for releasing such a statement.

Former Deputy Chief Minister of Panjab and President of Shiromani Akali Dal Sukhbir Badal has termed Captain Amarinder Singh’s stand as an irresponsible act. “Captain’s such stand can affect the bilateral ties between Punjab and Canada,” he added.

Pro-freedom Sikh outfit Dal Khalsa has also questioned Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s remark by saying that if Sardar Harjit Singh Sajjan was a Khalistani sympathiser, then why has India decided to hold talks with him?

Dal Khalsa President Sardar Harcharanjit Singh Dhami has taunted on the Captain’s remark by saying that it would be really interesting and amazing to see Indian leadership engaging and talking with Khalistani sympathizers officially at the diplomatic level.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/04/14/canadian-defence-minister-harjit-singh-sajjan-to-pay-obeisance-at-sri-harmandir-sahib-on-april-20/#.WPJNH6IlHIU

The Hindu – Amarinder remarks on Canadian ministers sparks row

Chief Minister has termed the Defence Minister a ‘Khalistan sympathiser’

Suhasini Haidar and Vikas Vasudeva

New Delhi/Chandigarh, 14 April 2017. Terming Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s remarks against its Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan both “disappointing and inaccurate”, Canada on Thursday rejected the allegation that Mr. Sajjan and three cabinet colleagues were supporters of Sikh separatist groups, or “Khalistanis”.

“We regret that the Chief Minister of Punjab is unavailable to meet with Canada’s Minister of Defence. The comments regarding Canada’s Ministers are both disappointing and inaccurate,” the Canadian High Commission in Delhi said in a statement about Captain Amarinder’s comments that have set off a political and diplomatic storm in India ahead of Mr. Sajjan’s visit from April 17-23.

Opposition critical

In Punjab, opposition leaders from the Aam Admi Party and Akali Dal criticised the Chief Minister for the comments.

“It is unfortunate that Captain Amarinder has not only insulted the Canadian Defence Minister, but entire Punjabis in general and Sikhs in particular, who have already proved their mettle on foreign land not only in business but in political arena as well,” said senior AAP leader and MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira.

“Captain Amarinder should have refrained from making disparaging remarks against Mr. Sajjan as well as all other Punjabi representatives in the Canadian parliament,” said former Punjab Deputy chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Speaking to the private news channel NDTV on Wednesday, Captain Amarinder Singh had said he would depute a minister to receive Mr Sajjan when the latter Punjab as he and other members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet of Sikh origin were “Khalistani sympathisers”.

Separatist sympathies

“It’s a matter of principle,” Captain Amarinder Singh had said, referring to a principle of “zero tolerance” for terrorism. “There are [four] ministers there who are Khalistanis. And I am not interested in meeting Khalistanis.”

The Chief Minister was referring to allegations against Mr Sajjan, whose father was a board member of the radical World Sikh Organisation in Canada.

In 2011, Mr Sajjan, a decorated police officer who has served in Afghanistan and Bosnia and commanded the British Columbia regiment of reserves, had been severely criticised for reportedly attending a “remembrance” ceremony in Surrey that included pictures of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, and other Khalistani militants, according to local newspapers.

When asked, Mr. Sajjan admitted to attending the ceremony, but had called the photographs of Sikh terrorists “inappropriate”, and has consistently denied being a supporter of Khalistan.

Captain Amarinder Singh meanwhile, rejected Canada’s defence of Mr. Sajjan, saying that he stood by his principled stand of not associating himself with any ‘Khalistani sympathizer.’

Even as he lashed out at critics, within India, of his ‘Khalistani sympathizer’ remarks against the Canadian Defence Minister, Captain Amarinder reiterated that Mr Sajjan, and several other ministers and top leaders in Canada, were sympathizing with those indulging in anti-India activities, notwithstanding Canada’s claims to the contrary.

“As a democratic nation, India believed in the freedom of speech, which was enshrined in the Constitution, but he would personally not meet any Khalistani sympathizers,” he said in a statement.

MEA silent

The MEA refused to comment on Captain Amarinder Singh’s refusal to meet Mr. Sajjan, as well as the Canadian High Commission’s reply. “It is up to the CM to decide who he wants to meet”, said an official, distancing himself from the controversy.

In April 2016, Captain Amarinder Singh was forced to cancel his seven-day tour of Canada after Sikh rights groups protested against planned political rallies, and went to court on a case accusing him of abetting torture during his previous tenure as Chief Minister.

“The Chief Minister is welcome to visit Canada”, the High Commission said on Thursday in response to Captain Amarinder Singh’s allegation that Khalistani groups had stopped his visit.

The controversy comes on the heels of another related controversy last week, when the MEA protested the Ontario assembly’s approval of a motion (34-5), moved by a member of the ruling Liberal party, that termed events in 1984 (Operation Bluestar and the Anti-Sikh riots) a “genocide perpetrated against the Sikhs throughout India”.

In a statement the MEA spokesperson had called the motion “misguided”.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/amarinder-remarks-on-canadian-ministers-sparks-row/article17991450.ece

DNA India – Amarinder Singh says no to ‘Khalistani sympathiser’

Punjab CM refuses to meet Canada defence minister, comes under attack from Opposition and Sikh groups for calling him a ‘Khalistani sympathiser’

DNA Correspondent

Chandigarh, 14 Apr 2017. Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh came under Opposition attack from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) over his open refusal to meet Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan during his expected visit to India later this month.

Condemning Captain Amarinder for calling Sajjan a “Khalistani sympathiser”, AAP spokesperson, MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira said that it reflected the vindictiveness of Captain Amarinder towards Punjabis living in Canada.

“The CM has not only insulted the Canadian Defence Minister, but the Punjabi community in general and the Sikhs in particular. They have not only proved their mettle in foreign countries with regards to business, but also in the political arena,” said Khaira, highlighting that AAP will warmly welcome the Minister if Captain Amarinder continued to stand ground on the issue.

Criticising the CM’s outburst as an outcome of NRI reluctance he had faced during his pre-poll visit to Canada, Khaira said, “Captain must understand that people of Canada not only elected Harjit Sajjan as MP, but he also represents the Government of Canada as a Sikh.”

Sajjan is expected to visit New Delhi later this month for bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi which was to be followed by a visit to Punjab. However, the Punjab CM kicked a diplomatic row when he made a statement during a TV interview that he would not meet the Minister since he is a “Khalistani sympathiser”.

“These Khalistani sympathisers had last year coerced the government to block my entry into Canada where I wanted to meet my Punjabi brethren,” Singh had stated.

Former Deputy CM and SAD President Sukhbir Badal also targeted Captain Amarinder stating that the CM should not let a personal incident cloud his judgment. “He should not be disrespectful. Such disparaging remarks will not work well for bilateral relations with Canada,” said Badal.

While AAP has demanded that the CM should withdraw his statements, he has also come under attack from extremist groups in the state.

Highlighting that the CM’s statement has put Khalistan issue back on the international discussion table, Sikh extremist group Dal Khalsa head, H S Cheema said, “If Sajjan is a Khalistani sympathiser, then why has India decided to hold talks with him?”

Calling names

Captain Amarinder Singh’s outburst is being termed as an outcome of NRI reluctance he had faced during his pre-poll visit to Canada

Sajjan is expected to visit New Delhi later this month for bilateral talks with PM Narendra Modi which was to be followed by a visit to Punjab

The Punjab CM kicked a diplomatic row when he made this statement during a TV interview

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-amarinder-singh-says-no-to-khalistani-sympathiser-2401286

DNA India – Ontario resolution: Akali Dal seeks withdrawal of MEA response

New Delhi, 10 April 2017. Ruling NDA constituent Akali Dal today criticised the External Affairs Ministry for rejecting a a motion adopted by the Assembly of Ontario in Canada which had termed the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as a “genocide”.

The issue was raised in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha by Akali Dal members who demanded that the External Affairs Ministry should withdraw its statement and the External Affairs Minister should make a statement in Parliament.

Raising the issue in the Rajya Sabha, Akali leader Naresh Gujral said, “I demand that the statement by the MEA be withdrawn and the External Affairs Minister make a statement in the House.”

Referring to the events of November 1984 after assassination of Indira Gandhi, he said, “There was a state-condoned massacre of innocent Sikhs that went on for three horrible days and nights.

The government and police refused to intervene and the minority community was targeted only because of their identity, their beard, their turban and their names.”

Congress leader Anand Sharma objected to the remarks but Gujral went ahead, saying the November 1984 incidents were not a riot as “successive Congress governments have tried to make us believe”.

In fact, many Hindus and Muslims had risked their lives to save their Sikh friends, he said.

Raising a point of order, Sharma said “this is Parliament of India. Can you allow a statement that there was a state-sponsored genocide on record”.

To this, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said he would go through the records and “expunge whatever is to be expunged”.

In the Lok Sabha, Akali Dal member Prem Singh Chandumajra raised the issue and criticised the MEA for rejecting the motion.

He also demanded that the Ministry spokesperson should withdraw the statement.

Last week, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay had said, “We have noted the passage of a Private Member’s Motion in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on April 6. We reject this misguided Motion which is based on a limited understanding of India, its Constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and the judicial process.”

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-ontario-resolution-akali-dal-seeks-withdrawal-of-mea-response-2394038

The Tribune – Centre must apologise: Aujla

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 8 April 2017. Amritsar Lok Sabha MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla has said that he would seek suggestion from the Congress high command to table a resolution in Parliament to demand an apology for the 1984 riots. He said all top national leaders of the AICC had already offered an apology over the matter.

Manjit Singh Calcutta, former general secretary of the SAD and the SGPC, said: “No formal apology has been tendered in Parliament so far.”

He said even the Punjab Assembly had not described the riots as genocide.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/centre-must-apologise-aujla/389325.html

The Tribune – AAP’s Phoolka too backs demand

Ludhiana, 9 April 2017. AAP MLA and advocate Harvinder Singh Phoolka, who has been fighting the cases of 1984 riot victims in Delhi and elsewhere, has welcomed the resolution passed by Ontario assembly, terming the killings as genocide.

Phoolka said it was state-sponsored terrorism carried out with the active involvement of state agencies. Many Hindu families saved Sikhs. He claimed that he himself was saved and secured by a Hindu family in the riots. Phoolka asked the Union Government to recognise the riots as genocide and punish the guilty. (TNS)

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/aap-s-phoolka-too-backs-demand/389354.html