NSO – A tribute to Rt Hon Fiona Mactaggart MP

We are truly sorry to hear Fiona Mactaggart the MP for Slough is standing down at the forthcoming election.

Slough has the highest percentage of Sikh residents in the UK and for the last two decades she has been nothing short of a champion for the community, and indeed, all minority communities across Britain.

Aside from her annual appearance at the Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan, she has frequently raised important issues on behalf of the Sikh community in parliament.

These include the call for better recognition of the Sikh contribution to the Great Wars, advocacy for Sikh faith schools, and speaking out against human rights violations in India.

Lord Singh who first met Fiona at the Communities Faith Forum whilst she was a government Minister said, “At the time, despite poor health, she threw herself into her new role with enthusiasm and vigour in promoting community understanding and engagement.”

He went on, “I join many others in the Sikh community in wishing Fiona health and happiness in her well-deserved retirement from frontline politics.”

Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO)
London UK

Dawn – Bitter foes PTI, PPP launch attack on Sharif

Sadia Qasim Shah & Gohar Ali Khan

Batkhela/Peshawar-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 26 April 2017. The leaders of the country’s main opposition parties raised the “Go Nawaz go” slogan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, demanding that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down following the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Panama Papers case.

But plans for a grand opposition alliance seemed a distant dream on Tuesday, as Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan also took aim at each other’s parties in speeches that seemed more suited to the campaign trail than as precursors to a possible alliance.

Addressing a public gathering in Malakand, the former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman dismissed the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief as “a fake Khan”, and dubbed Nawaz Sharif “a prodigy of General Zia-ul-Haq”.

Mr Zardari alleged that PM Sharif was a product of the establishment and accused him of still furthering the agenda of the former military dictator.

Mr Zardari blamed the philosophy of PM Sharif and his mentor, General Zia, for the brutal killing of Mashal Khan and regretted the blocking of Pakhtuns’ CNICs. Addressing PM Sharif, he said Pakhtuns should be given their due rights.

Imran, Zardari also lash out at each other in KP

He alleged that the Sharif family had looted the nation’s wealth with both hands and vowed to retrieve whatever they had made off with.

He reminded the people of KP about all that the PPP had done for them, giving the impression that he was there to garner votes as much as to assail the ruling parties in the province and at the Centre.

The PPP co-chairman lamented that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which was initiated by his government to end the sense of deprivation prevailing in KP and Balochistan, had been snatched by the ruling party and called on Pakhtuns to reclaim what was rightfully theirs.

He claimed credit for renaming the province and accused Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif of snatching morsels from the mouths of Pakhtuns by encroaching on their share in the National Finance Commission award.

He recalled how the writ of the government had been established in Swat and how the PPP government had looked after thousands of people displaced from the Malakand division during the conflict there.

Reminding the crowd that the late Benazir Bhutto had always raised her voice for the people of the tribal areas, he vowed that Fata would be merged with KP if the PPP came into power again.

PPP leader said that problems for overseas Pakistanis living abroad particularly in Middle East countries had increased there. He said that people of Malakand division and parts of the country are facing manifold problem in Arab countries but the rulers were enjoying their family relation with these ME countries.

Mr Zardari also lambasted the ruling PML-N for its silence over the use of the massive ‘Mother of All Bombs’ in neighbouring Afghanistan. He also expressed sympathies with the people of Malakand, whose loved ones were facing tough living conditions abroad, such as in the Middle East.

Imran Khan

Fresh from his diatribe against the PPP in Dadu on Saturday, where he accused the former president of “belittling” the party of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, on Tuesday, the PTI chief turned his sights back on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Reminding PM Sharif how he had demanded Yousuf Raza Gillani’s resignation when the Supreme Court had found the latter guilty of contempt, Mr Khan told a gathering of party leaders at the CM House in Peshawar that judges of the Supreme Court had rejected the Sharifs’ evidence, Qatari letter and all.

According to a handout issued on Tuesday, he claimed the verdict had vindicated his party’s stance and called on party workers to make PTI’s April 28 show in Islamabad a resounding success.

He alleged that the institutions tasked with probing the PM were subordinate to him, and questioned how a fair probe could be held while Nawaz Sharif remained in office.

Speaking to party lawmakers, the PTI chief accused Nawaz Sharif of offering him Rs 10 billion to “stay quiet”, adding that he could offer a lot more to other institutions to keep mum. He also stressed the need to maintain public pressure on the government.

Addressing another ceremony, held to mark the inauguration of the under-23 games at the Hayatababad Complex, he told an audience of youths: “Had I given up, I would not have been able to build Shaukat Khanum hospital or to set up the PTI.”

In a speech that seemed designed to inspire young people into action, he stressed the need to instil the sporting spirit among all players.

He attributed his success to his sporting career, saying: “If a champion loses, he never gives up. He gets up, analyses his mistakes and goes to play again.”

When the audience began to chant “Go Nawaz Go”, he observed that this would be “done on Friday”.

He also praised Younis Khan, who hails from Mardan, on becoming the first Pakistani cricketer to achieve 10,000 runs.


The News – SC dismisses request for inclusion of section for Sikhs in census forms

Islamabad, 24 April 2017. The Chief Justice on Monday dismissed the Sindh and Peshawar high courts request of including an option for Sikhs in the religion section of the census form.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar said that the first phase of census is completed in more than half of the districts of the country. It would now not be possible to print new forms, he said. The forms are in machine readable form therefore the section cannot even be made manually as the machine will not recognise them.

The court ruled that census cannot take place in areas where it has been completed.

The census form does not have a box for Sikhs to mark their religion though there is one for Hindus and Christians.

A Sikh community leader had filed a petition in the Sindh High Court demanding inclusion of Sikhism in the religion column in the census form.

The divisional bench in Sindh High Court heard the case on March 21 and sent notices to the chief census commissioner and provincial census commissioner to submit their response.


The Tribune – Captain speaks to MP CM on gurdwara row

Other reports suggest that the Indore Gurdwara was completely destroyed
Man in Blue

Chandigarh, 25 April 2017. Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has requested his Madhya Pradesh counterpart Shivraj Chauhan to look into the matter of the alleged damage to a gurdwara in Indore during a recent demolition drive and take steps to assuage the sentiments of the Sikh community, which had been hurt by the reported excessive action of the police and municipal authorities.

Captain spoke to Shivraj Chauhan following reports in a section of the media that Gurdwara Kartar Kiran in Indore district had been damaged during the demolition drive.

He requested the CM to ascertain the veracity of the reports and take action. Chauhan assured him that he would personally look into the matter and ensure welfare of the Sikh community. (TNS)


The Times of India – Expel MP: UK gurdwara writes to Labour Party

I am no fan of the previous Gurdwara pardhan Himmat Singh Sohi, I am no fan of the present pardhan Gurmail Singh Malhi nor of committee member Harjit Singh Sarpanch or Virendra Sharma MP. I have lived in West London for about 13 years and I know that there are excellent people in the local Sikh community. Why are these not elected as MP, or member of the Gurdwara committee ?
Man in Blue

Chandigarh, 25 April 2017. There is a different fervour to snap general election campaign in Ealing-Southall this year with Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southall, passing a resolution seeking expulsion of incumbent Member of Parliament, Virendra Sharma, from the Labour Party of Britain.

This resolution is a result of a social media messaging controversy involving some committee members of the gurdwara. Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southall, is the largest gurdwara out side India with about 10,000 registered members. The controversy has become a talking point in the local Sikh circles.

Sharma on his part says that the campaign against him is politically motivated and is being stirred up by a small number of people driven by religion and the regions they come from. He insists the protests don’t represent the community’s feelings.

He had also written to the gurdwara’s general secretary, apologising for sharing a What sApp message that was against the gurdwara’s management committee.

It is alleged that during the annual Southall Baisakhi Nagar Kirtan earlier this month, Sharma passed on messages on social media that were allegedly defamatory and malicious that targeted some of the gurdwara management committee members, including its president Gurmail Singh Malhi.

Expressing concern during a specially convened executive committee meeting, gurdwara vice-president Harjit Singh Sarpanch said, “It is more serious because it has been done and being done by a public person like Sharma in collaboration with his supporters to spread hatred in the community”.

Sarpanch alleged that Sharma was not capable of representing the diverse people of Southall and Ealing and that he had been dividing communities.

“This is an act of political criminality. He has sent messages on WhatsApp relating to me and my colleagues’ personal matters. He must be suspended as an MP by the Labour Party”, claimed Manjit Singh Buttar, the gurdwara general secretary, who is also a Councillor in the London Borough of Hounslow.

The management committee has since passed a resolution planning to take action against Sharma.

The executive committee unanimously condemned “malicious, conspired, character assassination on the day of Nagar Kirtan to cause maximum harm to the reputation and character of our key committee members.” It was also resolved that the case be reported to the police and further civil action be initiated as per legal advice.

It was also decided that the committee would report the matter to the Leader of the Labour Party calling for action to expel Mr Sharma MP from the party as well as to approach the Speaker of the House of Commons requesting him to take appropriate action against him.

Sharma said, “The argument with Buttar and the gurdwara is all product of a misunderstanding. There is no real conflict between us and I have offered to meet with everyone concerned to clear up the issue.”

The April 20 letter written to the gurdwara general secretary by the MP, a copy of which has been provided to TOI, Sharma said, “On the 9th April I received a WhatsApp message from an unknown number.

This message contained numerous allegations about a number of highly respected members of our local community and people I consider to be pillars of society. I will not waste space on the scurrilous rumours and gossip in the message, but I told the sender that it was wrong to make such allegations anonymously…”

He added in the letter that when the first accusations were followed by further accusations, he shared the number and message with very few friends to try to ascertain the identity of the sender.

“In doing so I realise that I spread the gossip further and I would like to wholeheartedly apologise for this, and any accidental credence I lent the allegations, this was not my intention,” he said.


The Hindu – Sukhois join frontline squadron in Punjab

Major force accretion as the ‘Valiants’ are near the border

Special Correspondent

New Delhi, 24 April 2017. The Halwara-based 221 Squadron of the Indian Air Force, “Valiants”, has inducted the frontline Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft. The squadron used to fly MiG-23s till they were phased out in 2009.

This is a major force accretion as the squadron is based in Punjab facing Pakistan. The Su-30MKI is the most modern multi-role fighter in the Indian Air Force.

The aircraft were formally inducted by Air Marshal C Hari Kumar, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Air Command, on Monday during which he handed over the official documents of the squadron to Wing Commander H.S. Luthra, Commanding Officer of the Squadron, the IAF said in a statement.

The “Valiants” were formed as an offensive fighter squadron on February 14, 1963 at Barrackpore and was equipped with the Vampires, Spitfire, Hurricane and Su-7 aircraft. The “Valiants” were the first to carry out strikes during the Kargil war.


The Asian Age – In J&K Valley, rebuild bridges and reach out

Modi has been unable to build a consensus on a peaceful solution of the Kashmir problem.

S Nihal Singh

Op/Ed, 24 April 2017. All the do-gooders seeking an out-of-the-box solution to the Kashmir imbroglio miss a central point. Can a BJP government at the Centre and in a coalition in the state surmount its inherent limitations to prove equal to the task?

The answer, as events in the Kashmir Valley prove each day, is a qualified “no”. To begin with, the BJP’s ideological blinkers and narrow definition of nationalism make any solution of the problem more difficult.

Added to this mix, the macho culture the BJP cultivates, as opposed to its concept of weak coalition governments of the past, is eminently unsuited to tackling the problem. Witness the suggestion of a BJP minister in the state Cabinet recently suggesting that stone-pelting protesters should be shot.

The tragedy is that the one politician who could make a bold move to untangle the situation is inhibited by his own upbringing in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its long arm over the government’s decision-making process.
To add to a series of failures, Prime Minister Narendra Modi erred in believing that the impasse would work to his advantage even as the frustrations among the young in particular grew.

Besides, the decision to speed up the “Hinduisation” of the rest of the country inevitably riles the people of the Valley.

Mr Modi’s limitations can best be judged from his public declaration some time ago that a vast majority of the cow protection units were goons, only to eat his words in less than 24 hours to suggest that goons were participants in only a few of such units.

We are living with the consequences of such mixed signals: the lynching to death of a Muslim dairy farmer transporting cattle and, more recently, of a nomad family severely beaten up in Jammu because they were with their cattle, their only source of livelihood.

Proposals for a solution of the Kashmir problem have been repeated ad nauseam. Begin serious talks with all sections and parties in the Valley, including the separatists, and set up parallel talks with Pakistan.

The latter prospect has receded in view of Pakistan’s decision to hang an Indian to death after a secret military trial on spying charges. But there is nothing to prevent discussions with Kashmiris in the Valley, once the ground has been prepared.

Mr Ram Madhav, the BJP’s pointman for Kashmir, had to make a quick trip to the state to try to stem the growing fissures in the coalition; whether he administered a slap on the wrist of the erring BJP state minister for his foolish comment is not known.

On his part, Mr Modi seems unable to discipline his partymen to refrain from making provocative remarks that seek to raise issues of cow protection and other concepts to keep the communal pot boiling.

Thus far, for party political reasons or otherwise, Mr Modi has been unable to build a consensus on a peaceful solution of the Kashmir problem. The abysmal scale of voting in the Srinagar byeelection made the country sit up and even the May date for the bye election in Anantnag seems unrealistic.

Members of mainstream parties, including the state’s ruling party, are hiding, instead of campaigning, with terror of the gun dominating the environment.

The projected meeting of the state chief minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti, with the Prime Minister will lead nowhere unless the latter is clear on how to begin resolving the problem. If he can get rid of his own inhibitions, he must convince the RSS leadership that the country requires a different approach to Kashmir.

The only BJP leader who had a measure of credibility with Kashmiris is Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who headed a coalition government, and sang the song of insaniyat (humanity). But you cannot begin the process if your leitmotif is to shoot the stone-pelters.

In a sense, the question boils down to Mr Modi’s capacity to make a sharp U-turn in the larger interest of the country by prevailing upon the RSS to give him the room to resolve an old problem which bears the burden of the subcontinent’s tragic partition and its murderous consequences.

He could get past the RSS for a time in Gujarat, but it was one state, not the whole country, and the RSS is riding high with the BJP’s victory in the 2014 election bringing three decades of coalition governments to an end. Its dream of a Hindu rashtra is within grasp.

Before setting out for Rawalpindi as the first Indian newspaper correspondent to be posted in Pakistan after the 1965 war, I had a meeting with Indira Gandhi on the morning of April 21, 1967.

In her view, Field Marshal Ayub Khan had to give in to pressure from Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (then foreign minister) and associates to adopt an anti-India stance because the latter felt that only such a posture could keep Pakistan together.

She said no Indian government could placate Pakistan on Kashmir, adding, “And what new solution can there be on Kashmir?”

The actors on the two sides have changed, but Mrs Gandhi’s words ring as true today as it did then. It is thus essential to begin the task of reconciling with the people in the Valley in a dramatically changed environment in India.

She espoused secularism and although the secular creed is still enshrined in the Constitution, Mr Modi’s followers in the BJP and the RSS are doing everything in their power to push their concept of the Hindu rashtra.

Where do we go from here? There is only one sane argument: create the mood for reconciliation by making moves on the ground. Mr Farooq Abdullah’s suggestion to impose President’s rule is no answer.

Rather, the answer lies in building bridges to the people of the Valley. Inevitably, terrorists of the local and Pakistani provenance must be answered with the gun.

But New Delhi’s best answer would be otherwise to sheath the sword and befriend the Valley and its people by assuring them of autonomy and fair play.

S Nihal Singh has four editorships under his belt, with globetrotting stints in Singapore, Pakistan, Moscow, London, New York, Paris and Dubai.


Sikh24.com – General Election: Sikh Council UK urges increase in selection of Sikh candidates

Sikh Editors

London-UK, 21 April 2017. The Sikh Council UK is urging all political parties to positively select Sikh candidates ahead of the snap General Election.

There are some members of the House of Lords from Sikh background, but no Sikh members of the House of Commons.

Representatives from all the main political parties have spoken of the huge contribution that Sikhs make to British society and have acknowledged the lack of Sikhs in the House of Commons.

Sikh Council UK Secretary General Elect Jagtar Singh said “We call upon the parties to address the glaring lack of Sikhs in Westminster by shortlisting and selecting promising Sikh candidates in winnable constituencies. We will offer support to Sikh candidates who make it through the selection processes”.

Theresa May has called a General Election for 8 June 2017. Polls that indicate she could win a huge Tory majority in Parliament.


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.


Dawn – Indian journalist raises tough questions about Kulbhushan Jadhav

Karachi, 22 April 2017. Simply but aptly titled “The mysterious Mr Jadhav”, well-known journalist Karan Thapar has written a hard-hitting article about the Indian spy who has been sentenced to death by a military tribunal in Pakistan.

Karan Thapar

The sub-head coined for the piece, published on Friday on the website of the Indian Express, was equally instructive in that it succinctly summed up what kind of an article it was. This stand-first said: “The case of the Indian sentenced in Pakistan offers more questions than answers.”

Mr Thapar said he was intrigued by Kulbhushan Jadhav’s story. So he began reading about it, but the more he read about it the more he became confused. “Alas, all I’ve ended up with is questions. The more I learn, the more they multiply”, he wrote.

The first thing that troubled the Indian journalist was why Jadhav had two passports, one in his own name and the other one in the name of Hussein Mubarak Patel.

“According to the Indian Express, the second passport was originally issued in 2003 and renewed in 2014. The passport numbers are E6934766 and L9630722,” he wrote.

When the journalist contacted the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), he was told that the answer could be obtained only if Indian officials managed to gain access to Jadhav. Mr Thapar responded to the suggestion by writing: “But why not check the records attached to the passport numbers? Surely they would tell a story?”

The Indian government claimed that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran and forcibly brought to Balochistan. Mr Thapar said that New Delhi did pursue the matter with Iran. “But, as the MEA spokesperson admitted, they don’t seem to have responded or, perhaps, even conducted an investigation yet. We seem to have accepted that. Odd, wouldn’t you say?”

The Indian journalist went on to ask what was so special about Jadhav that only he was kidnapped by the Pakistani sleuths and not any other Indian living in Iran. “After all, there are 4,000 Indians in Iran — and no one else has been abducted.”

The Indian journalist quoted A S Dulat, a former chief of RAW, as saying unhesitatingly that Jadhav could be a spy. “As he put it, if he was the government, he would hardly admit it,” he wrote.

Turning to the disappearance of Lt Colonel Mohammad Habib in Nepal, the Indian journalist said: “Was Jadhav convicted and sentenced to pre-empt India from claiming it had caught a Pakistani spy? And now, is an exchange of ‘spies’ possible?”