The Province – Ontario MP turfed from Liberal caucus after accusing ex-minister Navdeep Bains of extremism

The episode has revived an issue, Sikh separatism, that has repeatedly bedeviled the Liberal government, sometimes souring relations with India

Tom Blackwell

Brampton – Ontario – Canada, 26 January 2021. An MP from Ontario has been thrown out of the Liberal caucus after suggesting that former Industry Minister Navdeep Bains was an “extremist” supporter of Sikh separatism and should never have gotten into cabinet.

Chief government whip Mark Holland announced Monday afternoon that Ramesh Sangha had been expelled in the wake of his latest barrage against the party and government he represents.

The Brampton Centre MP’s remarks came days after Bains unexpectedly announced he was stepping down from cabinet, citing personal reasons that included a desire to spend more time with his family.

In a somewhat rambling interview with Y Media, a Punjabi-language news outlet, Sangha said he was “shocked” to hear that the minister was quitting at a relatively young age, and that the reason Bains offered for his decision “was difficult to digest for me.”

Sangha also said that he had felt pressure from the former minister and the minister’s father. Now that Bains was gone, “I am not a bounded Liberal any more,” he said in remarks the National Post had translated. Then the MP appeared to comment on Bains’ views about the Sikh question.

“If someone says that ‘I am extremist, I am Khalistani,’ and says it in a declaring style, is he fit to be a minister?” asked the backbencher. “I already said that he is not.”

Khalistanis are supporters of an independent Sikh homeland in India, a cause pursued by many Sikhs in Canada and a bone of contention for the Indian government.

But there is no evidence that Bains has declared that he was one or that he was an extremist. He and other Sikh members of cabinet, faced with such allegations in the past, have denied being part of the movement.

The difference this time is the allegation came not only from within the party, but from one of Bains’ fellow MPs from Ontario’s Brampton-Mississauga area, whose ridings are home to large Sikh populations. The constituencies are key electoral battlegrounds, too, swinging between the Liberals and Conservatives.

The episode also revived an issue that has repeatedly bedeviled the Liberal government, sometimes souring relations with New Delhi.

The cause of Sikh separatism – a predominately peaceful movement today despite an outburst of terrorism three decades ago – has divided the Indian-Canadian community, as well.

As soon as the whip learned of the comments, he consulted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and “the necessary steps were taken,” said spokesman Charles-Eric Lépine.

“As we have made clear time and time again, we will not tolerate conspiracy theories, or dangerous and unfounded rhetoric about parliamentarians or other Canadians,” said Lépine in a statement.

“Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for many Canadians to experience suspicions because of their background; we all know where this can lead.

“The Liberal Caucus continues to stand firm against racism and intolerance.”

Yet the accusation of racism was leveled against a politician of Sikh background himself, making the situation all the more unusual.

Sangha said in an interview Monday the move by the party came out of the blue, and that he never had a chance to offer his perspective.

“Thy have not given me any opportunity of being heard,” he said. “They are misunderstanding me. It was just misinterpreted. This type of justice is a harsh response.”

Asked if he had evidence Bains is a Khalistani, he didn’t directly respond. The MP said he is against all forms of extremism, but that he does not have anything personally against the former minister.

He said he thought that as a Liberal MP he was free to express his views.

In the Y Media interview, the journalist also asked about Sangha’s basis for claiming Bains was a Khalistani extremist.

The MP cited discussions of a controversial Public Safety Canada report on terrorism in 2019, which referred to the continued existence of “Sikh extremism.” The Sikh community was outraged at the statement, which many felt maligned the entire religion.

In discussing changes to the report, Bains went further and said it also should not refer to Khalistani extremism, said Sangha. That seemed to betray the then-minister’s own views, he argued.

The Tribune – Marathon runner Fauja Singh’s biography Turbaned Tornado is all set to become a biopic

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 23 January 2021. A story that necessitated the collaboration of three creative powerhouses, namely Omung Kumar B, Raaj Shaandilyaa and Kunal Shivdasani, is now all set to see the light of day.

Pooling their individual sensibilities together, the three filmmakers announced the film Fauja, which is based on the book titled Turbaned Tornado written by Khushwant Singh on the 109-year-old Fauja Singh (better known as the Sikh Superman), who stunned the world with his age-defying energy and shattered world records as a marathon runner.

Directed by Omung Kumar B, the biopic chronicles the life of Fauja Singh, the world’s oldest marathon runner whose rollercoaster journey is an inspiring one.

Author’s take

Chandigarh-based author Khushwant Singh shares his joy as his biography Turbaned Tornado is now being made into a movie. “I am feeling honoured and humbled at the same time.

I am happy that my efforts to bring recognition to the Punjabi community are paying off. Another novel of mine, Maharaja in Denims, is picked up for a Bollywood motion film by producer Guneet Monga.”

The author, who belongs to Hoshiarpur, conveys that there’s no city small or big for artistes to grow if one believes in the creative power of their mind and express it through the medium of their choice.

Recalling the time he met Fauja Singh, he adds, “There was never a dull moment with him. He is high on humour and energy. Rest assured, the audience will come face to face with the spirit of life with this movie and learn the value of fitness and never giving up.”

The Telegraph – How Nitish Kumar won over Sikhs

Delhi Diaries

Patna – Bihar – India, 24 January 2021. It was the 354th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th and last guru of the Sikhs, and the chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, went to offer prayers at his birthplace, Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as Patna Sahib.

The pilgrims present there from different parts of the country and abroad were happy to see him as a devotee, and they expressed it with chants of “Jo bole so nihal…” Kumar, on his part, did his best to abide by the customs and partook of food at the langar (community dining) at the gurdwara.

After he left, several senior Sikh leaders from Delhi and Punjab asserted that Bihar’s chief minister has become the cynosure of the eyes of all Sikh people across the globe by the way he fabulously organized the 350th birth anniversary of the guru in 2017.

One of the religious leaders went a step further to say that the event had made Kumar more popular than the prime minister, Narendra Modi, among Sikhs.

“If he becomes the prime-ministerial candidate and contests the Lok Sabha elections from anywhere in Punjab, he will win hands down. He must give it a thought,” the Sikh leader confided, as others nodded in unison. Of course, good deeds last long. – SGPC to establish Sikh Mission at Takht Sri Patna Sahib in Bihar

Sikh24 Punjab Bureau

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 23 January 2021. The Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) will establish a Sikh Mission at Takht Sri Harmandir Ji, Patna Sahib, Bihar, with an aim to preach principles and practice of the Sikhi in the state.

The announcement was made by SGPC president Jagir ‘Kaur’ while addressing a Gurmat samagam organized at Gurdwara Taksal Sangat in Sasaram, Bihar, in wake of Parkash Gurpurb of Tenth King Sri Guru Gobind Singh.

She announced that a Sikh Mission would be set up by the SGPC at Takht Sri Patna Sahib from where the pracharak jathas (bathes of preachers) would go to the state to preach Sikhism.

“The pracharaks would be sent from Sikh Mission at Takht Sri Patna Sahib to teach Punjabi language to the children and Gurbani Santhia (lessons on Gurbani reading, grammar, etc.) at the Gurdwaras in Sasaram”, said the SGPC president.

It is notable that there are four Gurdwaras related to ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadar at Sasaram.

The SGPC president also said that a grand Gurmat samagam dedicated to the 400th birth anniversary of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib would also be organized at Sasaram.

She said that this event will be conducted by the SGPC in collaboration with the committees of the four Gurdwaras belonging to Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib at Sasaram. Bibi Jagir Kaur also announced Rs 5 lakh for Gurdwara Taksal Sangat from SGPC.

Giani Ranjit Singh Gohar-e-Maskin, jathedar of Takht Sri Harmandir Ji Patna Sahib shared his views on the occasion and encouraged the sangat to connect with Bani and Bana (Gurbani and traditional Sikh attire or dress).

During the function, SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur and other prominent personalities were felicitated by the local Gurdwara administrators.

The Irish Times – Badge of distinction: Meet the first Sikh in the Garda Reserves

New reserve gardaí attested this week made up of 37 men and 32 women

Sorcha Pollak

Baile Atha Cliath – Eire, 23 January 2021. The first practising Sikh to become a member of the Garda Reserves has said his attestation into this force this week wearing a uniform which includes a turban was a “proud moment”.

Ravinder Singh Oberoi, who was attested as a member of the Garda Reserves this week, said he was glad an Garda had finally allowed to incorporate the turban into their uniform and that this acceptance was “a very happy end to a long journey”.

On Tuesday, Mr Oberoi travelled to the Templemore Garda College in Tipperary to be sworn in as a member of the reserves, fourteen years after he first started his training to join an Garda Síochána’s voluntary and unpaid policing body.

Mr Oberoi, who has lived in Ireland since 1997 and works in IT, had completed most of his required training to be a member of the reserve in 2007 when he discovered he would not be allowed to wear his turban as part of the Garda uniform.

He challenged this before an Equality Tribunal and the High Court which ruled the Garda was not guilty of employee discrimination as Garda Reservists were legally volunteers rather than employees.

However, in 2019, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris announced the sanctioning for alterations to the Garda uniform code to allow members to wear certain items of clothing relating to religious groups, including headscarves for Muslims and turbans for Sikhs.

The commissioner said the move was aimed at increasing the recruitment of ethnic minorities into the force.

Mr Oberoi says deciding to drop out of the training in 2007 was “very disappointing” and that not being able to wear his turban “went against the values and ethics that an Garda Síochána promote”.

However, following the decision to alter the uniform code, Mr Oberoi underwent a refresher training course last summer and operational training on the beat in Dublin in October and November 2020.

Tuesday’s event was “quite emotional”, he says. “After 14 years it was a proud moment as a Sikh man to be able to wear a turban as part of the uniform”.

Mr Oberoi is the only practising Sikh in the force but hopes his involvement will encourage young people from Ireland’s minority communities to consider a career in policing.

While his post is voluntary, Mr Oberoi says he is looking forward to starting on the beat next week and playing a role in the Garda’s national response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“My faith is quite important, especially during these Covid times, it’s what keeps you going. It’s a great honour to be able to call this country my home and now to be accepted in the attire I wear.”

Seventy-one new gardaí graduated last Tuesday after completing a modified training programme which focused on on-the-job experience rather than training in the Garda College.

A further 69 members of the Garda Reserve were also attested to aid in the policing of Covid-19. The new reserve gardaí are made up of 37 men and 32 women. They come from Ireland, England, Germany, Georgia and Lithuania.

Reserve gardaí have undergone specific training to prepare them to police Covid-19 regulations and they will focus on engaging in local patrols and crime-prevention measures.

“The 69 Garda Reserves have willingly committed their time to support the ongoing efforts to keep people safe and will form an integral part of our policing effort moving forward,” Mr Harris said.

ThePrint – Seven reasons why Modi government is in retreat on farm reform laws

Farm reform could’ve been high point of Modi’s second term. But lack of patience, understanding and contempt for history have turned it into a disaster.

Shekhar Gupta

New Delhi – India, 23 January 2021. Cop-out, mission abandoned, cold feet, tactical retreat, stalemate. You choose the description for the Modi government’s predicament on its farm reform laws.

It is a setback if not an outright defeat or surrender. Which is tragic, because these laws are reformist, bold, and would help farmers by and large, rather than harm them.

Nevertheless, all substantive reform has to be marketed politically. The days of incremental reform by stealth are over. There isn’t any low-hanging fruit left in the reform orchard.

That’s why it is important that we understand what went wrong here. Because, an idea is only as good or as bad as those most affected find it.

In our view, here are the seven main reasons why the Modi-Shah BJP has failed to convince the farmers.

– They cannot accept that there is a non-Muslim state in the north where Narendra Modi doesn’t hold the same magisterial sway over public opinion as in the Hindi heartland.

– Because they do not accept it, they never saw the need for a local ally. That’s why they dumped the Akalis so contemptuously.

The Sikhs of Punjab are not like the Hindus of Assam who will vote for Modi even when you marginalise their pre-eminent regional party and steal its leaders.

– We have said this before in a National Interest, they do not understand the Sikhs. They see them essentially as Hindus if sartorially different. Fact is, they are, and yet they aren’t. But understanding subtleties isn’t exactly the Modi-Shah BJP’s strong point.

– They never appreciated the deep Left influence among the Punjab peasantry, going back to the early 20th century, since even before Bhagat Singh.

Sikhism, the institution of the gurdwara, has a unique tradition of community mobilisation. Add to that the organisational skills and political savvy of the Left. That is what Narendra Singh Tomar and Piyush Goyal face session after session.

– It is because of a combination of these that the Modi government didn’t bother to market the reforms ideas early on. You do not tell surplus-producing farmers of the Green Revolution states that the very regime under which two generations have prospered is broken, and make three laws to fix them.

– You cannot use force against the Sikhs. To put it more rudely, you can’t treat them like Muslims. And you can’t question their patriotism. You do the first, the entire country will protest.

You do the second, the Sikhs would laugh at you and the rest of the country would ask what’s wrong with you. This crisis denies you all your usual weapons: Force, agencies, propaganda, hyper-nationalism and so on.

– And finally, there is the Modi-Shah BJP’s hallmark: Contempt for history. Because, you presume history of the Republic only began in the summer of 2014 and anything that happened before that was a disaster and not worth learning from.

The Wire – Modi Govt’s insensitivity can convert farmers’ protest into wider Sikh crisis: Arun Shourie

In an interview to Karan Thapar, Arun Shourie says due to the Sikh community’s tremendous commitment to India’s security forces, its members find it deeply hurtful to be called “anti-national” and “Khalistani”.

In an interview that should sound a serious note of warning for the government, a former member of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government has said that whilst the offer to hold the farm laws in suspension for up to two years is a good step, he’s worried the government’s insensitivity to the protesting farmers and its lack of understanding of Sikh character and Sikh traditions could still convert a farmers’ dispute into a wider Sikh crisis.

If this happens, it could threaten to re-open a fissure which the country thought had been sealed and resolved 40 years ago.

Arun Shourie said his concerns are corroborated by the fact that even on the day the government offered to suspend the farm laws BJP MPs like Jaskaur Meena from Dausa called the farmers “terrorists” who have “AK-47s” and “flags of Khalistan”.

In a 28-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Shourie, who is also a reputed author and a former editor of the Indian Express, said the Modi government does not understand the character and traditions of the Sikh community.

He said, “A Sikh is always ready for a fight and, when he fights, he fights to the finish.” He added that a Sikh “learns this with his mother’s milk”. On the other hand, the government thinks “everyone can be purchased and everyone is open to a deal”.

Arun Shourie said that “nothing is more important to a Sikh than the notion of self-respect”. He said a Sikh “will go to any extent to get what he thinks is right”. – SGPC accelerates efforts to implement clean energy for cooking langar

Sikh24 Punjab Bureau

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 20 January 2021. To accelerate steps towards the use of clean energy for cooking langar in sacred Sikh shrines, SGPC president Bibi Jagir ‘Kaur’ met Rara Sahib seminary of Baba Baljinder Singh seeking his support for this initiative.

After meeting Baba Baljinder Singh, Bibi Jagir said that the SGPC has an initial plan to implement a steam cooking system at the world’s most extensive community kitchen situated in the Sri Darbar Sahib complex.

She said the system would later be implemented in other Sikh shrines. “The preparation of langar by steam would save fuel expenditures while bringing down the pollution and time as well,” she added.

It is pertinent to mention here that around 200000 devotees from all over the world partake in langar every day at Guru Ram Dass Langar situated in the Sri Darbar Sahib complex.

Interacting with media on this occasion, Baba Baljinder Singh Rara Sahib shed light on the benefits of cooking langar by steam. “The steam cooking method maintains the taste and nutrition of the food. We have been using this system for cooking langar at Rara Sahib for a decade,” he said.

He further said that the technology was not advanced some years ago, but now it has improved a lot. “The required equipment would be brought from Germany for installation of the steam system, and this process is likely to take a few months,” he added.

He hailed Bibi Jagir Kaur’s efforts for taking this initiative while also thanking her for assigning this seva to him.

SGPC interim committee member Satwinder Singh Tohra, member of SGPC Dharam Prachar Committee Bhai Ajaib Singh Abhayasi, manager of Sri Darbar Sahib Mukhtar Singh, OSD to SGPC president Amrik Singh Latifpur, Dr Sukhbir Singh, superintendent Malkit Singh Baherwal were also present in this meeting.

The Statesman – Thousands throng gurdwaras on Guru Gobind’s ‘Prakash Purb’

Hundreds of people also offered prayers at Gurdwara Nada Sahib in Panchkula, adjoining Chandigarh, which is associated with the visit of the 10th Sikh Guru.

New Delhi – India, 20 January 2021. Thousands of devotees paid obeisance at gurdwaras across Punjab, Haryana, Himachal and Chandigarh on Wednesday to commemorate the 354th birth anniversary of the 10th Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh.

Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) founded the ‘Khalsa Panth’ or the community of the pure at Anandpur Sahib in 1699.

Religious fervour was quite evident at ‘Harmandar Sahib’, the holiest of Sikh shrines also known as Golden Temple, in Amritsar in Punjab, and other historic gurdwaras across the region as devotees began to assemble since early morning hours to offer prayers and listen to the ‘kirtan’ or hymns set to music.

The Golden Temple complex was adorned with lights to mark the occasion.

A heavy rush of devotees was also seen at Takht Kesgarh Sahib gurdwara in Anandpur Sahib town, around 85 km from here, since early morning. It was at this place that Guru Gobind Singh founded the ‘Khalsa Panth’.

Hundreds of people also offered prayers at Gurdwara Nada Sahib in Panchkula, adjoining Chandigarh, which is associated with the visit of the 10th Sikh Guru.

Religious processions were taken out at various places in the region on the eve of the Guru’s birth anniversary. ‘Langars’ or community kitchens have been set up at gurdwaras to feed the devotees.

Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh greeted people on the occasion and urged them to follow the Guru’s teachings and to maintain peace and harmony.

Nagar – Pakistan to offer free technical education to the children of Sikhs and Hindus

Sikh24 Asian Bureau

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 17 January 2021. From 2021 onwards, Pakistan’s federal government has decided to avail free technical education for the children of Sikh and Hindu nationals of Pakistan. The Evacuee Trust Property Board has taken this decision in Lahore’s board meeting under the presidency of ETPB’s chairman Dr Amir Ahmad.

The Evacuee Trust Property Board looks after the sacred shrines and religious properties of Sikhs and Hindus in Pakistan.

Interacting with the media, ETPB’s spokesperson Amir Hashmi said that all Sikh and Hindu children would be availed free technical education under Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji Scholarship.

“The children of Sikhs and Hindus, who are pursuing their education in other fields, will continue to receive their scholarships, i.e., PKR 10,000/- per month,” he added.

It is pertinent to note here that the Imran Khan-led Pakistan government has been generously addressing the concerns of its minorities. However, still, some incidents of “forceful conversion” of Sikh and Hindu girls have brought the working of the Pakistan government under a question mark.