The campaign for recognition of the 1984 Sikh massacre as Genocide in the Canadian parliament has been launched in Surrey on Saturday, June 29.
Thousands of Sikhs were murdered all across India in the first week of November 1984 following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The activists of the slain leader’s ruling Congress party were involved in the pogrom that was aided and abetted by the police. The mobs identified innocent Sikhs, burnt them alive and raped their women to avenge the murder of Indira Gandhi. This was all done to win the next general election by polarizing the Hindu majority against the Sikhs who merely make two percent of the country’s population.
In New Delhi alone close to 3,000 Sikhs were murdered. So far only one senior politician has been convicted after 34 years, while most senior politicians remain unpunished.
The South Asian activists came together at Surrey-Newton Library on Saturday to launch the campaign that was opened by Indigenous activist Kwistel Tatel. She expressed her solidarity with the cause and mentioned how Indigenous peoples have been subjected to Genocide in Canada. The organizers of the Saturday event also extended their unconditional support for recognizing structural violence against Indigenous women as Genocide.
Only recently the report of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry report described the problem as Genocide. Much like right wing political parties in Canada which refuse to recognize it as Genocide, the Indian state has repeatedly refused to recognise the 1984 massacre as such.
Former New Democratic MP and a strong voice for human rights Svend Robinson also spoke at the event. He was the only Canadian politician who showed up and assured to take the campaign to its logical end.
None of the elected officials from among the local Sikh community was in attendance, even though the organizers had invited them. Whereas Robinson came all the way from Burnaby to show his support, the Surrey MPs, MLAs and Councillors were conspicuous by their absence.
Notably, the Indian government had denied visas to at least two Indo Canadian politicians in the past for campaigning for Sikh Genocide motions in the parliament and the Ontario Legislature. They are Surrey-Newton MP Sukh Dhaliwal and New Democratic Leader Jagmeet Singh.
Saturday’s event coincides with the fourth anniversary of a Sikh Genocide motion passed by the New Delhi assembly on June 30, 2015. The motion was brought by Aam Aadmi Party MLA Jarnail Singh who was previously a journalist and shot into prominence after throwing a shoe at the former Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram during a press conference in protest against his attempt to shield those involved in the massacre.
Singh, who also authored a book on the 1984 massacre, was the keynote speaker at the Saturday event. He presented copies of his book to Robinson and Tatel on the occasion.
Others who spoke included independent journalist and poet Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal, Barjinder Singh from Sikh Nation – a group of volunteers that started an annual blood drive in memory of the victims of the massacre – other Sikh activists Dharam Singh, Gurmukh Singh Deol and Kesar Singh Baghi, a Muslim activist Syed Wajahat, prominent painter Jarnail Singh, besides rationalist society leader Avtar Gill.
A moment of silence was held at the beginning of the event in memory of Tabrez Ansari, a Muslim man who was recently lynched in India by the Hindu fundamentalists who owed allegiance to the currently ruling right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) that is bent upon turning India into a Hindu theocracy. The speakers also touched upon the complicity of the BJP in a 1984-like massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat back then and is widely accused of being complicit in the mass murder of Muslims.
Gurpreet Singh is a Canada- based journalist who publishes Radical Desi- a monthly magazine that covers alternative politics.