Indians Abroad for Pluralist India honoured New Westminster City Councillor Chuck Puchmayr with a medal of courage on Sunday, July 19, for bringing a motion against India’s highly discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The medal was presented to Puchmayr by the IAPI President Parshottam Dosanjh and another member of the group, and prominent poet Amrit Diwana, at an event held at Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, Surrey-Delta.
The officials from Guru Nanak Sikh Temple and Abbotsford-based Banda Singh Bahadur Society also honoured him for his role behind Bhai Mewa Singh Day proclamation on the occasion.
Mewa Singh was the first Sikh political activist to be executed in Canada on January 11, 1915, for assassinating controversial Immigration Inspector William Hopkinson. Singh was a part of the revolutionary group that fought against the British occupation of India and racism abroad. Hopkinson was patronizing a network of spies within the South Asian community to weaken the freedom struggle and was complicit in the murders of two community leaders by a British agent inside a gurdwara in September, 1914.
Early this year, following the efforts of Chuck Puchmayr, the City of New Westminster unanimously proclaimed January 11 as “Bhai Mewa Singh Day”.
Puchmayr had moved a motion against CAA on March 9, but it was passed with a majority vote on July 13. The motion was approved more than four months later in a 5-1 vote, with one city councillor absent. The voting was delayed because of COVID-19 restrictions and public health emergency in the province. The motion makes New Westminster the first Canadian city to denounce the CAA, which blatantly discriminates against Muslim refugees coming to India from neighbouring countries, and only allows non-Muslim refugees to make India their home.
The law was passed at the behest of the right-wing Hindu nationalist government, under which attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown over the last several years. Indian police continue to hound CAA opponents.
The law violates India’s constitution, which guarantees religious equality, and sparked angry protests all across the country. Demonstrations have been held in Canada as well, with Puchmayr attending one rally in Surrey days before the motion was tabled.
The New Westminster motion is a huge setback for pro-India lobby groups, which have been trying to prevent it from being approved.
Among those present at Sunday event, included Guru Nanak Sikh temple president Hardeep Singh Nijjar, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Society President Ranjit Singh Khalsa and Gurdwara Sukh Sagar President Harbhajan Singh Atwal.