Six people, from Vancouver City Councillor Jean Swanson to Sahib Kaur Dhaliwal, a young student from the University of Ottawa, have been presented with medals of courage by a Canada-based online magazine that covers alternative politics.
Radical Desi, which started its journey in 2014, had established a medal bearing the quote of Desmond Tutu: “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” to honour individuals who have stood up against repression and injustice.
This year, the magazine gave six medals to those who have raised their voices for Indian farmers, who have been camping on the borders of New Delhi since last November, against controversial farm laws which have been passed by the ruling right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government.
The farmers believe that these laws are going to harm their livelihood and increase corporate control over the agro-industry.
The first among the recipients of the Radical Desi medal for this cause was Jean Swanson, who brought a motion against the Indian farm laws to Vancouver City Council, followed by well-known community activist and the founder of Coalition Against Bigotry, Imtiaz Popat, prominent poet Sherry Duggal, two organizers of the farmers’ protests across BC, Dupinder Kaur Saran and Ishwinder Singh, besides Sahib Kaur Dhaliwal, a promising student who spoke passionately for agitating farmers during the youth parliament session. She is the daughter of renowned Punjabi media personality Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal.
Notably, Saran and Singh were also instrumental behind a vigil organized on behalf of the South Asian community in Surrey, in memory of the 215 indigenous children whose remains were recently discovered from near the site of the former Indian Residential School in Kamloops.
Duggal has written two poems dedicated to the farmers’ struggle, while Popat had spoken in support of Swanson’s motion in the Vancouver Council chambers. Popat is vocal against growing racism in Canada and attacks on religious minorities in India and elsewhere in the world.
Swanson had also brought a motion against India’s controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, which discriminates against Muslim refugees coming from neighbouring countries, but was forced to withdraw it due to lack of support and backlash from the Indian consulate.
All the six medals were given to these individuals on separate occasions. Swanson was honoured right outside Vancouver City Hall in April, while Popat, Duggal and Saran were given their medals on the international workers’ day rally on May 1, outside the Indian Visa and Passport Application Center in Surrey. The last two recipients, Singh and Dhaliwal, received them on Wednesday, June 16 at Channel Punjabi studios in Surrey, from Saran on behalf of Radical Desi.