Desmond Tutu

An era has ended with the passing away of an anti-apartheid hero on Sunday, December 26.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu left us at the age of ninety.

He was in the forefront of the struggle against brutal white minority rule in South Africa. A Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Tutu was famously known for his quotation; “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” This became a motto of our small publication of Radical Desi. You can find it right underneath the masthead of our website. Also, it has been etched on our medals that we have presented to numerous individuals who have stood up for human rights.

In 2004, when Archbishop Tutu came to Vancouver, I had a chance to attend his lecture at the PNE Coliseum, which was fully packed with about 26,000 people. Although he shared the dais with Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, the massive attendance of people said a lot about his popularity in this part of the world. He had a huge following among the anti-racism activists.

His book, No Future Without Forgiveness, had also influenced me. In it, he set the tone for reconciliation to end conflicts and injustices.
Though Tutu’s death is a great loss, his legacy will remain alive, and has become even more relevant today considering the growing state violence and repression all across the globe.

Being a journalist, his quotation has special meaning for me. It becomes my prime responsibility to break the myth of neutrality, something he emphasized by calling spade a spade in any situation of abuse of power. That is one reason why I won’t try to hide behind the notion of objectivity, when we all can see blatant injustice taking place anywhere. Whether it’s the First Nations here in Canada, or minorities in India, the country I was born in, those on the margins continue to suffer disproportionately. This is an undeniable fact, so why take refuge behind the narrative of those in power?

So much so, Tutu who became larger than life, is being appropriated by tyrants. The right wing Hindu Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, paid his last respect to the departed soul on Twittter, despite the fact that attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown under him. In fact, the demise of Tutu coincides with a series of anti Christian violent incidents close to the auspicious occasion of Christmas, by Hindu fanatics in different parts of India. Modi has no moral right to even talk about someone who would probably have been in prison if he had lived in India. Notably, the Modi government let 84-year-old Roman Catholic Priest Stan Swamy die in custody after being arrested on trumped up charges for merely standing up for the poor and oppressed. Swamy wasn’t alone to be thrown in jail. Others like him are being incarcerated under barbaric conditions.

If Modi really cares for Tutu, he should first set his own human rights record straight. Moreover, Modi belongs to a Hindu supremacist organization whose founders once glorified Hitler and justified the Jewish holocaust, and have always believed in the caste system that is similar to racism and discriminates against so called untouchables. His crocodile tears on the death of Tutu remind us that we are living in a complex world. Only carrying forward Tutu’s legacy of confronting the brutes will be a real tribute to him.

Rest in Power Desmond Tutu.

Gurpreet Singh is a Canada based journalist


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