July 22, 2012 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
– by Sikh Activist Network
As the month of June has passed, Canadian Sikhs, along with human rights activists and their allies, are recovering from yet another campaign of misinformation by the Indian High Commission and a recent wave of visceral and unfounded attacks.
Twenty-eight years after the Indian Army Invasion of the Darbar Sahib Complex during Massacre Bluestar, the Government of India has continued its assault by attempting to deny Canadian citizens an opportunity to engage in the healing and reconciliation process as they deal with the wounds inflicted upon them during the invasion.
With the recent attempts by the Government of India to undermine unity and reconciliation in the Diaspora amongst all South Asians in Canada, it has given rise to some serious questions one must consider: how and why is India interfering in the lives of Canadian citizens and their democracy?; is there any substance to the claims they are making?
While conducting an analysis of India’s response to the Leader of the NDP, Tom Mulcair’s statement of solidarity with the Sikh community, a basic review of the Indian High Commissions claims has shown many nuances and problematic statements have been made, lacking independent validation. Additionally, beyond the factually incorrect statements that have been identified, the language of the Indian High Commissioner has unfortunately been mirrored by members of Canada’s unelected, patronage-appointed Senate.
Of particular concern, a published article by Conservative Senator Asha Seth titled “Building walls, spreading hate” contains many sentences that resemble those in a letter written by the Indian High Commissioner, along with claims that are simply, factually incorrect.
Further, on the website of the newly appointed senator, Asha Seth’s bio reads:
Dr. Seth vitalized several candidates of the Conservative Party of Canada in the GTA during Federal and Provincial Elections over countless hours. In 2011, she hosted and spearheaded the Fundraising for Mr. Parm Gill, the Conservative Party candidate for the riding of Brampton Springdale with The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism attending as Chief Guest. Later in the year, she exclusively hosted every Member of the Conservative Party of Canada and Senate to recognize The Honourable Jason Kenney, MP for Calgary Southeast to celebrate election success in the GTA.
This bring forth a very valid concern as to whether India’s propaganda machine has found its way into the Canadian political system, attempting to distort historical accounts by contradicting eyewitness testimony, independent journalists and human rights organizations and their findings with regards to Massacre Bluestar.
WHY – The Indian state, has for many years suppressed information within its borders banning literature and third party investigation into Massacre Bluestar. Consequently, Diaspora organizations, independent investigative bodies and others have utilized free and democratic societies elsewhere to publish their findings and experiences. This work has made large strides in the efforts to reconcile the wounds of 1984 amongst Hindu and Sikh victims.
One of the leading political parties in facilitating the healing of South Asians has been the NDP. Jack Layton, the former leader of the NDP, was an avid defender of human rights and the need for reconciliation through truth-seeking. Unfortunately, since his passing it appears as though the Indian High Commissioner in Canada may be attempting to test the waters with Layton’s successor, Tom Mulcair.
The letter delivered via the Indian High Commissioner to Tom Mulcair, chastizing him for his support of human rights, appears to be an attempt to mislead Mulcair or scare him away from the NDP’s principled approach of standing with human rights and social justice as a fundamental part of its platform.
HOW – Following Tom Mulcair’s letter of solidarity with the Sikh community on June 4th, the Indian High Commissioner sent a letter to Tom Mulcair on June 7th, which appears to have been purposely “leaked” to the media weeks later. The Indian High Commissioner, Consul General and Conservative Senator Asha Seth, have since written articles and/or provided commentary that mirror talking points highlighted below.
Below are a series of attempts by the Indian High Commissioner, Consular General and Conservative Senator, to spread lies and instigate hate and re-traumatize a healing community. Each statement below has been refuted using reputable independent sources, including human rights agencies as well as reports presented by by the Canadian Refugee Board.
Reality Check #1:
“What is referred to as an ‘invasion’ of the Golden Temple was actually an operation by Indian security forces to neutralize terrorists who had taken control of the Temple complex and who were responsible for the cold blooded killings of hundreds of innocents including Sikhs,” – Indian High Commissioner.
In addition to attempting to redefine the events that occurred during the invasion, the Indian High Commissioner attempts to distort and redefine the dictionary defintion of the word invasion. According to the dictionary, the appropriate use of the term is to define an “infringement by intrusion” or the “the act of invading with armed forces”, which perfectly describes the acts by the Indian Army during Massacre Bluestar. (Dictionary.com).
Reality Check #2:
“[the] operation by security forces [was] to neutralize terrorists who had taken control of the Golden Temple… and who were responsible for the cold blooded killings of innocent peace loving people, both Hindus and Sikhs.” – Indian Consul General, Preeti Saran.
According to a ruling by the Supreme Court of India, the Indian Army had arrested and detained non-combatants. This included 22 children aged between 2 and 16 years, who had been rounded up from the Golden Temple and were being held in the Ludhiana jail. Two judges of the Supreme Court, Chinnappa Reddy and V. Khalid, ruled that “there was no justification for detaining them as they were pilgrims visiting the Golden Temple during Operation Blue Star.” At this order, the 22 children lodged at the Ludhiana jail were released. However, according to human rights organizations, most of these innocents were rearrested and tortured. (South Asian Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR) + Amnesty Report)
Reality Check #3:
“Operation Bluestar was not an “invasion,” but an operation by Indian security forces to neutralize separatist terrorist who had taken control of the Golden Temple complex, a holy shrine which is visited by Sikhs and Hindus alike..” – Conservative Senator, Asha Seth.
Beyond the fact that this statement neglects to reference the hundreds if not thousandsm of innocents murdered by the Indian Army during this invasion. The Edmonton Journal along with Human Rights Watch both report that the army did not simply go into neutralize “seperatist terrorists”, but rather, “the army apparently did not offer those inside the opportunity to surrender. A number of men captured by the army were summarily executed, and post-mortem examinations revealed that some had their hands tied behind their backs before they were shot”. (Edmonton Journal + Human Rights Watch and Ensaaf).
Further, Joyce Pettigrew an academic that has researched the events of 1984 states in her 1995 book, The Sikhs of the Punjab: Unheard Voices of State and Guerrilla Violence, that the: “The army went into the Darbar Sahib not to eliminate a political figure or a political movement but to suppress the culture of a people, to attack their heart, to strike a blow at their spirit and self-confidence.”
Reality Check #4:
“[November 1984 was] a horrific manifestation of mob violence…part of a chain of tragic events including extremism in Punjab and the brutal assassination of the democratically elected prime minister of India, planned and executed by Sikh extremists.” – Indian High Commissioner
According to the Nanavati Commission Report, an Independent Inquiry commissioned by India, the November Genocide was preplanned and conducted with the complicity and support of the Indian state. The report by Justice Nanavati states that: “All this could not have happened if it was merely a spontaneous reaction of the angry public. The systematic manner in which the Sikhs were thus killed indicate that the attacks on them were organized” (Nanavati Commission Report – Page 181 + The Central Bureau of Investigation in India).
Reality Check #5:
“The Indian government’s decision was not an easy one, but followed the assassination of India’s prime minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, by her bodyguards who were associated with extremist militant groups like the Khalistan Liberation Force.” – Conservative Senator, Asha Seth.
This statement by Conservative Senator Asha Seth, is indicative of the completely false and inaccurate statements being propagated by partisan Canadian politicians. First, the invasion of Massacre Bluestar took place in June of 1984, the assassination of Indira Gandhi took place 4 months later in October of 1984. Thus, Ms Seth’s timeline and attempt to justify the actions are completely flawed and lack chronological order. Additionally, the assassination of Indira Gandhi was carried out by her personal bodyguards who did not belong to the Khalistan Liberation Force; they did not exist at this time.
With an analysis of the talking points put forth by the Indian High Commisssioner, Consular General and Conservative Senator easily debunked by indepedant reports, it becomes clear that a malicious attempt to distort history is in full-swing. Sikhs and other minorities have for years had a difficulty sharing their narrative both inside and outside in India, and are now joined by human rights organizations and their allies who face a similar campaign of a misinformation.
The Indian State’s intereference in Canadian Affairs is an extremely worriesome trend that undermines Canada’s autonomy. Political leaders, security apparatus and citizens should as a result remain committed, focused and forge ahead in their efforts to promote human rights and the democratic freedoms Canada ensures to all its citizens. Further, the integrity of human rights organizations, academics and independant bodies should be defended as the pillars of objective observation of massacres and violations in campaigns of state terror, and foreign interference – this is the test and foundation to functioning democracies.
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