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Sikh (Khalistan) Extremism” – Continuing Indian Interference in Sikh Affairs in Canada

December 13, 2018 | By

Moninder Singh*

ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਗਾਖੜੀ ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇ ॥:
It is very difficult to serve the Satguru; to do so one must surrender their head (physically through shaheedi and/or spiritually through the eradication of haumai)

For 20 years I have witnessed the Indian government use propaganda through its channels within the Indian media to periodically raise an issue of Sikh extremism in an attempt to thwart Sikh political activism from the diaspora Sikh community. The most recent evidence of this can be seen over this last year and Sikhs being maligned as “extremists” by the Indian government during and post Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India in February 2018. As Sikhs living in Canada, we saw a “friendly-match” of sorts play out between Canadian government officials and their counterparts within the Indian state. Repeatedly “Sikh Extremism” was at the core of every agenda Indian state representatives had in dealings with Canada and its culmination has come with the inclusion of “Sikh (Khalistani) Extremism” referenced in the “2018 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada.”

Most Sikhs who live in Canada (and other Sikh diaspora communities) have an “over-the-top” loyalty to Canada which often blinds them to the problems that exist within every nation-state. This loyalty is further strengthened with an inability to deal with a colonized past whose tentacles wrap around everything within our community from action right through to our ability to think freely. The end-result of this polluted mindset is desperation in achieving anything in order to remain relevant and in order to do so, push Sikh-sidhant aside in order to remain the “model-minority” in diaspora nations we now reside in…because ultimately, in our minds, these diaspora nations have replaced the sidhant of Guru Granth/Guru Panth as our future “saviours.” Canada’s beginnings are not to be disassociated with its current positioning in the world and by remembering this, maybe the “shock” of Canada pushing aside the Sikh community to appease its Indian counterparts could be understood:

“Canada in the twenty-first century exists as a country enriched by immense human and natural resources. It is a nation filled with majestic beauty beyond compare, populated by talented individuals attracted from all corners of the globe in recent years and generations past in search of better lives for themselves and their families- all of this occurring with little regard to its illegitimate and immoral beginnings.”
– Bradford W. Morse, “Reconciliation Possible? Reparations Essential,” ed. Mike DeGagne, Marlene Brant-Castellano and Linda Archibald (Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2008), 235.

When I explain this line of thought to other Sikhs I get a response of “then what are you?” as if I need a nationality to identify myself. I am a human being and a Sikh of the Guru Granth and Guru Panth. That is my identity and when it comes to my nationality, what I am is homeless. My home is Khalistan/Punjab and it has been occupied by foreigners from the time of the British in 1849 to the reins of power being handed to the Brahmin and India in 1947. Decades of colonial rule have turned into centuries, and the only thing that changed for us was the color of the hand holding the chains we are enslaved by. Punjab/Khalistan is my home because my Guru created a vision for what it was to become and that revolution started for us when he asked for one of us to come forward, head in hand, and has continued through every Sikh generation since. To serve the Guru is to serve and reflect on Naam/Shabad and in doing so, to truly live the sach (truth) we ought to speak:

ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਜਿਨੀ ਨ ਸੇਵਿਓ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਕੀਤੋ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥
ਅੰਤਰਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਆਇਓ ਮਿਰਤਕੁ ਹੈ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ॥:
Those who have not served the “Satguru” no Divine Wisdom has dawned in their Heart;
they may appear as alive but they are dead in the world (spiritually dead-ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ)

This is the first time that reference to “Sikh Extremism” has been made in this particular report and it is done so multiple times, including the 1st paragraph of the Executive Summary and in a paragraph immediately after outlining what the principal threat to Canada’s security is. It is highly irresponsible of those writing this report to first place the Sikh community within the report with such little context provided and then further place our community name in such significant places within the report so as to give prominence to the supposed “threat” we pose. Since the only reference in the report to any incident associated with the Sikh community is the 1985 Air India tragedy, there are questions looming as to why the term “Sikh Extremism” was added to the 2018 report based on an incident that occurred over 3 decades ago? Why do previous reports from the Ministry of Public Safety not include “Sikh Extremism”? Finally, what has happened since December 21, 2017 (release of the 2017 version of this report) that would move the Liberal Government in Canada to take such a step and include the Sikh community now?

There is no doubt that the ongoing interference of the Government of India in Sikh affairs in Canada has been a long-standing and growing concern. Since the mid-1980s there has been evidence of undercover operatives within Canada with a number of them being expelled in the late 1980s by the Canadian government. Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit to India in February 2018 brought forward a myriad of concerns, both during and after the visit, regarding the pressure the Indian Government exerts on Canadian officials to crack-down on any form of Sikh dissent that India sees as problematic.

Sikhs in Canada have ~20 Members of Parliament from a Sikh background along with 4 Cabinet Ministers. This report was approved through Cabinet and the question for these 4 Cabinet Ministers is what did they do to stop this addition of the Sikh community as extremists from entering this report? Repeatedly, regardless of the political party, Sikhs in Canada have been alienated on issues of human rights and self-determination (Khalistan) by those they have elected to government. The expectation from these elected officials is to uphold the freedom and rights of those residing within Canada, including the Sikh community from which they come. When they purposely shy away from Sikh issues and supporting Sikh human rights campaigns most of the community has remained silent, but now we are seeing them actively participating in the malignment and criminalization of our community and it will not be tolerated.

Representing Sikhi in its mool form is the issue, not representing Sikhs and yes, there is a difference. A Sikh like me carries many weaknesses and in moments of uncertainty and potentially fear, I may want the problem to just go away and be accepted. If that means changing the mool (origin) of who I am and what I am supposed to represent then I may go along with it. But Sikhi is from the Guru and represented and manifested within Gurbani, Gur-itihas, and Gurmat. It is clear that the approach a Sikh must take in the most difficult moments must be gauged through Sikhi based on the examples of those who have represented it through action in our itihas and the approach cannot be dictated by remaining loyal to governments and other political structures:

ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਨਾਮ ਜਪ ਕਰੈ ॥ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਮਲੇਛ ਪਰ ਚੜ੍ਹ੍ਹ੍ਹੈ ॥ (੫੧)
Khalsa is the one who remembers the divine name; Khalsa is the one who charges at the invaders.(51)

ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਨਾਮ ਸਿਉੁਂ ਜੋੜੇ ॥ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਬੰ ਧਨ ਕੋ ਤੋੜੇ ॥ (੫੨)
Khalsa is the one who is permeated with the celestial entity; Khalsa is the one who destroys bondage.(52)

ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਜੋ ਚੜ੍ਹ੍ਹ੍ਹੇ ਤੁਰੰਗ ॥ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਜੋ ਕਰੇ ਨਿਤ ਜੰਗ ॥ (੫੩)
Khalsa is the one who charges (into a righteous war); Khalsa is the one who is ever ready for righteous war.(53)

ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਸ਼ਸਤਰ ਕੋ ਧਾਰੈ ॥ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਸੋਇ ਦੁਸੰਟ ਕੋ ਮਾਰੈ ॥ (੫੪)
Khalsa is the one who adorns the arms; Khalsa is the one who exterminates the vicious.(54)

-Bhai Nand Lal, Tankhanama (conversations with Guru Gobind Singh)

My appeal is to all those Sikh jathebandees, organizations, Gurdwara Sahibs, and any other individual or collective Sikhs that are currently speaking on this issue, ensure that we represent Sikhi in its mool form rather than giving in to fear or weakness in those difficult moments. Already Sikh organizations across Canada have reached out to the Minister of Public Safety and MP’s from Sikh backgrounds to coordinate dialogue around the context for inclusion of the Sikh community in this report and further, the process to remove the community’s name altogether from it. As a Panth we have each other in the form of sangat and the Guru; if we are not able to perform this representation then we must look for and utilize those amongst our sangat that can. Our misrepresentation today will set unfortunate precedents for generations of Sikhs and how they interact with shastars, Gur-itihas and Khalsa Mahima. We cannot allow this to happen.

As stated in Panth Parkash by Rattan Singh Bhangu, when Bhai Taru Singh was arrested the Sikh sangat came together and did ardas and it was in the hopes that Sikhi would be represented until the last breath so that it would continue to exist in its mool roop as the Guru intended:

ਸਿੱਖੀ ਸਾਥ ਨਿਬਾਹੀ ਸਾਸ ॥
(May Bhai Taru Singh) Represent Sikhi until the last breath.

When news of Bhai Taru Singh’s shaheedee came to the sangat they once again performed ardas:

ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਪੈਜ ਖਾਲਸੇ ਰਾਖੀ ॥
ਰਹੈ ਜਗਤ ਮੈਂ ਜੁਗ ਜੁਗ ਸਾਖੀ ॥
Satguru has honored the Khalsa (through Bhai Taru Singh’s representation of Sikhi until his last breath); this example (representation of Sikhi) will remain until the end of time.

This is who we are and must become…in time Bhai Taru Singh and at least for now, the sangat that believed death was preferable to misrepresentation of Sikhi.

Moninder Singh
Sikh Liberation Front (SLF)

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