Canadian Sikh Coalition denounces John Baird's disparaging remarks
September 17, 2012: Vancouver, BC – Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister of Canada, John Baird, vowed to prevent activities of Sikh “extremists” advocating for a separate homeland in India as per the Indian Government’s request.
Baird travelled to New Delhi to meet with political officials such as the Indian External Affairs Minister where the discussion of so-called Sikh “extremism” in Canada took place. The Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, has consistently raised this issue with Canadian politicians requesting them to monitor the activities of Sikhs favouring the ideology of a separate homeland in India.
In recent comments, Indian politicians overseas have also voiced issues of Sikh “extremism” in Canada, and Indian Overseas Congress president Vikram Bajwa, went the extra step in appealing to the Akal Takht to issue a ‘hukamnama’ banning Gurudwara’s in Canada and the United States from displaying Khalistan insignia.
These comments by the Congress led government of India and its overseas arm are completely false and illogical. There are pro-Khalistan political parties, regular discourse on the issue of Khalistan and memorials to those who participated in the Khalistan movement and were murdered in extra-judicial staged fake encounters within the state of Punjab today. By even suggesting that any extremism in Canada exists un-checked, the Indian state is suggesting that Canada is not capable of providing security within its borders. Further, the Indian government is in no place to be pointing fingers at Canadian security policies when the Indian state has been acknowledged by the United Nations and many other human rights organizations for having high levels of discrimination against minorities within its own borders.
The Indian Government continues to raise issues of Sikh extremism in Canada however, never has any evidence of such activities been shared in any way. In a society where the term “extremism” is associated with negative connotations, the use of the term with a religious body continues to propagate a negative image of the Sikh community in Canada. Further, it places false accusations against the Sikh community without proper documented evidence. It also attempts to silence any political discourse on the current state of Punjab by associating political discussion with extremism. Canadians who engage in the Khalistani discourse are able to do so as this discourse has relevance to the current political state of Punjab where pro-Khalistan parties exist. Also, it allows individuals to understand the historical context through which current Punjab politics have emerged.
Canadian Sikh Coalition spokesperson Moninder Singh Bual stated, “Indian politicians repeatedly place unsupported allegations against the Sikh community in Canada as supporters of extremism. What this shows us is that the Sikh community outside the Indian state is actively participating in a movement towards the independence and sovereignty of Punjab and these tactics by the Indian state are used to “muzzle” these activities and the right to peaceful protest. In order to hide the crimes against humanity and violations of international law it has committed, the Indian state is attempting a wide spread propaganda campaign against freedom of speech and expression in countries where Sikh populations have awoken the reality of the oppressed position of Sikhs in the Indian state. It is appalling to see Canadian politicians like John Baird even entertain the discussion of Sikh “extremism” in Canada with foreign nations that are bent on suppressing the freedoms of its own citizens by any means necessary. Mr. Baird must be held accountable as this is not the first time the Conservative party has engaged in this type of dialogue and Sikhs would be fooling themselves to think this would be the last time.”
John Baird’s visit was intended to create positive relationships prior to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit which is expected to take place in November. The Canadian Sikh Coalition wants John Baird to be held accountable for his comments and release a statement explaining to the Sikh community why he feels their right to engage in political discourse is a concern of “extremism”. Further, the CSC would like Stephen Harper to ensure his citizens that he will not entertain the Indian government with these types of conversations as his Conservative predecessor Baird has already done.