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Sikh Extremists Cannot Have Say In Annual Sikh Parade

Jan 7, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Sikh extremists cannot
have say in annual parade

The StarPhoenix - April 20, 2010 3:13 AM

It would be a shame if the violent tendencies of a few were to sideline one of the largest and most colourful celebrations of Sikhism in Canada.

Unless organizers of the annual Vaisakhi Parade in Surrey, B.C., can wrest it away from the influence of a handful of adherents to the cause of violent secession of Punjab from India, the only recourse is to cancel the event.

This would send no small message, considering that the annual parade, which celebrates the day in 1699 when the last guru of Sikhism published the basic tenets of the faith, attracts an estimated 100,000 people to Surrey.

It's the scale of the event that makes acting against the radicals difficult. But the need to act was made clear this year when Inderjit Singh Bains, a parade organizer, issued a thinly veiled threat to the safety of Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh and B.C. MLA Dave Hayer, both of them also Sikhs, should they attend.

Both politicians know only too well the dangers posed by Sikh extremists. Mr. Dosanjh was severely beaten and hospitalized by radicals some years ago, while Mr. Hayer's father, a newspaper publisher, was killed.

Yet both men have a record of speaking out against radicals who advocate openly for a separate Sikh homeland called Khalistan -- particularly against those who are connected to the worst case of terrorism in Canadian history.

In 1985, a pro-Khalistan group attempted to simultaneously bomb two Air India planes returning from Canada -- one over the Pacific and the other over the Atlantic. Although the bomb in the Pacific flight went off only after the plane landed in Japan, killing two airport workers, Air India flight 182 was blown apart in Irish airspace, killing all 329 people on board -- including 280 Canadian nationals.

Canadian officials insist the mastermind of these attacks was Talwinder Singh Parmar. As has been the case in the past, this year's parade in Surrey had a float with Mr. Parmar's image included in a celebration of founders of separatist groups in India that the Canadian government considers to be terrorist organizations.

This was done despite the commitment from parade organizers that such a float would not be permitted this year.

In the past, as if to add insult to the injury of the hundreds of Canadian families that suffered losses from that 1985 acts of terrorism, right behind this float paraded Ajaib Singh Bagri, who was charged in connection with the attack but acquitted because many witnesses either were killed or later recanted their testimony.

It's no surprise that those who carried out that attack and who continued to parade their bloodied hands in public did so with impunity. Not only did the RCMP and CSIS both badly botch the case, allowing the guilty to go free, but for years politicians of all stripes ignored the history of violence to glad-hand a group that's been told to vote en masse to sway the Canadian government.

That this group relies on violence, intimidation and threats to get its way should be reason enough for all Canadians to stand up to such intimidation. For that reason it was a good sign that both Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Premier Gordon Campbell called for parade organizers to apologize for the threats.

"We must unequivocally condemn all threats of violence and extremism in Canadian communities," said Mr. Ignatieff.

His sentiment has no partisan boundaries, and would be more effective if the ruling Conservative party, too, decried the threats of violence and the participation in Vaisakhi Parade of the perpetrators of Canada's worst mass murder.

There was the hope for years that through accommodation, those who advocated violence could be brought into the mainstream. By now, politicians and rational Sikhs must realize that will never be the case.

Even more worrisome than the parade float is the growing level of Sikh-on-Sikh violence, including the recent bloody attacks inside a Brampton Sikh temple. It's the sort of violence that preceded the Air India bombings.

Sikhs have a long and positive history of contributing to Canada's society and cultural mosaic. Those who have stood fast against the violence need to know they have the support of all Canadians.

And those who stand for the violence need to see that it's a no-win game in Canada.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Jan 7, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Re: Sikh extremists cannot have say in annual parade


National Post editorial board: A marred festival

Posted: April 20, 2010, 9:45 AM by NP Editor
It was right of British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell to boycott the annual Vaisahki festival in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey last Saturday. Whether or not organizers wish to admit it, their event has become too politicized, celebrating men and organizations many — including the federal government — consider to be terrorists and calling for an independent Sikh homeland in northwest India.

When organizers also issued veiled threats against the safety of two B.C. politicians, the event ceased to be a celebration of Sikhism’s founding and the Punjabi harvest. Rather than being one of Canada’s largest multicultural occasions, the Surrey Vaisahki became an aggressive display of Sikh nationalism.

Mr. Campbell withdrew from the event late last week after Inderjit Singh Bains, one of many parade organizers, used an interview on Sher-E-Punjab radio to announce that federal Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh and B.C. MLA Dave Hayer from Surrey, would not be invited to Vaisahki, and if they attended, organizers would not guarantee their safety. "If they come they should bring their own security," Mr. Bains said.

Whatever one thinks of Mr. Dosanjh’s time as B.C. premier or his opinions on federal politics, he has been a tireless campaigner against the very sort of extremism that manifested itself at last weekend’s festival. It also marred the same parade in 2008.

Mr. Dosanjh’s life and limb have often been threatened because he has dared try to convince his fellow Indo-Canadians to throw off the old resentments a few have brought with them from their old homelands.

Despite assurances that this year’s parade would contain no controversial floats, someone managed to evade screeners (and the RCMP) and enter a float calling for Sikh independence, one that displayed portraits of several "martyrs," including alleged assassins of former Indian prime minister Indira Ghandi and a mastermind of the Air India bombings in 1985.

Surrey city council, the province of B.C. and the federal government should withdraw all subsidies and sanctions from next year’s Vaisahki until they are fully satisfied that it will not again be hijacked by extremists as a platform for their violent and unacceptable views.

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