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Controversial Support For Activism Waning In The Punjabi Community? (an Editorial By Gurpreet Singh)


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Support for activism waning in the Punjabi community?

South Asia Post

Gurpreet Singh writes from Vancouver

AS the 2010 Winter Olympic ends, the absence of the Punjabis at the anti Olympic rallies held in Vancouver throughout the event has left many wondering whether support for activism is waning in an other wise politically vibrant community.

Though half a dozen Punjabis, including a turbaned Sikh were among the torch bearers and the Olympic torch was welcomed at the Main Street Punjabi Market, barring a couple of prominent South Asian activists, the Punjabis did not show up at the rallies that were held by the protesters in downtown Vancouver. Rather a significant number of Punjabis were seen taking transit from Surrey to Vancouver to enjoy the spirit of Olympic. It is not disappointing to see sport loving Punjabis enjoying the Olympic, but it is astonishing to note that there population was not well represented at the rallies that were organized by the members of the civil society.

The member of the Olympic Resistance Network, Harjap Grewal, the member of the No One Is Illegal, Harsha Walia, the Chair of the Impact on Communities Coalition, Am Johal and the famous women activist, Sunera Thobani were the only prominent South Asian faces who were either seen at these rallies or heard in the media discussing the negative impact of the Olympic. Whereas, the Punjabis should also be proud of Canada’s participation in the Olympic, but their indifference towards the cause of the anti Olympic protesters sends a discouraging signal.

Everything that the protesters are saying or some of them have done is not right, but the establishment also needs to be shaken to some of the valid issues these groups have raised. The government should be made answerable to the problems of homelessness, sex trade, environment, cut backs, wars and the systematic discrimination against the aboriginals. For that the people in general should pay attention to the voices of the activists. However, the Punjabis in particular should be aware of the history of activism in their community. After all, the Punjabis had to fight to get a right to vote in BC in 1947. They were disfranchised in 1907. By virtue of that struggle, there are good number of Punjabis in the BC legislature and the Canadian Parliament today.

Likewise, they had launched an agitation against the conspiracy to send all the Punjabi settlers in BC to Honduras in 1908. In 1910, the first Punjabi newspaper outside India was published in Vancouver. It gave voice to those who were struggling for their rights in not only in Canada but back in India that was under occupation of the British Empire. In 1912, they had launched a campaign to pressurize the Canada government to let the immigrants bring their families to this country. Almost a century later, a will to fight seems to be lacking in the community. Some of the negative fallouts of the Olympic like increased house rents or a slow taxi business have affected the Punjabis too, but this did not motivate them to come to the support of the protesters. It would be unfair to solely blame the Punjabis for this trend as the society as a whole is becoming consumerist. Enjoying Olympic is a right thing to do but to be critical of the authorities whose policies have not been inclusive is not an act of anarchy.


Dec 22, 2009
First, did Gurpreet Singh participate in anti-Olympic rallies himself? If so, then he should share the experience and emphasize WHY he did it as a CANADIAN, then maybe we punjabis will consider why we should too and if he didnt, then explain WHY HE DIDN'T but is still expecting others to listen to him preach, simply because were Punjabi and he somehow believes he can dicate where the Punjabi community should stand? What if, as a Punjabi, I thought the protests were disruptive and unpleasant, and nothing more?

Actually, people living in Punjab are Punjabis, people living in Canada are Canadians. And as diplomatic as Gurpreet aims to sound, he is actually quite condescending to his own community, which he labels simply as Punjabi, not Canadian ("rather a significant number of Punjabis were seen taking transit"...come on now...were people, not cattle) Being Punjabi is a matter of heritage, not a political stance. As Canadians, we have to be educated about Aboriginal issues etc., as Sikhs, we have to be educated about the injustices happening in our communities, no matter what part of the world we're in... and then its up to the individuals to take the action they want.



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