New Canadian Media
Tuesday, 27 June 2017 08:59

Embers of Sikh Extremism

Commentary by: Phil Gurski in Ottawa

Parliament Hill in Ottawa is one of those treasures found only in liberal democracies.  Anyone can show up and lobby, protest, shout his lungs out or carry a placard peacefully and silently, no matter what the cause.  It is also a great place to watch the fireworks on Canada Day as long as enjoying the sights and sounds with 50,000 strangers does not bother you.

Sometimes, the ‘Hill’ is the site of demonstrations by groups that are not entirely acceptable.  At times, even listed terrorist entities have marched back and forth: a good example was the 2009 mass turnout by Tamil Canadians over the civil war in Sri Lanka at which Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) flags were seen. The LTTE is a banned terrorist organisation in this country.

On June 11, approximately 200 Sikhs gathered on Parliament Hill to commemorate the anniversary of the 1984 attack by Indian forces on the Sikhs’ holiest site, the Golden Temple or Darbar Sahib.  Demonstrators chanted ‘Long live Khalistan’ and demanded that India allow a referendum on the creation of an independent Sikh state in the Punjab.

Khalistan is of course their word for this homeland and the 1984 siege led to the 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182 which killed 329 people off the coast of Ireland: the bomb was placed on the aircraft by Canadian Sikh extremists and was the single largest terrorist attack in history prior to 9/11.

It is important to distinguish the desire for a national homeland from the desire to obtain that homeland through violence or terrorism.

We don’t hear a lot about Sikh extremism these days, which could lead some to believe that it is no longer an issue.  It is fairly certain that Sikh extremist activity is at a nadir, the recent protest in Ottawa notwithstanding.  As I have written before, however, it would be a mistake to assume that the movement is dead.

India for one does not think it is. During an April visit to his native Punjab province, Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was accused by a high-ranking Indian official of being a ‘Khalistani’.  That official, Amarinder Singh, said there were other ‘Khalistanis’  in the Trudeau cabinet and that he would refuse to meet with any of them.

This gets complicated as Minister Sajjan’s father was a senior official in the World Sikh Organisation the purpose of which was the pursuit of an independent Sikh state. It is not as if the Minister has not had enough problems of late, ranging from his exaggerated claim to have been the mastermind of a 2006 Canadian military operation in Afghanistan (codenamed "Medusa") to what he knew or didn’t know about the transfer of Afghan detainees to local authorities.

It is important to distinguish the desire for a national homeland from the desire to obtain that homeland through violence or terrorism.  I know of no link between the Minister and banned terrorist organisations and, as a Sikh, he has every right to favour independence for his people through peaceful means.

There may very well be vestiges of Sikh extremism in Canada: the long-awaited "Khalistan" never materialised and no doubt some are not willing to allow the political process to unfold gradually. Yet, we also have to take into consideration the nature of the current Indian government.  Whatever you think of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, you cannot deny he has ushered in a wave of xenophobic and hateful Hindu nationalism that has been responsible for some very violent acts in India. 

It would not surprise me if some of these extremists were a little oversensitive to any whiff of Sikh independence. 

We must be vigilant in Canada to the possibility that we harbour individuals willing to create a "Khalistan" at all costs.  But we must be equally vigilant in subjecting accusations in this direction to careful scrutiny.

Phil Gurski is a 30-year intelligence veteran and the author of the forthcoming The Lesser Jihads: Bringing Islamist extremism to the world. 

Published in Commentary
Tuesday, 28 February 2017 19:42

Mr. Reyat, Please Do the Right Thing

Commentary by Suresh Kurl in Richmond

Time passes, sometimes leaving behind only a knot of hurtful memories. Thirty years have gone by waiting for the news, when the living victims of the Air India tragedy would hear, feel and spend the rest of their days with some sense of justice. It seems like they will never realize their hopes.

Just ask those whom destiny left behind only to mourn loved ones lost on June 23, 1985.

The Air-India Bombing was not a car accident caused by a drunken driver on an icy Canadian road. It was a well planned, well financed and well executed aviation mass murder of 331 individuals. They had no idea before and after they boarded the plane that they were being taken – not to meet their relatives – but to the end of their own lives. Eyes still get moist and tears still roll down the cheeks when someone or something reminds Canadians of that dreadful day.

Inderjit Singh Reyat, the designated technician-cum-schemer of the 331 murders, made the bomb, tested the bomb and handed it over to his associate master-minds to execute the rest of the plot, to shatter the plane over the Atlantic Ocean. They did this rather effectively, leaving the Irish authorities scooping dead babies, lifeless adults, packed suitcases, floating dolls and pieces of the broken airplane for evidence.   

Two wrongs don't make a right

The Air India Bombing was plotted and executed to avenge the wounded honour of the GoldenTemple, a respected seat of worship and devotion. This temple assault, referred to as "Operation Blue Star" by the New Delhi government, had the approval of the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and was no less evil than the bombing of the Air India flights that followed.

Mrs. Gandhi could have chosen some other political and peaceful solution to resolve the national crisis, but she did not, just as Mr. Reyat and his associates could have adopted some other peaceful path to achieve the Sikh separatist agenda. But they did not, because they, especially Mr. Reyat, the designated technician, must have believed, "Two wrongs equal one right."

Co-incidentally, there are a few similarities between Mrs. Gandhi and Mr. Reyat. Both of them have the same derivative Sanskrit root, "in-" meaning, stubborn, determined, bold and energetic. 

Second, both of them suffered the consequences of their Karma (behaviour). PM Gandhi was assassinated at the hands of her trusted body guards. Reyat was doomed by his loyalty to his co-conspirators.

Not a solo plot

Who will ever believe that such a plot was the work of one person?  

Moreover, Mr. Reyat ended up protecting, insulating and covering his criminal associates through his own "perjury".  I call it destiny.

Third, their actions were a response to the demand for the creation of a separate nation, "Khalistan'.

Fourth, no one seems to admire them for the violence soaked sacrifices they made to  attain their objectives.  

Last week, Mr. Reyat was released from federal prison; technically, "paroled out". Where Mr. Reyat is going to live or with who he is going to live with is not of significance. What is significant is that he could never be free from the prison of his own guilt.

He might not even be able to sleep soundly. He might even suffer vivid nightmares of exploding planes and falling dead babies from the sky: all because he is unwilling to reconcile with the truth, compassion and honesty and universal love, the tenets of every religion, including his own religion.

Redeeming himself

Spiritually speaking, Mr. Reyat can only redeem himself of his portion of sins by disclosing the names of those who were involved in plotting, financing and executing this crime, which put him and him alone away in prison for a long time and caused him to suffer, socially, financially and spiritually.   

Mr. Reyat is a Sikh. If he believes in God, he must also believe in Karma, its consequences and rebirth.  If all this is true then the only option Mr. Reyat has is to pray for peace and strength to tell the truth and cleanse his conscience. Truth sets us free. Truth heals our wounded spirit. Truth prepares us to face our Creator.

As a spiritual human being, I am asking him to do the right thing for his soul and for the sake of his children and their children. He alone has the power to offer the gift of justice and peace to those he has victimized.  

Mr. Reyat, leave this world with your head high with pride, not bending low, burdened with the weight of lies and a guilty conscience. 


Dr. Suresh Kurl is a South Asian Community Activist, a former university professor, retired Registrar of the B.C. Benefits Appeal Board (Govt. of B.C.), a former Member of the National Parole Board (Govt. of Canada), a writer and public speaker.

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 19:53

The Third Opinion: Independentistes elsewhere

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is on the record as saying that the Canadian government acted against its own political interests by listing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist group in 2006.

Kenney said this at a special briefing limited to Tamil-Canadian media in Toronto last month (watch YouTube video below) when asked about his reaction to Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris’ accusations that Canada’s approach to human rights in his country is biased and unbalanced.

“My answer is what I told him (the Sri Lankan foreign minister). The current Canadian government acted against its own domestic political interests by adding the LTTE to the list of prescribed terrorist organizations in 2006,” said Kenney. “They’ve been accusing us of somehow responding just to domestic political pressure, and being indifferent to the Tigers. I say this is exactly wrong.”

Kenny’s office later explained that his remarks highlighted the government’s “principled opposition to terrorism, and support for human rights and the rule of law.” But what was perhaps left unsaid is that the Canadian government believes that most Sri Lankan Tamils in this country are sympathetic towards a “terrorist” organization. How else does the “terrorist” label fly against the government’s domestic political interests? That is an unfortunate insinuation.  

iPolitics.ca reported Canadian Tamil Congress national spokesman David Poopalapillai as saying, “I don’t know what he meant. It was a little confusing.” Despite his confusion regarding Kenney’s comments about the listing of the LTTE as a terrorist organization, Poopalapillai said the Canadian Tamil Congress welcomed Kenney’s toughness on the Sri Lankan government and supports Canada’s threat to boycott the Commonwealth meeting.

The government’s contention that domestic political calculations do not come in the way of foreign policy is hard to square with its stand on Sikh separatist activity in Canada and its total silence on the mysterious activities of a Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, a Muslim preacher from Toronto, in Pakistan, who created a political storm in that country by calling for the removal of a democratically-elected government. There does seem to be at least some daylight.

On his recent visit to India, Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejected the host government’s suggestion that Ottawa needs to do more about Sikh separatist activity. Harper said that that merely advocating for a separate Khalistan homeland in the Punjab is not a crime. “It may be a political position that both the government of Canada and the government of India disagree with,” the Prime Minister said in the southern Indian city of Bangalore. “We can’t interfere with the right of political freedom of expression.”

That is a tenuous line to walk. The link between the demand for Khalistan in India and this country came home to roost when a whole planeload of Canadians was bombed out of the sky in 1985. Even this week, a radio producer in British Columbia, Maninder Gill, is in the news because he claims the weapons charges against him stem from the politics around the Khalistan movement. Gill received a Queen’s Jubilee Medal from his local MP, Jinny Sims. One also remembers the attacks on Tara Singh Hayer, the only journalist ever assassinated in Canada, for writing critically against Khalistan extremists and agreeing to be a witness in the Air India bombing case. The brutal attack on former federal minister and B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh for vehemently opposing the separatist movement is yet another example.

It is hard to gauge support for either the Tamil Eelam or the Punjab Khalistan cause because the campaigners tend to be more vocal and better organized. It is, therefore, dangerous to tar a whole diaspora with the same brush. Instead, the government should crack down uniformly on all fund-raising and separatist activities targeted at foreign nations. We know only too well the cost of fighting a sovereigntist movement in Quebec. To the extent that Canada contributes to their discomfort, we should do everything we can to spare the global South these distractions. 

- New Canadian Media

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary

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