New Canadian Media

THERE appears to be some hope judging from what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on his Facebook on March 27. Modi wrote: “We look forward to resuming our Civil Nuclear Energy cooperation with Canada, especially for sourcing uranium fuel for our nuclear power plants.”   Here is the full post:   THE third part […]

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in National

by Maryann D’Souza in Toronto

Pulse takes a look at some stories that caught the attention of Canada’s Indian diaspora community. From cricket fever to the ethnic vote, here is a round up of the top five headlines coming from ethnic media outlets this quarter.

The Power of the Ethnic Vote

No party can afford to overlook the power of the ethnic vote. A perfect example: the NDP’s recent nomination of Farheen Khan (pictured to the right) as their federal candidate for Mississauga Centre. While demonstrating their diversity and support for the Muslim community and women all in one move, the NDP also took aim at Prime Minister Harper, who has come under fire for his seemingly disparaging remarks about Muslims.

As the Forum Poll carried in the Indo-Canadian Voice pointed out, the controversy over banning the niqab during Canadian citizenship ceremonies has clearly not helped the Conservatives — even though there are many who may agree with them.

In the Weekly Voice report, Khan is clear about the objective. “It is so important that at a time of heightened tensions amongst various cultures, we unite together and show the rest of world that Canada will not be phased by fear,” she explains. “We will show the Harper Conservatives that we can have a safer Canada without trading in our individual freedoms.” Many community newspapers, including South Asian Focus, have covered the news of her nomination. But, as Can-India News rightly points out, perhaps one should not be so concerned about what is on her head (the hijab), as what is in it.

According to Sikh Press — which also published a photo of Khan with Jagmeet Singh, NDP’s Sikh MPP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton — the political candidate is hurt, but undeterred by the, “[N]egative comments from individuals telling her to take off her scarf if she wanted to make it to Ottawa.” But considering there are many who wear a hijab in her constituency, it might be worth noting that long-time NDP members who attended the event said, “It was the largest NDP nomination meeting in Mississauga that they had seen.”

Lifelong Visa on OCI Card

The announcement of a lifelong visa on the OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card is a major win for the Indian diaspora who travel to India often, sometimes on short notice due to emergencies like an illness or death in the family. Dr. Azad Kaushik, a member of The Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP), who pushed for the changes according to an article in the Weekly Voice, states that, “[F]rom now, the OCI card will be the entry and exit document for India, though you are required to carry the Canadian passport as well.”

[M]any in the community were upset when Canada was denied visa-on-arrival privileges last year, and the OFBJP had pledged to take up the matter at that time.

Not being delayed by visa application formalities and the complex system that can have travellers going back and forth more than once has the community sighing with relief. It was what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised during his visit to the United States: a simpler system. 

As Can-India News reported, many in the community were upset when Canada was denied visa-on-arrival privileges last year, and the OFBJP had pledged to take up the matter at that time.

Do We Need a Radicalization Tip Line?

Can-India News asks: Will a radicalization tip line be the solution to preventing acts of terror? With jihad being romanticized and idolized, many who have been pushed to the fringes of society are turning to radicalized groups for a sense of belonging and renewed purpose, or as a form of revenge for being left out.

A tip line that allows Canadians to provide critical information without revealing the identity of the informer might reduce terror-related incidents — and a dedicated one for radicalization will no doubt speed up intervention.
 

Are these radicals protected by filial or community loyalty — or is it out of a fear of being targeted, as the editorial in the Bharat Times suggests? Jayant Gala says there are moderate Muslims who do not agree with the extremists that have drowned the voice of reason with their loud rhetoric. The moderates may know who these extremists are, but are afraid to reveal their identities because of perceived repercussions to them or their families.

A tip line that allows Canadians to provide critical information without revealing the identity of the informer might reduce terror-related incidents — and a dedicated one for radicalization will no doubt speed up intervention.

Cricket Fever

Cricket is to India what hockey is to Canada, and what soccer is to Europe and Latin America. While Indians might enjoy many other sports, it’s cricket that helps bond the country’s citizens together no matter where they are in the world. The Weekly Voice’s headline says it best: “For Indian cricket fans, heart rules over the head.” 

As India blasts its way to the finishing line in the hope of retaining the World Cup, all eyes are on Australia and New Zealand where the tournament is being played.

Pakistan is the opponent that really drives up the excitement. Any game the two countries play is like the finals. That’s why the first World Cup game between the archrivals was screened free in many parts of the Greater Toronto Area. As India blasts its way to the finishing line in the hope of retaining the World Cup, all eyes are on Australia and New Zealand where the tournament is being played. While India is set to take home the Cup again, no matter what team it plays, many feel an India-Pakistan game would be the perfect finish.

Man Sues Canada for Wrongful Conviction

“Miscarriage of justice” — that’s what a B.C. Criminal Justice Branch investigation (in 2013) deemed a ruling that turned the life of a falsely accused Indo-Canadian man named Gurdev Singh Dhillon upside down.

A report in the Weekly Voice, which was carried by several media outlets in India including the Times of India and NDTV, indicates he is filing a suit against two RCMP personnel, Crown prosecutor Don Wilson and his former defence lawyer Sukhjinder Grewal for the wrongful conviction.

The 36-year-old Surrey resident was found guilty of sexual assault in 2005 and extradited to India upon his release from prison in 2008. The conviction was made on the basis of the victim’s testimony, which placed Dhillon as one of the three men at the scene of the crime. DNA evidence later revealed the other two were responsible. 

In the meantime, Dhillon’s marriage and family broke up, and he was stripped of his Canadian permanent residency status.

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 India

INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Canada on an official visit in April and is scheduled to be in Vancouver on April 16, sources in Ottawa revealed to The VOICE on Tuesday. He will attend a state dinner and pay a visit to either the National Historic Site Gur Sikh Temple in Abbotsford […]

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in India

Toronto (IANS): Welcoming Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Colombo, a leading Tamil group in Canada – home to the largest Tamil diaspora outside Sri Lanka – has urged him to put pressure on new President Maithiripala Sirisena to resolve the dragging ethnic issue. “By undertaking (the first bilateral) visit after 28 years by […]

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in South Asia
Monday, 19 May 2014 19:38

It's morning again in India

by Toronto Editor Ranjit Bhaskar
 
“The lotus has bloomed and there is a new dawn of hope.” That was the Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP’s message invoking its symbol in the wake of a spectacular victory last week in what has been one of the most intensely fought federal elections in India’s history.
 
Said originally in Hindi as “Aaj kamal khil chuka hai aur asha ki nayi subah ho gayi hai,” the phrase has a resonance similar to the "It's morning again in America" imagery used by Ronald Reagan’s 1984 presidential campaign in the U.S. As a metaphor for renewal, it echoes the Indian voter’s aspiration for radical change, spoken with a unity of purpose not seen in the past few decades.
 
The sheer scale of the BJP’s electoral victory made it clear that India had become fed up with corruption under the Congress government, as well as the policy paralysis that came as bureaucrats sat on projects, for fear of getting arrested.
 
By winning 282 parliamentary seats on its own, out of the 543 for which elections were held, the BJP is the first party to win such a majority since the 1984 elections. In doing so, it has avoided the need to form a coalition government with other federal parties. Coalition politics has been a bane for India’s administrators and can rightly be blamed for some of the mess that India finds itself in.
 
The humiliating defeat couldn’t be worse for the Congress party, as its measly tally of 44 seats falls short of the 54 seats (10 per cent of total seats) required to be considered as an official opposition party, whose member can be the leader of the opposition with cabinet rank.
 
Arrogance of the elite
 
As elections go, this was the biggest democratic exercise so far in the history of humankind, involving 815 million people and a voter turnout of around 67 per cent that would put many western countries to shame. It has also cast aside several shibboleths and exposed the crass hypocrisy of India’s ossified elite keen on maintaining status quo through kleptocratic crony socialism.
 
It was elitist arrogance that led a senior ruling Congress leader to mock the BJP candidate, Narendra Modi’s, prime ministerial ambitions by saying the son of a tea vendor was only fit to sell the beverage at his party’s meetings. Nevertheless, mockery combined with his opponents projecting Modi as a bogeyman helped turn the parliamentary election battle into a presidential-style campaign pitting him against Congress party’s Rahul Gandhi, the anointed scion of the Nehru dynasty.
 
It helped to project Modi as a strong-willed leader who could pull the country out of the economic rut it found itself in, after a promising start in the early part of the 21st century that has been heralded as belonging to India and China. While China lived up to its promise, India faltered and badly bruised the hopes and aspiration of a young population eager to taste the fruits of success.
 
Sensing the mood of the voters, Modi made his humble origins as the son of a tea vendor and the reason for mockery into a key rallying point for his campaign. He said as his opponents did not know what poverty is all about, he is better placed to fight it because of his lived experience and his good governance record as a three-time chief minister (premier) of the state of Gujarat for 15 years.
 
Most demonized Indian leader
 
Undoubtedly, Modi has been the most demonized political leader in India’s living memory for all kinds of wrongs, none of which has stood any scrutiny, judicial or otherwise. The main accusation against him is of doing little to stop religious riots in Gujarat under his watch in 2002 when 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed. Modi has consistently denied the allegation and the courts have also not censured him so far. The riots were sparked by a fire on a train that killed 59 Hindu pilgrims and for which Muslims were blamed.
 
While Modi is rightly pilloried for the communal riots, the hypocrisy of his detractors is evident by their silence over the even worse rioting in 1984, under the watch of the Congress that targeted Sikhs across India when then prime minister Indira Gandhi was killed by her Sikh bodyguards.  
 
Communal flare-ups have been an ugly reality of India ever since the British sowed the seeds of division as part of their colonial “divide and rule” policy. It is equally unfortunate that the Congress, India’s “natural ruling party,” similar to the Liberals here in Canada, perpetuated the divide for its own selfish vote-bank politics to remain in power for most of the six decades since independence.     
 
It is equally unfortunate that the Congress, India’s “natural ruling party,” similar to the Liberals here in Canada, perpetuated the divide for its own selfish vote-bank politics to remain in power for most of the six decades since independence.
 
Modi and the BJP believe India has moved on since 2002 and have been trying to come across as a party committed to economic growth. So great is the desire for change, especially among India's 300 million strong middle class, and so firmly has Modi stayed on message, that his handling of the one riot at the beginning of his first term as Gujarat’s chief minister mattered less and less to many voters. It is to Modi’s credit that he has not only maintained a prolonged period of peace and harmony in the state, but has also delivered sustained economic growth close to 10% of GDP that is better than the national average.
 
Growth as panacea
 
Modi’s campaign speeches were replete with references to development and no overt references to Hindu nationalism. The BJP manifesto mentions the word “technology” 58 times and the words “Hindu” and “Muslim” just once. The main message pushed out was that the solution to India’s myriad problems lies in Modi’s decisive leadership.
 
“Ask yourself if you want to fight each other or poverty,” is how Modi sent people home peacefully in one of the most remarkable public performances by any Indian politician after bombs were set off during one of his election rallies in Bihar state. A welcome pointer, because as India’s next prime minister, it is to be expected that he puts the politician behind and lets the statesman rise.
 
In the reflexively negative way they have long treated India, Modi has been shunned by several Western countries, including Canada, for his alleged human rights violation. But the same governments who once sought to keep him out of their countries have come to realize the perils of a self-defeating policy of trying to isolate the leader of the world’s largest democratic nation.
 
Canada’s gain
 
And to Canada’s credit, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have never been enthusiastic about the sanctions they inherited from the Liberals. Canadian government and businesses, contrary to some writings in the mainstream media here, were focusing on Gujarat state as a suitable partner for economic partnerships in India.
 
As promised by the Conservatives during the 2008 federal election, Canada has quickly moved to open a trade office in Gujarat.  When Bombardier was looking around to set up its railway vehicle manufacturing factory to cater to the growing Indian market and also serve as a hub for exporting to South East Asia and Asia Pacific, it decided on Gujarat. Benoit Cattin Martel, president of the company, is quoted as saying that building the US$41 million plant in 18 months was a world record for it. "In fact it's proven to be a very good choice because we have great support from Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his team."

Big business, both national and foreign, is impressed by Modi’s administration in the state of Gujarat. Anand Mahindra, chairman of India’s Mahindra and Mahindra conglomerate that has started started selling its tractors here in Canada, thinks that “the day is not far when people will talk about the Gujarat model of growth in China.” Ratan Tata, the then-chairman of India's Tata Group, famously said in a public address in 2007: "It is stupid if you are not in Gujarat".

A sentiment many hope will apply to the whole of India with Modi at the helm. “It’s the best result you could have hoped for,” Peter Sutherland, the head of the Canada-India Business Council and a former Canadian high commissioner to India, told the Globe and Mail. “You’ve got a strong government that is in a position to do things.” Sutherland now expects to see a free trade agreement between Canada and India signed by the end of the year after having been in "a state of abeyance." Canada and India began formal free trade discussions in 2010.
 
“It’s the best result you could have hoped for,” said Peter Sutherland, the head of the Canada-India Business Council and a former Canadian high commissioner to India.
 
Prem Watsa, the Canadian who heads Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., is also bullish on India now and plans to launch a publicly listed India fund. Watsa, a well known value investor who has been active in India for about 15 years, in an interview compared India’s current trajectory under Modi to the emergence of modern Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew.
 
In recent years, Modi’s Gujarat has been compared with Guangdong province, the spearhead of China's economic revival. But repeating that success nationally presents significant challenges in a country with a complex federal structure, a bureaucracy more wedded to socialist controls than reform and a growing gap between rich and poor among its 1.2 billion people.
 
Modi will have a fight on his hands to gain full cooperation from many state governments, which he needs to implement his agenda nationwide. But there is hope on this count. The first time the Indian economy started taking off in 1991 was when a former state chief minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, ruled as prime minister. Modi too is a former chief minister taking on the job, but with three times more experience as a provincial leader.
 
Globally, too, Modi is not an unknown quantity in countries that will matter most to India in the coming years. He has visited China and Japan and the political class in these two countries and other neighbours will surely look at India through a different prism. With the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, Modi’s India can expect turbulence in a neighbourhood that never been friendly to a dominant South Asian power.
 
Nevertheless, the biggest challenge confronting Modi’s government will be meeting the demand for change from an increasingly urban and youthful India that has been edging out the old rural peasantry as the decisive demographic. A new politics of aspiration is set to replace the old politics of grievance which was about redistributing the economic pie rather than growing it.
 
That more than a billion hopes are riding on the promises of a single man can be both awe-inspiring and frightening. But India needs its new morning more than any other country because of the sheer number of people who need a good night’s rest.

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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