Apr 19 2008
Khalistan movement ‘pretty much dead’
By KEN HERAR
As your diversity columnist, I would like to wish everyone a “Happy Vaisakhi.”It is an important celebration in the Sikh community and people from all across Canada and the world celebrated in Surrey and will do the same in Vancouver today.Vaisakhi marks the birth of the Sikh religion in 1699. Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs baptized five holy men (Phunj Piaray), which set the formal foundations of the religion. With record crowds last weekend of approximately 150,000 people under warm clear sky’s in Surrey, many commented that the event was well organized despite some controversies surrounding the parade floats, which unfortunately overshadowed the success of the day.My voice mailbox was full from my non-Indian friends with messages like,” Ken, take me to the parade, I want some of that free East Indian food and sweets”.
R. Paul Dhillon, editor of the South Asian Link newspaper in Surrey, who is well-versed on Indo-Canadian issues shared his thoughts on the celebrations and some of the controversies.“It was an extremely large peaceful gathering of 125-150,000 people who participated or watched the procession of the parade. There were many booths and festivities along the parade route where spectators could visit,” he said, adding that he felt parade organizers were wrong-headed by displaying the photos of Sikh martyrs. “It is unnecessary to bring these politics into the event in what should be a celebration of the Sikh faith. It is equally just as disturbing some media have blown this out of proportion.”Some parade floats displayed pictures of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s two most trusted Sikh bodyguards, who gunned her down in 1984 as she walked to a morning interview in her compound. The theory behind her assassination was it was a revenge killing for attacking the Golden Temple in Punjab, India and chasing out Sikh militants and terrorists.The Golden Temple is the holiest shrine for Sikhs and is located in Amritsar.A few days before Gandhi’s death she shared these thoughts with the media, “ I am not interested in a long life. I am not afraid of these things. I don’t mind if my life goes in the service of this nation. If I die today, every drop of my blood will invigorate the nation.”The death of Gandhi sparked a civil war in India that would last for years and claim thousands of lives.In life after death, Gandhi’s own words have invigorated India, bringing Indian citizens from all religious backgrounds closer to a common understanding. In India today, many do not want to return to the turbulent times of the 1980s.Sikhs who seek an independent homeland in India called Khalistan and show their colours at Vaisakhi parades in Canada are going to a time that has long passed.I can confidently say that the majority of Sikhs throughout the world and in particular India do not want an independent homeland and want to be part of one thriving nation. Dhillon expresses similar thoughts: “
The Khalistan movement is pretty much dead in Canada and India. A small radical element in the Sikh community continues to seek an independent Sikh homeland.”We must remember many Sikhs have sacrificed their lives freeing India from the British to become a sovereign nation in 1947.We don’t have to look very far to see that Sikhs have progressed to the highest political offices in India. Dr. Manmohen Singh, an economist became the first Sikh prime minister of India in May, 2004.
Last month, Singh issued a statement to many foreign countries abroad of possible Sikh militant uprisings in countries like United Kingdom, Germany, Pakistan and Canada, possibly disrupting the peace in India. Many of these culprits who caused disturbances throughout the 1980s have fled the nation, are still on the most wanted list in India and will be prosecuted.According to Professor Triloki Madan from the Institute of Delhi Economic Growth, the origins of Sikh nationalism go back to the mid-20th century.“Ever since the independence of India there were political elements among the Sikhs who had this feeling that the Muslims had got a state (Pakistan), and the Hindus had what we call a secular state (India), so how about the Sikhs?”Vaisakhi is a time of bringing the community together and celebrating our religion, not making unnecessary political statements. Hey, it may someday become a statutory holiday in Canada.
© Copyright 2007 Abbotsford News