Friday, April 23, 2010
An inside look at Vaisakhi
Understanding is key to peace
Ken Herar, The Times
Published: Friday, April 23, 2010
For the most part Vaisakhi celebrations in Vancouver and Surrey went smoothly despite a little controversy from a handful of organizers.
This annual event celebration marks the birth of Khalsa (Sikh Religion), and the beginning of the harvest season in Punjab. On April 14, 1699, the tenth Sikh Guru or prophet of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, declared that all Sikhs should outwardly manifest the values of equality, love and justice and wear five distinct articles of faith.
The Sikh religion is the world's fifth largest faith tradition, which represents the majority of the South Asian population here in the Lower Mainland. Vaisakhi, is not just celebrated from within the Sikh community, but captures a wider Canadian audience.
Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to attend these festivities, but did spare time to attend the local Vaisakhi celebrations at the Dasmesh Punjabi School in Abbotsford. The gymnasium was packed as students performed dances and songs to a standing room-only audience.
Being Sikh myself, it's comforting to know that our religion is based on the foundations of equality and freedom.
The Sikh community should feel blessed that many sacrifices have been made to establish the core values of Sikhism as a religion of universality. Unfortunately, these values get forgotten.
Being Sikh is a full-time commitment. Sikhism was supposed to lure worshippers away from ancient structured barriers of Hinduism and free the power of the inner soul.
Well, it's not happening. I still hear of too many examples where some Sikh's still actively discriminate against each other or with members from outside their community. For example, Sikh's were supposed to reject the traditional values of the 'caste system.' Not happening. Is the birth of a boy equally celebrated to a birth of a girl? Not happening. Are interracial marriages accepted? Very seldom.
These are the depths of the discussions we should be engaging in at Vaisakhi celebrations, not Khalistan. How can Sikh separatists even imagine forming their own nation when the community it is still plagued with internal divisions that don't seem to disappear? Discrimination is fairly visible in South Asian society both in India and abroad as evidence from caste and class-based biases. A separate Sikh nation would be disastrous.
The word " Khalistan" is mentioned more here in Canada, the United States and Britain, not at all in Punjab, India. Speaking with R. Paul Dhillon, editor of the South Asian Link newspaper in Surrey, he said: "The whole Vaisakhi brouhaha has been blown out of proportion. The parade was peaceful and enjoyable for Sikh's and non- Sikh friends. But, unfortunately all the generosity and good will of 99.9 percent of the participants was overshadowed by the controversy."
"There will always be a very, very small fringe element that supports Khalistan as an independent homeland in India. But, that vision is not shared by a vast majority of Sikhs. But, in a democracy we do not have the right to stop them from declaring their cause," said Dhillon.
Speaking with award winning journalist and author Salim Jiwa: "Khalistan is no longer an issue with a vast majority of Sikhs. Since around 1992, it has dissipated as a movement and there is no real threat of igniting it again.
"It is a mistake to equate the new generation of well educated, dedicated Sikhs currently running some Sikh institutions as Khalistanis or extremists. I find it disturbing that some are suggesting that extremism is on the rise. That is not so. We started to hear this when younger Sikhs won the temple election in Surrey and I think these remarks are outrageous.
"In terms of the martyr float, clearly it is dismaying, but I've seen the same pictures in many temples in B.C., California and other places. Some die-hard Sikhs insist on respect for their 'warriors' who died. Clearly, because of Air India, we find it hard to believe that Parmar would be paraded as a martyr," said Jiwa.
"But our constitution allows for dissent, it allows for freedom of expression and there is nothing illegal about the float. In my opinion Vaisakhi should be commemorated as an occasion for the whole community and we should not spoil the joy for the whole community by boycotting events, picking on this issue annually and allowing racism towards our Sikh community to flourish," he said.
"I can categorically say that there is no concern about Khalistan issue being revived in the absence of searing emotional issues such as the attack on the Golden Temple. As an author of two books on militancy, I can state that with total conviction."
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
Travel confirms love for Canada
Tasty return after American adventures
Ken Herar, The TimesPublished: Friday, April 09, 2010
Having recently visited five airports in five exhausting days it's nice to be back on Canadian soil. Travelling throughout many parts of the United States from coast to coast can be challenging.
Without GPS in your vehicle and freeways literally at a standstill, navigating in two of the largest metropolitan regions down south can be daunting. Don't get me wrong - Los Angles and Chicago are vibrant, fun cities with endless possibilities. But for a small town dude, hours of preparation were needed to complete this very assignment. I have come to the realization that it's Canada's simplicity and peacefulness that makes our nation a top destination for many foreigners.
Think about the last time you crossed the border back into Canada. Didn't you feel relieved and stress-free? I certainly did. I have gained a whole new appreciation for Canada.
Once you have lived here, it's hard to live beyond our borders. We have proven you don't need the largest military or the tallest buildings or even the warmest temperatures to live in the best place in the world.
Some snowbirds may disagree, but those tanned skins always seem to venture back.
What I found to be interesting on this trip was how many Americans are becoming disenchanted with their own country No, not because they lost the gold medal hockey to us or Obama's proposed healthcare plan or even post Bush. But more on the lines of public safety and feeling connected to their communities. Many are looking up north to Canada for these very answers.
Canada is a connection of communities and not layers of urbanization that leads to isolation and fear. We have a lot to be proud of as Canadians, a nation the population size of California.
You rarely hear Canadians badmouth Canada and rightfully so. First of all, it's not a cool thing and secondly it's simply not Canadian, eh? We may not always agree with every political decision or editorial comment in the newspaper, but it's that deep affection with glowing hearts we treasure.
This was clearly evident during the Winter Olympics across the country. We might not always show it, but when we do, watch out. I am proud to say I have a Canadian flag in my office and it stands tall and mighty. You know you have a deep connection to a land that has given you every opportunity when you spend most of your vacation talking about it with others.
My future travels may bring me back south again, but Canada will always be close. Canadians are looked upon as leaders throughout the world, not complainers.
You only realize what you have until go away or lose it. So true.
Well, a few days upon my return, I was invited by Chandra Deo the host co-ordinator at the Gladwin Language Centre in Abbotsford to come to their open house. I can't recall how many foreign dishes I was nibbling. Let's just say, I knew I was home.
- Ken Herar is a columnist with the Abbotsford-Mission Times.© Abbotsford Times 2010