ALI SUKHANVER - -
No doubt the freedom of expression is one of the most precious basic human rights; unluckily there are a very few countries where the people enjoy this basic human right; Canada is surely one of those fortunate countries. The Canadian constitution guarantees not only freedom of expression but also freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression to the people living there. Moreover it also guarantees the right to equal protection and benefit of the law without any discrimination to the followers of all religions. Different religious groups are never asked to register themselves but some groups get them registered so that they may receive tax-exempt status. According to the Wikipedia all Canadians are free to have their own beliefs and opinions, to practise religion or refrain from it, and are free to establish media organizations with or without religious content. Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law. The basic principle around which the whole social system there revolves is that law should govern a nation. These are the reasons that at present Canada is closer to the hearts of the Sikh community than India which is the ‘home-town’ of more than 28 million Sikhs. In Canada there live more than one million Sikhs whereas the total population of the Sikh community is somewhere around 30 million. The remaining one million are scattered in different parts of the world. The Sikh community has been demanding a separate homeland for the last many decades because a handful of Hindu extremist element has deprived them of all basic human rights. They are unsafe, their Gurdwaras are unsafe and even their whole future is unsafe at the hands of those extremists. They need a separate homeland where they could live according to their own will and desire. They have been demanding secession of Punjab from India and formulation of a separate homeland for the Sikh community. Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) is a US-based organization which has been striving and struggling for an independent Sikh land for the last many years.
SFJ was founded in October 2007 and primarily was headed by lawyer Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. With its head-quarter in New York, the organization was banned in India in 2019. Now this movement for a separate Sikh land run by the SFJ has become a world-wide movement and millions of Sikhs are providing all possible support to it. Last month, on 19 September a referendum for the independent Sikh land Khalistan was organized by the SFJ in Brampton, Canada. The Sikh community from all over the world stood by the side of the organizers of this referendum but unfortunately, the BJP government did all its best to create hurdles in the way to that referendum. According to different media reports, the BJP government had many times urged the government of Canada to put a strict check on the leaders of the Khalistan movement in Canada but the Canadian government always plainly refused to do so. In a press conference in response to Indian objection on referendum and the Khalistan Movement, a spokesman of the Canadian government said that their country would never stop Canadian Sikhs from expressing their views by holding the Khalistan Referendum as the legal parameters of the country's laws consider it a democratic process. He furthermore said that it all was a peaceful process. According to the media reports, even after that flat refusal, the Indian government did not stop from urging rather pressurizing the Canadian government to act against the rising pro-Khalistani sentiment in Canada.
As far as the Khalistan movement is concerned, it is getting day by day stronger all over the world; since in Canada, there are more than one million Sikhs, the strength of this movement cold be felt more there. The leaders of Khalistan movement say that they are not against the Hindu community; they have no hatred against any religion but they hate the BJP extremists who don’t let them live in India. These extremists very bluntly and openly claim that India is only for the Hindus and no one from any other religious school of thought must strive and desire to stay in India; particularly the Sikhs, the Buddhists and the Muslims. For the purpose of defaming all these communities the Indian intelligence agencies are doing their utmost. Recently on 13th September, the walls of a prominent Hindu temple in Toronto Canada, known as BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir were defaced by scrawling pro-Khalistan and anti-Indian slogans. The BJP government without wasting any time and without any proof and investigation started condemning the Sikh community living in Canada for defacing the temple walls. Some social media users started sharing a video of the defaced shrine where Khalistani sentiments can be seen written on the walls but according to the Livemint, the legitimacy of the video could not be confirmed.
On the other hand the Canadian government simply rejected the Indian point of view by saying that the Canadian nationals have every freedom to express their views under the country's laws relating to the right to freedom of expression and right to free speech and assembly. Here an important point to be noted is that this so-called ‘hate-incident’ took place just five days ahead of the Khalistan Referendum voting. There is another side of the incident too. The Canadian police claimed that it had arrested an Indo-Canadian man for tearing a picture-banner of the martyred Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the city of Caledon, Ontario. This incident occurred a few days before the defacing incident of the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. It means these two incidents were ‘designed’ in a very calculated manner. The perpetrators tried to target the peace and harmony of the Canadian society where everyone is allowed to do anything living within the boundaries provided by the law of the country. Certainly the BJP government is not happy with the Canadian government as it has granted legal freedom to the Sikh community of raising its voice for the Sikh rights. It is a sheer misconception of the Indian government that by pressurizing the Canadian government, it would succeed in crushing the Sikh demand for a separate and independent Sikh homeland. The same cruel behavior of the Indian government could be noticed in the Illegally Occupied valley of Kashmir where the local people are being treated as if they are the slaves. Certainly the stubborn behavior of the Hindu extremists would compel all minorities living in India to strive for a separate homeland of their own. The most shocking demand for a separate homeland would be from the Dalits who are no doubt facing the worst basic human right’s exploitation at present in India. Certainly one day this community would also be in the queue of the Fighters for Liberation.