Ali Sukhanver

The writer is an Associate Professor of English at Govt College of Science, Multan

Atrocities against the Sikh Community

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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. The basic demand of this organization is the secession of Punjab from India and the formulation of a separate homeland for the Sikh community. It 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 worldwide movement and millions of Sikhs are providing all possible support to it. Recently on 19 September, a referendum for the independent Sikh land Khalistan was organized by the SFJ in Brampton, Canada. According to the media reports, more than 100,000 Canadian Sikhs took part in that voting. Canada is home to over one million Sikhs. It is something very interesting that there are more than 30 million Sikhs all over the world and out of these 30 million about 28 million live in India. It means that India is home to 90% of the total Sikh population but the handful of extremist Hindu elements has made their life hell there in India. Circumstances have compelled them to migrate to the countries like Canada where everyone enjoys equal rights, particularly regarding religious liberty. 

With reference to the Sikh referendum in Canada, 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. The Canadian government spokesman 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 urging but 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 could be felt more there. The leaders of the 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 and the Muslims. For the purpose of defaming these two 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 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 Canadian nationals have every freedom to express their views under the country’s laws relating to the right to freedom of expression and the 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 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 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 behaviour 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 slaves.

Trustless Companions

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Just a few months back, it was in the news that the US authorities were considering imposing sanctions on India because of its trade ties with Russia. It was all being done as a part of US’ isolation strategy during the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine those days. Situation became more serious when India stood in the line of those 35 countries which abstained themselves from voting at the United Nations against the Russian advancement in Ukraine. Certainly the Indian decision of going against the US will and desire was not very much encouraging rather pleasing for the US authorities, military as well as political. At political level both the Democrats and Republicans raised their concerns about India’s stance of ‘going against the wind’ and it was being apprehended that this decision would create distances between the two countries. It was also in the air that the Biden administration might impose sanctions upon India under the ‘CAATSA law’ which imposes certain restrictions on the countries purchasing defense materials from Russia, North Korea and Iran. The abbreviation CAATSA stands for ‘Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act. But in spite of all these fears and apprehensions, according to some analysts, India is still the ‘blue-eyed boy’ of US and this misconception rather misunderstanding would prove a seriously painful shock to the US policy-makers, somewhere in near or far future.

Meenakshi Ahmed is a renowned expert on India-US relations. She is the author of ‘A Matter of Trust- U.S. India relations from Truman to Trump’. Recently she penned down an article in the Atlantic with the title, ‘America Has Never Really Understood India’. She said, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has resurrected Cold War hostilities, harkening back to a world in which the United States saw itself pitted in a Manichaean struggle, facing a choice between good and evil. The U.S. is using similar rhetoric today to persuade countries to isolate and punish Moscow.” She further says, “President Joe Biden has garnered support among his NATO allies to impose crippling sanctions on Russia, but his efforts elsewhere have been only partially successful. Australia and Japan—which, along with the U.S., make up three-quarters of the Quad, a relatively new Asian-security grouping—have signed on, but India, the fourth member of the bloc, has declined to join the chorus of condemnation.” If India were a very serious and sincere partner of the US, it must have been the first one to offer all cooperation in this regard.

In March 2015, Crispin Rovere penned down an article in The Interpreter with the title, ‘India is no ally of the US’. The writer said, “As for India and the US, I find it astonishing that after more than 50 years of being repeatedly burned, some Americans still have not learned their lesson and continue insisting that China and India are ‘natural competitors’. This is false. China and India are historical competitors, but such competition is not necessarily ‘natural’ and certainly nothing like the strategic competition that exists between China and the US. After all, any Chinese expansion in the Western Pacific will be at America’s expense. It is hard to argue that India’s expansion into the Indian Ocean is being actively resisted by China. India is not a pro-Western democratic bulwark, and never will be.”

Last year on April 15, 2021, same apprehensions were expressed by Chirayu Thakkar regarding uncertainty of US-India relations in an article appeared in the Stimson. The writer said, “For the last 20 years, the United States has mostly overlooked its divergences with India in multilateral forums as the relationship paid economic, strategic, and political dividends bilaterally, whereas the costs of divergences at the multilateral level were negligible. In spite of such exceptionalism enjoyed by New Delhi, U.S. diplomats at all levels reminded their Indian counterparts that India’s “obstinate role at the UN was increasingly at odds with our emerging strategic proximity.” With a restructuring of the global order, continuous assault on rules-based order, and China’s rise as a common strategic adversary, the costs of their inability to work together in the global governance arena can be much higher for both countries today.”

‘The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World’ is no doubt a book which must be an eye-opener to all those who are misguided by the notion that India would always remain an ally of the US, keeping all its national interest aside. The book is written by India’s external affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. He has very emphatically tried to explain that India has no plan to align itself fully with either the U.S. or China. He says, “This is a time for us to engage America, manage China, reassure Russia, and bring Japan into play.” Dov S. Zakheim is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and vice chairman of the board for the Foreign Policy Research Institute. In September 2021, his review on Shankar’s book was published in the Hill, in which he tried to make his readers realize that whatever Jaishankar said in his book, must not be taken for granted as he had been a former ambassador to both Washington and Beijing; moreover he is the son of Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam who is recognized as the ‘father of India’s nuclear program’. Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam is the person who maintained close ties with Moscow even as he was perhaps the leading advocate of the 2007 Indo-U.S. Agreement on Civilian Nuclear Cooperation. If such a well-informed and well-connected person does not find harmony in American and Indian interests, it means the actual situation is altogether different from what apparently seems. If India is not fair in its relationship with US, why US is wasting its resources on making India ‘the regional god-father’.

Remission Awarded To The Rapists

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What else could be more brutal than gang rape of a pregnant woman and murder of seven members of her family including her toddler daughter? That was 3 March 2002 and it all happened in a village near Ahmedabad India during the Gujarat Riots. The name of that 21-year-old unlucky Muslim woman is Bilkis Bano. 11 convicts were sentenced to life imprisonment for that brutality; now on India’s76th Independence Day, they all have been released by the Gujarat government under its remission policy.

Mockingly the culprits had to stay in Godhra jail for 15 years for their heinous crime. And more pathetic is the fact that the released culprits were given a very warm rather passionate welcome by their relatives and friends outside the Godhra jail. According to the Hindustan Times, a committee was formed a few months back to look into the matter of the 11 convicts which unanimously recommended ‘the remission of all the 11 convicts in the case. Later the recommendations were sent to the state government for final approval which issued the orders for their release. Injustice leading to cruelty, suppression and violation of basic human rights has been the most grievous issue of Indian society at the hands of the government. Though a large portion of the Indian society comprises people having a very moderate approach towards life a handful of extremist mindsets is also always there; unfortunately that extremist mindset is getting stronger and stronger and prevailing over the whole society simply because of the support and supervision of the BJP government.

Whatever happened there in the Illegally Indian Occupied State of Jammu Kashmir on 5th August 2019 is the worst example of the unethical and immoral support and supervision provided to the extremist element by the BJP government. That was the day when India took a very inhuman step against the people of the Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir by abrogating Article 370 and Article 35-A. Article 35A of the Indian Constitution was an article that empowered the Jammu and Kashmir state legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to them. These privileges included the ability to purchase land and immovable property, the ability to vote and contest elections, seeking government employment and availing of other state benefits such as higher education and health care.

Non-permanent residents of the state were not entitled to these privileges even if they were Indian citizens. The female permanent residents would be deprived of these privileges if they married someone out of state; said to Article 35-A. On 5 August 2019, the President of India Ram Nath Kovind issued a new Presidential Order which nullified Article 35-A and took back all privileges earlier given to the people of Jammu-Kashmir State. The helpless people of the State raised their protesting voices against that abrogation but their voices were crushed by using military force.

After the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A, things are now at their worst in the Jammu-Kashmir valley. The Territory was given a special autonomous status through Article 35-Aand all the provisions of the Indian Constitution, which were applicable to the Indian states did not apply to the territory. Due to this Article, Jammu and Kashmir was a region, that (despite being a part of the Indian Union under the so-called Instrument of Accession) enjoyed a separate constitution, flag and official language. It was only because of this Article that except for defence, foreign affairs, finance and communications, the Indian Parliament needed the concurrence of the so-called government of Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, the abrogated Article debarred non-Kashmiris from acquiring property and jobs in government institutions in the territory.

According to various media reports, since 5th August 2019, more than 2 million non-local voters have been added to the voters’ lists in IIOJK. Experts are of the opinion that this new induction to the list of voters would simply change the demographics of the State and directly affect the right of self-determination of the native residents of the valley. This unfair addition of non-locals to electoral rolls will enable BJP &RSS to implement their fascist agenda more emphatically. Ultimately the fascist Modi government shall succeed in installing a puppet BJP Chief Minister in IIOJK to subjugate the masses. More shocking is the fact that India is doing all that injustice by violating the UNSC resolution and disregarding international norms. It seems no one is there to stop this ‘genocide’ and even the so-called ‘international peacekeepers are providing support to the Indian hegemonic designs with their criminal quietness. Silence over injustice in itself is a heinous crime and it simply encourages the ‘future criminals’.Providing favour and support to any criminal simply means encouragement of crime. The unjust remission ‘awarded’ to the criminals involved in the gang rape of Bilkis Bano would encourage other rapists behind the bars and they all would wait anxiously for the Independence Day of India every year.

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