If praising Jagmeet Singh makes one Khalistani, then I am a Khalistani too
A well-known student activist and author from India has landed herself in trouble after describing the new Democratic leader as an inspiration. Gurmehar Kaur is being harassed and targeted by right wing trolls on social media ever since she praised Jagmeet Singh following the federal election results on October 21.
Singh had gone on twitter to thank Canadians for their support to his party that bagged 24 seats in the House of Commons. The ruling Liberals who lost many seats and are forced to run a minority government might have to rely on New Democrats for survival.
Kaur’s only fault was that she responded to his tweet by saying “You’re an inspiration for all of us!!” After all, Singh is the first turbaned Sikh to lead any major political party in Canada. He has constantly faced racism and won the leadership race against heavy odds. He was heckled by a white supremacist during the recently concluded election campaign in Montreal.
Kaur has been branded as a Khalistani by right wing trolls in India for doing this. Singh is often accused of being a supporter of separatist movement for Khalistan – an imaginary Sikh homeland to be carved out of northern India by Indian politicians of all stripes, including the pro India leftists. This is because Singh has repeatedly said that he supports the right to self-determination anywhere in the world, including Quebec.
Singh has been a vocal critic of human rights abuse and repression of minorities in India. He has campaigned for justice to the victims of 1984 Sikh Genocide that rocked India following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The Indian government has refused to grant him visa to visit the home country of his parents for sticking to his principles. It is no secret that the pro India lobby had tried to discourage Indo Canadians from supporting him during the current leadership race.
Kaur who has published a book Small Acts of Freedom shot into prominence in 2017 when she came under vicious attack by the supporters of right wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for promoting peace between India and Pakistan. She admits that she once hated Pakistan as a child after she lost her father in a terrorist attack in 1999. Her father who served in the Indian army had died in an attack in the disputed region of Kashmir. The incident was blamed on Pakistan by the Indian government. However, following a gradual transformation and because of her mother’s guidance and wisdom she turned into a “soldier for peace”. Her video in which she can be seen holding a placard that read, “Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him” went viral and the supporters of BJP began mocking her. While the video had been made earlier, it gained traction and went viral soon after the vicious attack by the ultra right on young student leaders in 2016 in Delhi University’s Ramjas College and r the attacks against the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
These apologists for the Indian government were further infuriated when Kaur stood up for the left wing student activists who were attacked by the BJP supporters in different university campuses in Delhi. The worst humiliation for her, personally, was to be called “anti-national” as her father had laid down his life for the country.
This time, the right wing trolls have gone a step further -- to brand her as Khalistani. And that is mainly because of her Sikh heritage.
Let me be very clear that I do not support Khalistan. I have, rather, received threats for denouncing it in the past. Being a secularist, my opposition to a religious state had turned many supporters of Khalistan against me in Canada. Despite that I supported Jagmeet Singh as he stands for human rights. I also supported him to boldly send a message to the Indian state and its apologists that they have no business to dissuade Canadians from choosing a leader who inspires them. I may have some disagreements with Singh, but he is still a respectable man for being vocal enough against growing atrocities on religious minorities in India under the present BJP-led NDA II government.
If it is okay for the BJP and the supremacist right to turn India into Hindu theocracy, then why cannot a section of the Sikh community ask for a separate homeland? Why these double standards? If I could oppose Khalistan what stops me from opposing Hindu theocracy? And why shouldn’t I?
I am honestly not surprised at the way Kaur is being branded as I too have been labeled as Khalistani by some trolls in recent years for being critical of BJP government. They have completely overlooked the fact that I pulled no punches while being critical of my own Sikh brethren for supporting Khalistan. In fact, the so-called Indian nationalists (read supremacists) had always appreciated me in the past for opposing Khalistan, but have never supported me for speaking out against BJP which is doing far more harm to the secular fabric of India and dividing people on religious lines.
I am heart-broken at this selectivity. Why can't they even see that the BJP which is running a country with the Hindu majority on its side and the powerful state institutions under its control is blatantly protecting those involved in terror and violence against India’s minorities?
Singh or Kaur do not need any certificate from the bigots to prove their nationalism. If Kaur had lost her father in a terrorist attack, Singh’s grandfather Seva Singh Thikriwala had participated in the freedom movement and had died in prison in British India in 1935. In contrast, the founding fathers of the BJP never participated in the liberation struggle and instead played into the hands of British rulers.
If for supporting Singh, a true nationalist like Kaur can be labeled as Khalistani, then I am a Khalistani too. Why just pick on this young woman who only praised him, whereas a person like me openly supported him in his leadership campaign? If that is how the critics of Hindu Right are to be treated then I am ready for the fight.
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