New Canadian Media
Tuesday, 28 February 2017 19:42

Mr. Reyat, Please Do the Right Thing

Commentary by Suresh Kurl in Richmond

Time passes, sometimes leaving behind only a knot of hurtful memories. Thirty years have gone by waiting for the news, when the living victims of the Air India tragedy would hear, feel and spend the rest of their days with some sense of justice. It seems like they will never realize their hopes.

Just ask those whom destiny left behind only to mourn loved ones lost on June 23, 1985.

The Air-India Bombing was not a car accident caused by a drunken driver on an icy Canadian road. It was a well planned, well financed and well executed aviation mass murder of 331 individuals. They had no idea before and after they boarded the plane that they were being taken – not to meet their relatives – but to the end of their own lives. Eyes still get moist and tears still roll down the cheeks when someone or something reminds Canadians of that dreadful day.

Inderjit Singh Reyat, the designated technician-cum-schemer of the 331 murders, made the bomb, tested the bomb and handed it over to his associate master-minds to execute the rest of the plot, to shatter the plane over the Atlantic Ocean. They did this rather effectively, leaving the Irish authorities scooping dead babies, lifeless adults, packed suitcases, floating dolls and pieces of the broken airplane for evidence.   

Two wrongs don't make a right

The Air India Bombing was plotted and executed to avenge the wounded honour of the GoldenTemple, a respected seat of worship and devotion. This temple assault, referred to as "Operation Blue Star" by the New Delhi government, had the approval of the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and was no less evil than the bombing of the Air India flights that followed.

Mrs. Gandhi could have chosen some other political and peaceful solution to resolve the national crisis, but she did not, just as Mr. Reyat and his associates could have adopted some other peaceful path to achieve the Sikh separatist agenda. But they did not, because they, especially Mr. Reyat, the designated technician, must have believed, "Two wrongs equal one right."

Co-incidentally, there are a few similarities between Mrs. Gandhi and Mr. Reyat. Both of them have the same derivative Sanskrit root, "in-" meaning, stubborn, determined, bold and energetic. 

Second, both of them suffered the consequences of their Karma (behaviour). PM Gandhi was assassinated at the hands of her trusted body guards. Reyat was doomed by his loyalty to his co-conspirators.

Not a solo plot

Who will ever believe that such a plot was the work of one person?  

Moreover, Mr. Reyat ended up protecting, insulating and covering his criminal associates through his own "perjury".  I call it destiny.

Third, their actions were a response to the demand for the creation of a separate nation, "Khalistan'.

Fourth, no one seems to admire them for the violence soaked sacrifices they made to  attain their objectives.  

Last week, Mr. Reyat was released from federal prison; technically, "paroled out". Where Mr. Reyat is going to live or with who he is going to live with is not of significance. What is significant is that he could never be free from the prison of his own guilt.

He might not even be able to sleep soundly. He might even suffer vivid nightmares of exploding planes and falling dead babies from the sky: all because he is unwilling to reconcile with the truth, compassion and honesty and universal love, the tenets of every religion, including his own religion.

Redeeming himself

Spiritually speaking, Mr. Reyat can only redeem himself of his portion of sins by disclosing the names of those who were involved in plotting, financing and executing this crime, which put him and him alone away in prison for a long time and caused him to suffer, socially, financially and spiritually.   

Mr. Reyat is a Sikh. If he believes in God, he must also believe in Karma, its consequences and rebirth.  If all this is true then the only option Mr. Reyat has is to pray for peace and strength to tell the truth and cleanse his conscience. Truth sets us free. Truth heals our wounded spirit. Truth prepares us to face our Creator.

As a spiritual human being, I am asking him to do the right thing for his soul and for the sake of his children and their children. He alone has the power to offer the gift of justice and peace to those he has victimized.  

Mr. Reyat, leave this world with your head high with pride, not bending low, burdened with the weight of lies and a guilty conscience. 


Dr. Suresh Kurl is a South Asian Community Activist, a former university professor, retired Registrar of the B.C. Benefits Appeal Board (Govt. of B.C.), a former Member of the National Parole Board (Govt. of Canada), a writer and public speaker.

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary

New Delhi (IANS): Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Sunday served a legal notice to leading daily Times of India demanding an “unqualified apology” for its report on her official accommodation.

“My client calls upon your esteemed publication to tender an unqualified apology and publish the contents of this letter in its entirety with the same prominence and display as you have done to the patently false and malicious captioned news article. This letter is being sent without prejudice to any rights and contentions of my client and nothing contained herein should be considered an admission of any fact or a waiver of any of the rights and remedies of my client,” said a letter from lawyer Aman Panwar addressed to Editor-in-Chief Jaideep Bose, among others.

 

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in India
Friday, 30 January 2015 16:01

The forgotten Mahatma

We remember Mahatma Gandhi only on October 2 and January 30. The symbolic spinning of the charkha, recital of bhajans and selling khadi at a discount are the only activities that remind us of him.

For the rest of the year, Gandhi remains a forgotten Mahatma, deified like one of our numerous gods and his teachings reduced to mundane rituals.

Long back, Albert Einstein had said that the coming generation would scarcely believe that a man like him had ever walked the planet earth. Einstein was probably thinking of the very distant future when people might raise their eyebrows in sheer disbelief and ask: “Was there a man like Gandhi in flesh and blood??

The Weekly Voice

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Published in India
Friday, 05 December 2014 19:23

In The Words of Eric Garner: I Can't Breathe

by Ujjal Dosanjh (@ujjaldosanjh) in Vancouver

Eric Garner died in an illegal New York police chokehold. He wasn't a gangster. He was a petty criminal. He was suspected of selling loose cigarettes and not paying tax on them. Thousands of white-collar criminals in Canada, the U.S. and across the world evade taxes and swindle people and governments out of billions of dollars. They are treated with kid gloves. No chokeholds put on them.

Being Black in America was Eric Garner's only real crime. He was minding his own business. He said so. Many Whites in America are coming forward to say they are let go and not arrested for lot more serious crimes. For example, if picked up drunk by police they get dropped at their homes. Not charged or killed. The officer who held Garner down with a chokehold said it was not his intention to kill. Eric Garner died.

The police officers just looked on as he lay dying in handcuffs. They were there. They provided no first aid that they are trained to render as first responders. Seconds before he died in the ambulance, they had just stood there absolutely indifferent to a dying, handcuffed Black man -- not a murderer, rapist or a gangster. He pleaded on and on and on, "I can't breathe." The cops did not listen or hear or perhaps they did not care. Yes, there was a senior female Black cop with them. How does that matter? The racist culture in a country, an organization or a police department can co-opt, make one numb. The need to conform overpowers many. In any event, Black upon Black cruelty isn't acceptable either.

I think of U.S. President Barack Obama's "hope and change" campaign message and I feel sad for him and the U.S. I am so overwhelmed by the moment. Figuratively speaking, "I can't breathe" either.

I am so overwhelmed by the moment. Figuratively speaking, "I can't breathe" either.

I think of Ferguson, the unarmed Michael Brown and the officer who shot him and was not indicted; of Eric Garner, unarmed and the choke-holding police officer not being indicted; and many others. The long and sordid saga of racial injustice in the U.S. continues. Blacks are being killed unceasingly at the hands of those in positions of authority. The oxygen of hope and change seems to have turned into an asphyxiating existential moment, a moment of reckoning for the United States of America. I can't be indifferent. I am finding it difficult to breathe easy.

Justice is indivisible

In Edmonton, Canada, my country and certainly of my children and grandchildren, a police officer Mike Wasylyshen was recently promoted to sergeant despite a criminal record for "the drunken off-duty assault of a man on crutches and a disciplinary  suspension for Tasering a passed-out native youth." Wasylyshen had without any provocation attacked Devin Stacey who had had knee surgery and was on crutches. All Stacey was doing was hailing a cab when attacked. Wasylyshen also punched a security guard who tried to intervene. He had threatened to kill the security guard and Stacey and to find and burn down their houses.

Waylyshen is the son of a former Edmonton police chief and does an absolute discredit to his father's name. He has two criminal convictions to his name regarding the above incidents while one charge was dropped. He was at one time temporarily suspended for the repeated tasering of a passed-out 16-year-old Randy Fryingpan in the back seat of a suspected stolen car. Wasylyshen tasered him eight times in 68 seconds. In 2003, a provincial court judge had determined Wasylyshen to have willfully deceived a justice of the peace to obtain a search warrant. Despite all this, he was promoted and not fired.

I can't be indifferent. I am finding it difficult to breathe easy.

I read all this and I was flabbergasted. This in Canada? I felt suffocated. I could no longer breathe ... easy. Something is got to change. Just hoping is no longer enough.

Then, you had the Premier of Alberta protecting the Alberta school boards' ability to discriminate against gay straight alliances in schools. There was uproar in the country. I became a tiny part of that uproar by writing my blog "Alberta's Moment of Reckoning" yesterday before the unfair and unequal law was put on hold. Partial victory! Now if only Jim Prentice, the premier, saw the light and showed the courage to lead rather than give in to the ignorant. When I first read about Prentice's unfair law I felt suffocated. The Bill being put on hold provided a breather.

I read, too, with dread about attacks on minorities in India: the country of my birth and nurture for the first 17 years of my life. Over the centuries, it has welcomed millions from different parts of the world and different faiths. India is home to over 20 million Christians. Christians were reported to have been attacked in Bastar. Non-Hindu religious activity was allegedly banned. Many local Christians were said to have been assaulted and injured. This is one of many attacks against the Christian and Muslim minorities that India has witnessed over the last year. Government ministers and leaders keep making dumb, and often incendiary statements. It is absolutely unacceptable for any minority to be attacked or frightened in the land of Mahatma Gandhi. Reading about such injustice "I can't breathe" easy.

All this and more I read and felt yesterday. Much else horrible happened as well. Just in one day. I was moved to think of all the good deeds happening in the world, just to counter balance the sadness.

Eric Garner breathes no more! People of goodwill should not breathe easy. This moment should be about affixing responsibility, but not about apportioning blame. It is about our collective will to change so that justice prevails in the world. As within a country justice in the world is indivisible. We must live and struggle to ensure Garners die no more, equality and justice reign, humanity lives in peace and harmony. Otherwise, we are destined to suffocate in the abyss of our own inaction.

Ujjal Dosanjh was the federal Minister of Health under Liberal Prime Minister, Paul Martin. Before this, he was Attorney-General and Premier of British Columbia. He blogs at http://ujjaldosanjh.org/.

Published in Commentary

By Lachman Balani

BRAMPTON: Today, my daughter gifted me a piece of the Berlin Wall to commemorate the 25th anniversary of its fall on November, 9,1989.  She had picked it up when she visited

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by Shruti Prakash -Joshi in Vancouver

When the worlds largest democracy is in the midst of choosing its next government, it is only natural that the the worlds largest cluster of Indians outside India are on tenterhooks. 

Canadians of Indian origin tend to follow the tumultuous political goings-on in their country of origin. The fact that most of them dont have the right to vote in Indian elections is hardly something that distracts them from voicing their opinion on how and who should run the country.

For the last month and more, the drawn-out Indian elections have become a hot topic for discussion. Whether it is at house parties or on open-line South Asian talk shows, at parks or even at work, Indian politics seem to have captured the imagination of not only the Indian diaspora, but South Asians in general.

The most interesting comments and debates are, of course, on open-line talk shows where we, the emotional people,have so much to say that hosts have a hard time switching from one caller to the other.

Interestingly, the participation by women in these talk shows is poor, although in India, women voters are being hailed as a major deciding factor in the polls this year. The Indian Election Commission had made great efforts to woo women voters through its ‘Power of 49 campaign (women make 49 per cent of registered voters in India), but not here in British Columbia, where political conversation in the public sphere remains a largely male bastion.

The contenders

The comments come in fast and furious: Narendra Modi (the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, BJPs prime ministerial candidate) is communal, Congress (the ruling party) is corrupt and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP, a new party, translated loosely as the Party of the Ordinary Man) is like a breath of fresh air, but perhaps doesn't have the experience ... they go on and on breathlessly.

So much so that a protest rally was recently organized in Surreys Holland park to condemn yoga guru Baba Ramdev, who reportedly made insulting remarks about dalit (a class of people considered lower-caste) women, in India. A motley group of people at the park raised slogans against the yoga guru and called for the authorities in India to immediately arrest him.

Kuldip Grewal is a self-employed person of Indian origin who follows the elections quite closely. He listens to radio talk shows and has often engaged in discussions with friends, mainly because he feels an emotional connection to his country of origin. "We might not really know the ground realities as they exist in India, but sitting so far away we wish the best for our country. All we have heard in the last five to seven years are reports of scams and corruption and it saddens us. And, therefore, when a new party such as the Aam Aadmi Party comes forward promising to clean the system I see it as a welcome change. Whether they win or not is a million dollar question, but we want the best for India," said Grewal.

Passionate for change

Equally passionate to see a change in India's leadership is Vishwanath Dhiri, an accountant in Surrey. But he sees the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as the only leader who is capable of leading this change.

"AAP's objectives might be laudable, but they have no experience in governance and it's too early for them to actually govern a diverse country like India," said Dhiri.

Talking about Modi's oft-alleged communal bent of mind, he said that it is merely a mistaken perception and blamed it largely on social and other media which, he said, is often prejudiced and biased.   "If you repeat a lie constantly it tends to become the truth in people's mind. The Godhra (the 2002 riots in Gujarat in which a large number of Muslims died under Modi's watch) riots should have never happened, but then after 2002, Gujarat has progressed by leaps and bounds. You can't judge a person by just one incident; the benefit of the doubt has to be given to him," he said. According to Dhiri, the Congress party, fearing a massive defeat, is desperate and therefore is fear-mongering. "I think Modi has proved himself in Gujarat. He has proved that he is business friendly and will take India forward undoubtedly," said Dhiri.

"I think Modi has proved himself in Gujarat. He has proved that he is business friendly and will undoubtedly take India forward."

Two extremes

Professor of political science at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Anjali Thomas Bohlken, who takes a particular interest in India, agrees that the 2014 Lok Sabha (lower house in Parliament) elections in India have become particularly interesting because of the choices that are being presented before the people. "On the one hand  you have the BJP which is seeing an unprecedented surge, and on the other hand is the beleaguered Congress Party desperately trying to shed its image of being a corrupt, dynastic party. In between these two extremes is the newly minted Aam Aadmi Party, which is proving to be a massive vote spoiler," she said.

According to her, these  elections have become overly polarized because of the campaign tactics being used, especially playing the communal  card. "It has been seen that both BJP and Congress have played the card to their advantage many a times previously. In these elections, emotions are being flared and both the parties are trying to either use the secularism card or the dynastic rule card,"  she said.

This is something that Dr. Jasbir Singh Romana, a popular talk show host, hears regularly. He has been featuring the elections, with a particular focus on the state of Punjab (from where most Indo-Canadians in B.C. hail), for the last month and has invited journalists, opinion leaders, candidates and ordinary people from Punjab and other cities in India to speak on his show. 

According to him, the anti-incumbency factor is huge. "People certainly want a change and they are pinning their hopes on the AAP, perhaps sometimes without realizing that AAP has a limited presence and can't form the government. But for them a change is crucial at this time," said Romana.

Interestingly, so excited are people to bring about change that, according to Romana, a large number of people have actually travelled to India, sent monetary assistance and are frantically making calls to their family members, to influence the vote. "We are all emotionally connected to our country (of origin). What happens there effects us," he said.

"We are all emotionally connected to our country (of origin). What happens there effects us."

Similarly, Harjinder Thind, another popular talk show host on Red 93.1 FM, also said that immigrants cannot break their ties with India so easily. "Whether it is through property, parents or family, they will always be connected and discussing what happens there, thrashing out solutions, even though they know that these might not bring about direct change, (but) gives them satisfaction that they have contributed in some way," he said.  

He said these elections are particularly very polarized because the BJP and its leader, Narendra Modi, are viewed with suspicion by the large Sikh community here. They are worried that if he becomes the prime minister, minorities will be persecuted in India and this perception is mainly through what they see and hear in the media,said Thind. The people here, having experienced the Congress, are worried about the BJP and now are pinning their hopes on the Aam Aadmi Party, which according to them, will change the way politics is played out in India.

And thus it will go on -- discussions, comments, heated debates -- until the results come in on May 16. 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Top Stories

by Themrise Khan

Political and religious turbulence, violent militancy and natural disasters are nothing to brag about — but for many foreign expatriates arriving in Pakistan over the past decade, it was a thrill to be caught up in the middle of all this turmoil. I often heard them say, “It’s such an exciting time to be in Pakistan.”

After all, they knew it was only a temporary sojourn for them.

It is one thing to find a country’s politics “exciting” as a temporary visitor. It is another thing completely to try and understand it as an immigrant making a new home.

Most new immigrants to Canada, particularly those arriving from politically fragile states such as Pakistan, come with high expectations of political stability and honest politics. After all, Canada’s model of a stable liberal democracy is what attracts many immigrants in the first place.

Surprising similarities

But where politics is concerned, it’s surprising how similar all countries can be, albeit on different scales and levels. As such, newspaper headlines have unearthed a Canada that was difficult for many Canadians to comprehend and even more difficult for newcomers to the country.

It began for me with the return of the prodigal son, Justin Trudeau, a welcome addition to an otherwise lacklustre political landscape. At least for now, Trudeau is a party leaders following in his father’s footsteps, and, ironically, the West has always looked upon political dynasties with suspicion (To wit, the Bhuttos in Pakistan, the Gandhis in India, and the Aquinos in the Philippines, to name a few). Yet, Canada now faces the choice of ushering in a political dynasty of its own — all because of a lack of a strong political opposition base, something one would not expect in a western liberal democratic state.

The Senate scandal

This was followed by the all-consuming, never-ending Senate expense scandal. The story began simply enough but soon degenerated into a sordid affair, complete with outright denial by all parties involved. For many immigrants, scandals like this are all too common and almost accepted as part of political life in their respective homelands.

It is what the western world loves to use as a trump card to promote its ideals of “good governance.” But when it happens in one’s own backyard, albeit on a much smaller scale, it is reminiscent of how easily any nation can slip into denial of its political imperfections.

But when it happens in one’s own backyard, albeit on a much smaller scale, it is reminiscent of how easily any nation can slip into denial of its political imperfections.

Rob Ford saga

Speaking of denial, the Rob Ford saga left many of us new immigrants speechless, as much as it did Canadians and others around the world. In many of our birth countries, our politicians rule the streets and the cities with their might, and get away with it. But to see the mayor of Canada’s largest city — the top destination for immigrants — barely accept responsibility of his own wrongdoings and then actually decide to run again made a lot of us feel quite at home, ­ but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.

There were several other news events interspersed among the headlines that newcomers like myself did not expect in Canada, at least not in such quick succession. To name a few: the resignation of Montreal’s mayor over corruption charges (following his predecessor’s resignation for the same reason); Canada’s refusal to sign and/or withdraw from several United Nations (UN) treaties, including the (Small) Arms Trade Treaty and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification; the defunding of abortions for war rape victims and some poor scores on the Global Gender Gap Report.

Add to that an underhandedly racist Quebec Charter of Values, the so-called Robocalls exposé, a hidden world of temporary foreign workers, the muzzling of scientific expression, an unabashed preference for economic gain over global human rights, and, occasionally, I feel like I am back in my country-of-birth again.

Silence of citizens

Not counting the umpteen public polls conducted by Canadians (it seems like almost a national pastime here), the most perplexing thing to a new immigrant about Canadian politics is the silence of its citizens.

For many new immigrants coming from politically weak states, the desire to participate in the political culture of our adopted home is great. Here, we have the rare opportunity to speak our minds without fearing for our lives and reputations, and of truly contributing to making our community, city, and country a better place. But. instead. immigrants to Canada repeatedly heard bland statements from politicians about “Canadian values” and “Canada’s place in the world,” with virtually no rumblings from its own citizens about accountability over any of these unfortunate events.

The overarching political story this year is the run up to the next federal elections in 2015. Most new immigrants will not yet be eligible to vote in these elections. But, if voter turnout is viewed as the key indicator of active political engagement in Canada, then, unfortunately, the numbers do not match up. Voter participation fell over 14 per cent between 1988 and 2011, according to Elections Canada. Ironically, in Pakistan, a country plagued with martial law and rigged elections, voter turnout increased by almost 12 per cent between 1988 and 2013 — an interesting dichotomy, of stability leading to political apathy, perhaps.

Ironically, in Pakistan, a country plagued with martial law and rigged elections, voter turnout increased by almost 12 per cent between 1988 and 2013 — an interesting dichotomy, of stability leading to political apathy, perhaps.

So what does all of this translate into for a new immigrant to Canada in the early 21st century? It definitely shows that politics is in many ways plagued by the same integrity issues in both rich and poor nations, albeit with some variations.

For new immigrants, though, the difference lies in the fact that in many of our countries of origin, hope is diminishing on several counts. For Canada, however, there is still a great deal of hope and potential for political vibrancy. It is this hope that immigrants also want to be a part of, so that we too can claim “its an exciting time to be in Canada!” We just need to ensure that the excitment is for all the right reasons.

Themrise Khan is a freelance social policy research professional and a recent immigrant to Canada. She has a keen interest in issues of migration and migrant diasporas, as well as foreign policy and international relations.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Commentary

 

 

News East West

NEW DELHI: Reacting to reports that Priyanka Gandhi was interested in contesting against Narendra Modi from Varanasi, the BJP said on Monday that it would have welcomed her in the

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NEW DELHI: Most powerful Indian woman and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, once described as the 12th richest politician of the world by the Huffington Post with her personal worth

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NEW YORK: A New York court has asked Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi to provide documentary proof that she was not in the US between September 2 and September 9 last year.

The

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