On behalf of the World Sikh Organization, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all members of the media to this Press Conference. While India is celebrating its Independence Day today, we wish to elaborate on the human rights violations occurring in that country and also to outline the role played by Overseas Sikhs to help eradicate such injustices of the Indian political system. In addition, some workable solutions will also be suggested, whereby the animosity between various groups in Canada can be avoided. Before I begin though, I would like to give a basic historical account of events since 1947 for those of you who may not be familiar with it.
On August 15, 1947, a new period in India’s history was begun. Approximately 200 years of British rule in India and about 97 years rule in Panjab, had finally ended, and the nation was ecstatic. India’s leaders gloated with pride and congratulated themselves on a job well done but they were not the real heroes. Brave individuals particularly Sikhs who sacrificed their freedom and their lives for the cause of Indian Independence were the ones who deserved much of the credit.
Comprising only 2% of India’s population, the Sikhs far exceeded this ratio in their sacrifices for this cause. Over 80% of all individuals arrested for peaceful demonstrations were Sikhs, as were over 90% of those who lost their lives fighting to gain independence from the British. So when the news came that their struggles had at last proven fruitful, these people were overjoyed, for they felt that they might finally be able to enjoy the glow of freedom promised to them by Pandit Nehru and “Mahatma” Gandhi. But this was not to be the case. The leaders who had promised such things to the valiant Sikhs had already begun to forget their promises, so lost were they in the mirth of the moment. Sadly, not only was this amnesiac state contagious, but it also increased in severity through the passage of time.
Since August 15, 1947, the Indian government was perpetuated a treacherous and bloody campaign against Sikhs and other minorities residing in India. Promises made to the Sikh leaders of the time have been shamelessly broken and many acts of the Indian Constitution propounding equality have also been violated. Yet the western world has been kept in the dark to the extent of the atrocities which have been and still are occurring in that country. Sikhs around the world have tried varying methods to inform the world of the suppression and religious persecution of minorities occurring in India. This has been especially apparent through demonstrations, press conferences, lobbying, and delegations to the U.N.O. and other such bodies. The desecration of places of worship, gang rapes, jailing of individuals without the granting of bail, arrests without warrants, and slavery, still continue in India. All of these acts have been directly linked to the Indian government. But the world has turned a deaf ear to the cries of anguish uttered by the Sikhs. This is partly because the International Press has been denied access to India; hence the public has not been kept well informed. Any factual information brought out by Sikhs, which the Indian government finds to be against its interests is always distorted by the government agencies. The Indian government has been playing the part of “wolves in sheep’s’ clothing” to the point where only the keen observer is able to pick out the true nature of the government heading the “worlds’ largest democracy.”
The extensive variance in the cultural and religious philosophies makes it difficult for the outsider to comprehend the full complexity of the problem. Individually, each minority in India has suffered religious and social intolerances from the majority group, although the government has always presented India as a secular democracy. Common scenes in this secular country are such conflicts as those between the: Hindus and Bengalis in Assam; Hindus and Moslems in Bombay; Hindus and Telegus in Andhra Pradesh, Hindus and Untouchables in Gujarat; and Hindus and Sikhs in Panjab. From the political perspective, there have been injustices such as the declaration of a national emergency in 1975; dismantling of the government of Assam; forcible replacement of the Chief Ministers of Jammu Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh; dismantling of the Panjabi Akali Dal government three times since independence; and the imposition of martial law in Panjab since May 1984, which also resulted in the banning of all media from that state. All of these incidences and actions speak for themselves, and exemplify the exact state of affairs in India.
Although the world has been quick to condemn the denial of political and human rights in South Africa, no word has been uttered against the rascist caste system in India, under which more than 120 million Untouchables are condemned to a life of destitution and degradation simply because of their place on a hierarchical social scale. It is India which has systematically institutionalized racism on the largest scale in human history. The Sikhs have been unable to tolerate this kind of discrimination, and as a result, they have suffered the wrath of the Indian government. More than 50,000 Sikhs have been brutally murdered. You may have witnessed dogs eating human remains in clips from the Delhi incident.
The following comparison elicits the major differences between the Sikhs and the Indian government.
- a) The government is a totalitarian dictatorship which is headed by one dynasty. It believes in a class oriented religious system and its philosophies are from middle to left. Dishonesty is an integral part of the Gandhi regime, which does not hesitate to suppress minorities for its own political gains.
- b) On the other hand, the Sikhs are a peace-loving, democratic people who believe in the brotherhood of mankind. They fall in the middle to the right of the political scale, and also believe in free enterprise. The Sikhs are an honest people who will go to any length for the protection of minorities, and do not hesitate in upholding justice. A Sikh is a defender, not an offender.
It is these differences which have made it impossible for the Indian government to obtain legitimacy in the eyes of the Sikhs. This has caused the Gandhi government to instigate an international campaign to ruin the credibility of the Sikhs overseas. But its own desperate attempts at retaining its credibility at all costs are futile, like those of a drowning man clutching at a straw. The Indian government has used its consulate general offices throughout the world for the purpose of defaming the Sikhs and promoting disharmony within the East Indian community. To some extent, they (Indian consulates) have succeeded in stereotyping the Sikhs into two categories:
* AntiIndian Politics (the so-called “‘extremists’’)
* ProIndian Politics (the so-called “‘moderates”’)
In actuality, there are those who will not tolerate suppression and slavery of anyone, and those who not only tolerate it, but also promote it. Indeed, it is now becoming obvious that the Indian government is interfering in the internal affairs of Canada.
To promote harmony within the Indo-Canadian society, we have the following recommendations:
* The Vancouver and Toronto offices of the Indian Consulates should be closed immediately.
* The international media should insist upon going to Panjab and report the plight of Sikhs and many other minorities. Factual reports similar to the ones from South Africa will show the world what actually happens in India under the convenient guise of democracy.
*The U.N.O. and other international agencies such as Amnesty International should investigate the violations of human rights. The denial of access by the Indian government should warrant serious actions similar to the ones taken against the South African government.
In conclusion, I would like to say that the Canadian Sikhs are highly committed to the fundamental values upon which the Canadian Constitution is based. We are proud of our Sikh and Canadian heritage, and will strive to defend the principles of democracy and social justice wherever they are lacking. The World Sikh Organization hopes that in the days, months, and years to come, the understanding between the Sikhs and their fellow Canadians will continue to grow, so that we may all work together to achieve our common goal to bring about freedom and justice for all.
May God bless each and every one of you.
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