Why do I care about dying Palestinians?

Living in Canada for the past eight years has made me extremely sensitive to news involving loss of life. It does not need to be a massacre, a triple-murder, or even a human death. I almost always feel the instinctive sorrow a death brings; it seems Canadian sensitivity and values lie behind this conditioning.

So on May 14, when 59 Palestinian protestors were killed by Israeli security forces in Gaza, I could not feel any different. The anguish, pain, remorse and disgust were palpable in my demeanor.


But after pacifying myself, when I peeked around, there was a stoic silence. At least nobody in Canada was celebrating or justifying the massacre, unlike many right-wingers across the globe, but there wasn’t a strong rebuke either.

There was a minimal sea change when, a couple of days later, it was established that one of the many severely injured was a Canadian doctor – but the Canadian outrage was nowhere near what it should have been, and, shamefully, nothing like it was for other recent news ‘events’ – a dead cougar or cows being treated badly.

I was left wondering as to why was I being affected disproportionately. Maybe the answer lay in my Sikh roots. The religion of Sikhism is north of 500 years old and out of its total 25 million followers, more than 20 million Sikhs reside in India and almost 77% of them live in the state of Punjab. They form a meager 1.7% of India’s total population and in the 70 years since independence, have been persecuted on multiple occasions because of their religion.

In spite of their relatively trifling numbers, Sikhs played a major part in the Indian freedom struggle against the British. Come independence, Muslims decided to part ways and formed a separate republic, Pakistan, but Sikh leaders stuck with Nehru’s idea of a secular India and were, in return, promised adequate representation in the legislature.

As time passed by, the biggest political party, the ruling Indian National Congress, started to lose its grip on the state of Punjab, the sole Indian state where Hindus were in minority. To counter the Sikh political forces of those times, Congress co-opted a Sikh radical named Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale, who became so famous and powerful that he soon felt impregnable and turned against Congress, his maker.

In 1984, Bhinderanwale’s demand for an independent Sikh state did not go well with the Indian government and he was hunted down while hiding in the most revered of Sikh shrines, the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Beside targeting him and his associates, the Indian army used sniper fire, mortars, machine guns and tank fire to attack thousands of innocent pilgrims – men, women, children and old included – who were visiting the shrine for a Sikh festival. It wasn’t just an attack on a building, or on those thousands of innocents. It was a murderous onslaught on the psyche of millions of devout Sikhs.

Indian armed forces would never have carried out or would ever carry out a similar attack on a Hindu shrine, but what followed the Golden Temple incident is even more horrific.

The Sikh bodyguards of then-Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi assassinated her at point blank range and, in retaliation, a pan-India genocide of Sikhs was unleashed. Thousands of Sikh men were burnt alive, women were raped and killed, children and old were murdered. The political leaders who fuelled these riots have never been convicted; they still roam free, and of course the world is silent.

The state of Punjab was overtaken by militancy and the military after 1984 and, for the next decade, mayhem was the order of the day. The state police and the Indian armed forces had a free hand in the state; that lead to unprecedented atrocities and extra-judicial killings. The number of Sikh men who went missing in those 10-12 years is enormous.

Those who were lucky to escape the death circus sought political asylum in countries like the UK, Canada, Germany and the U.S. Today, the Sikh diaspora in these countries is resourceful, well-connected and politically affluent.

Even so, when they raise their voice today, against the 1984 genocide and those black days in the Punjab, the reaction from the Indian government is similar to the lack of response by the U.S. to the cries of the Palestinians.

The Indian government not only explicitly ignores our pleas for justice, it has been actively trying to subvert the rise of Sikhs in political circles abroad. One prime example is the sustained attempt by right-wing Hindu groups to  sabotage the rise of the Canadian National Democratic Party leader, Jagmeet Singh.

Sikhs know what it feels to be effectively shooed out of your homeland and be forced to live in exile; what it’s like to be shot at “just for fun,” as target practice; what it’s like to be harassed daily by state security forces; what it’s like to have a seven year-old arrested on charges of “terrorism”; and what it’s like when the world simply ignores your plight.

Maybe, just maybe, that is why I am speaking up here along with other Sikhs.  I could feel the misery, whereas others didn’t or wouldn’t; but before being a Sikh, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Jew or a Christian, we are all, equally, bones and flesh, a heart and a brain. Or at least, I hope we are.




What will it take to make Trudeau angry?

It is almost certain that if you search for ‘Modi’ on internet, you will come across scores of images showcasing his awkward hugs and handshakes with world leaders. You might remember how he left Prince William’s hand with visible marks after apparently a ‘strong’ hand shake or how he shoved Mark Zuckerberg to a side when Mark inadvertently stepped between the camera and PM Modi. Considering the aura and fan following that Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau carries across the world, one would have expected PM Modi to cash this opportunity and get some close-up portraits, but it dint happen. In fact, PM Modi did not even turn up to receive Justin Trudeau when he landed in India along with his wife and three children on Feb 17. On top of it, Modi dint feel necessary to send any of his senior colleagues but instead delegated a junior state minister to do so.

Did PMO office plan this deliberately to snub and disrespect Trudeau, PM of a G8 country? Did India overstep and will pay for this or has PM Modi chosen the right time to showcase the power that Indian state can wield?

This act of Modi government has left many observers bewildered but considering the latest events and happenings, it should have been anticipated. Modi government’s honeymoon period seems to have finally ended and the Indian electorate has started to express fatigue and restlessness. Multiple bye-poll losses in arguably the strongest BJP bastions, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have left the party think-tank extremely worried. The mess created by various reforms like demonetization, GST, Aadhaar and numerous scams namely the Rafael deal, PNB and more have re-enforced the lack of ‘Achhe Din’ in the voter’s psyche. The only ploy that still seems to be working for the party is ‘nationalism’. The way BJP was able to sell distress and discomfort caused by these reforms to the voter-base was by projecting it as a sacrifice for the greater good of the ‘nation’. Another popular craft often followed by BJP to stoke nationalism is by highlighting Jihadi and Khalistani terrorism.

This domestic policy of Modi government has a natural connection with Justin Trudeau and his government. Canada experienced a huge influx of Sikhs in 1980’s and 90’s, comprising mainly of innocents who were fleeing Punjab to avoid being framed and killed by the police gangs of KPS Gill and the likes. There were also some who escaped the law agencies in India after committing crimes of ‘revenge’. The hatred towards the Indian administration used to be conspicuous in the talks and demeanor of these new immigrants but with time passing by, most of them ‘moved on’ with their new Canadian lives. Those who could not, established organizations to keep the issues of Operation Bluestar and 1984 Sikh riots alive and since then have been vociferous supporters of Khalistan, a sovereign Sikh state potentially carved out of India. The Indian state consciously or not has been aiding the cause of these organizations by delaying justice to the Sikh victims, 33 years and counting.

To solidify its nationalistic stance, Modi government has brought up the issue of Khalistan time and again with Canadian authorities. Modi wants Trudeau to curb and rein in on any voice that is raised against India’s sovereignty and has termed the lack of this as Trudeau’s tacit support to anti-India voices in Canada. Interestingly enough, it does not end here. In general, the rise of Sikh politicians on foreign lands has made Sangh affiliated bodies uncomfortable from decades now, because these politicians do not fit the ideal caricature and image that RSS would like somebody of an Indian descent to project. This was observed in full public glare when RSS-backed bodies in Canada openly campaigned against Jagmeet Singh, the Canadian politician who eventually won the leadership race and now heads NDP, the third largest national party of Canada.

Canada on the other hand is known world-wide as a state that backs ‘freedom of expression’ in principle and practice alike. While maintaining the strong commitment of supporting and wishing for a united India, Canada keeps reinforcing the fact that peaceful and non-violent protests will never be curbed by Canadian authorities. This categorical refusal to heed to Indian demands and the rise of Sikh prowess in Canadian parliament have been instrumental in Modi not ‘cozy’ing up with Trudeau on his India visit.

18594571Sikhs form a formidable part of Canadian population and more so in 3 provinces, British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta. They tend to vote in blocks and because they are concentrated in certain areas, they hold the power to sway around 20 Parliament constituencies. Justin Trudeau can not be asked to appreciate this fact more, he already has 4 Sikh MPs in his cabinet and he clearly recognizes the importance of keeping the Sikh electorate close. What has changed in last few months is the rise of Jagmeet Singh, who will be fighting Trudeau in 2019 elections and is a charismatic young Sikh leader with the potential to dent Trudeau’s Sikh base. Out of the three major political parties of Canada, Trudeau’s Liberals and Singh’s NDP often fight over the anti-Conservative vote base.

Trudeau could not have timed his India visit better. Him being sidelined and snubbed by Modi for being close to Sikhs has strengthened his Sikh vote base back home and social media is already filled with bravado posts calling him ‘Sardar Justin Singh Trudeau’, ‘Sher-e-Punjab’ and more. To make it even better for himself, Trudeau has been successful to do so without publicly rebuking the Indian side. He can be seen enjoying his India trip, putting up more than a happy face and has signed bilateral deals worth $1 billion, creating 5800 new jobs back home.

Canadian and world media has been following Trudeau’s visit closely enough to notice the irregularities. Major news channels in Canada like CBC, Global and others have reported and questioned the cold-shouldering while the conservative leaning media houses have termed the Indo-Canadian relations to have hit ‘rock-bottom’. Many international channels like CNN and Al-Jazeera have also judged Modi government’s behavior as a ‘snub’.

In the end, either due to a well-planned propaganda by the BJP or due to ignorant speculation by the Indian media, Justin Trudeau is all over India’s news space, be it print or digital. Though, the left and right of Indian intelligentsia is conveniently thrashing him and hailing the stance of Indian authorities, Trudeau will surely fly out of India with a wider smile than he arrived with.


Ban on Indian officials by Sikh Gurdwaras abroad, and the reasons!

In a sweeping move, Sikh Gurdwara committees across Canada, US and UK have passed unanimous resolutions to bar officials representing India from using the Gurdwara premises to conduct any kind of activity in their official capacity. Across the board, the complaint is that Indian Consular officials interfere a plenty in the lives of Sikhs while propagating an agenda to undermine the autonomy of Sikh institutions and organizations. Along with the ban on Indian officials, US Gurdwaras have also forbidden the members of Shiv Sena and RSS from entering their premises. It has been explicitly communicated that if any official wishes to pay a visit in his or her personal capacity, the Gurdwaras as always will welcome them.


To many this might seem an impetuous move, but exasperation amongst the Sikh bodies has been simmering for long now. In Canada for instance, Indian officials have been allegedly used as tools by the Indian state to severely undermine the recognition of the Sikh genocide motion passed by the Ontario legislature. The proponents of the genocide motion have been regularly intimidated using tools such as black listing and this is generally done by gaining access to Gurdwaras on the pretext of conducting ceremonies.

This doesn’t end here, as reported by me earlier, there were numerous reports of Indian High Commission in Ottawa meddling with Canadian politican, Jagmeet Singh’s affairs as well where it tried to influence voters against him. Singh claimed that many of his donors backed out at the last moment alleging pressure from the Indian government and that some Hindu organisations in Canada (backed by the RSS) openly campaigned against him.  It is widely believed by the Sikh diaspora that RSS is consistently using the Indian missions to sabotage religious and political prowess of Sikhs, especially in Canada and US.

In UK, an added factor played a part in this decision making. The widely reported torture and confinement of Scottish citizen Jagtar Singh ‘Jaggi’ by the Punjab police has irked the UK Sikhs like it hasn’t in the past many years. Even after months of police and judicial remands, the Indian investigation agencies haven’t been able to charge him with anything though reports of extreme affliction and forced coercions have been flowing consistently to UK.

Indian government’s interference in the NRI Sikh affairs isn’t unfounded. After its forced death around 1992, the Khalistan movement has been kept alive by Sikh secessionists settled in Canada, US and Europe. Certain Gurdwaras in these countries proudly display images and hoardings indicating the desire to have an independent Punjab by the year 2020. It is worth mentioning that western democracies do not demonize or prosecute such freedom of expression because in their law books this doesn’t amount to sedition. India on the other hand has a staunch belief that such activities should be nipped in the bud and in their quest of doing so, India has often ended up painting the entire NRI Sikh community with the single brush and these days, tagging them collectively as Khalistani terrorists is a common discourse on twitter and in the editorials.

Sikhs of independent India have had kaleidoscopic experiences. On one hand they were celebrated as a progressive and marshal race with much fanfare, while on the other they were killed like rats by state sponsored goons. They were fortunate to enjoy the biggest farming gains during the green revolution but then they were later killed in cold blood by the likes of KPS Gill in the very same fields. During this dark period, Sikhs in the number of lakhs left Punjab for safer pastures in North America and Europe and since then have made those foreign lands their homes. These Sikhs have not forgotten that justice has escaped them and their brethren back home. When an Indian official, while ignoring their pain and agony, gives an insensitive speech in a Gurdwara, which these Sikhs built and are managing from decades using their hard earned money, it hurts them, and why shouldn’t it?


The real master-mind or an NRI scape-goat?

Every time I sat down to pen this piece, I was stopped by a voice within. It shouted to me,

“You will be labeled a Khalistani. You will be abused, slandered and trolled by thousands. Your loyalties will be questioned, upbringing will be targeted and might even be threatened with murder”

I finally stood up and shouted back. The story started two weeks ago when Jagtar Singh Johal, a UK citizen was arrested by Punjab Police. He was travelling with his newly-wedded wife and a female cousin when their car was apprehended by plain-clothed police men and Jagtar was forcibly put into a van with a sack on his head. This incident happened around Jalandhar and his wife was told nothing except that he is being taken to Faridkot. Jagtar is a UK-born Sikh man with no immediate family in Punjab, except his grandaunt who lives in the ancestral village. He was on a visit to Punjab in order to tie the marital knot which he did with much fan-fare on 18th of October.


With the dramatic arrest, the ordeal had just begun. Jagtar wasn’t taken to Faridkot but instead to Bagha Purana and it took days for his kin to locate him. To add to it, there was no FIR filed against his name and nobody including his lawyers was allowed to meet him. When he was finally presented in the court, it was told that he was being held up on the grounds of financing the purchase of weapons used in the killing of prominent Hindu leaders in Punjab. The same day Jagtar alleged that he was being brutally tortured by the police through electrocution of his ear lobes, nipples, genitals and was being coerced into a confession. On the other side, the police also raided his in-laws home and harassed his wife’s family for multiple days. They took the male members of his in-law’s family into detention and allegedly asked questions from ‘when did you last go to Pakistan’ to ‘what do you think about the idea of Khalistan?’ The police also paid a visit to his grandaunt and after questioning her, disconnected her land-line phone which is her only means of staying connected with the family.

The Sikh population in UK has taken this episode extremely seriously and there have been wide spread protests to put pressure on the UK authorities to intervene. Earlier, the police wasn’t allowing British consulate officers to meet Jagtar but after 175 UK MPs came forward in Jagtar’s support, the officers were finally allowed to. The behaviour of the investigators has been strikingly notorious all the way, as an example, they did not allow Jagtar to retain the warm clothing that his lawyers and family brought for him. His supporters in UK fear that Jagtar has been targeted over his magazine that he runs highlighting the Sikh genocide in 1984 and amid claims that he was “influencing the youth through social media”.

What is worth noting is that the police is yet to ascertain what they want to charge Jagtar with. Over the days, they have come up with different stories. An officer who did not want to be named, told newspapers that the police has been keeping an eye on his Facebook profile from long and, “We visited every person who had made a comment on fiery posts of Johal endorsing Khalistan and other issues of radicals. Some key radicals were zeroed in on, and by using our sources in the UK we kept on tracking Johal’s links with other groups. It was found that he was actively associated with the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) and knew some pro-Khalisanti forces in Pakistan as well.” In another account the police has mentioned that they are finding clues to ascertain whether Johal was aware of the money, which he was sending through hawala, was to be used for buying weapons for the killings or he was just made a scapegoat for using hawala money to park his business profits.

As Indians we are not startled much by such sagas and this seems just another story of police excesses. What is worrying though is the stereotypical trend that started to emerge in Punjab since the last year. As many would know, before the 2017 elections AAP had a strong wave and was poised to sweep Punjab as predicted by pollsters left and right. To counter some of the NRI support of AAP, Congress’s CM contender Capt Amarinder Singh was supposed to visit Canada but was legally blocked by a Sikh organization of North America. He was so miffed that he vowed not to ask for NRI support and threatened them with the idea of not letting them ever visit Punjab if he came to power. The strategists in Congress came up with the idea to use the blockage to their advantage. They started pitching AAP as a party funded by Khalistani NRIs and as a result won handsomely on the urban and the Hindu vote. Had it stopped at just being an election strategy, it wouldn’t have been troublesome but since then, Capt has disagreed to meet Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, spoken openly against newly elected Canadian NDP chief Jagmeet Singh and openly labeled Canadian Govt and its several ministers as pro-Khalistanis. In Jagtar’s case, through the Punjab Police DGP, Punjab government has attacked the British government for being complicit in Khalistani terrorist activities. The exact statement was, “We have enough leads with us that the British government was aware about such plots being run on their land and the mingling of ISI sleuths with the Sikh extremists in that country.” The fear I want to express here is about the subsequent alienation of not only the NRI Punjabis but of responsible and developed countries worldwide. In his quest of appeasing the specific radical Hindu base, Capt Amarinder might end up pushing Punjab into the black days, intentionally or otherwise.

As a layman, it is hard for me to believe that a master-mind of numerous killings will come all the way from UK to India, endangering his freedom when he was anyways getting his plan executed comfortably from UK. On the other hand, it is relatively easier for me to see this as an attempt of the current dispensation to serve their narrative, but maybe it is just me. If for a moment we do believe the story being projected by the police, even then the treatment being meted out to Jagtar is uncalled for. Would the police and the administration have behaved in the same manner had it been a white guy from UK? Ponder over this thought and you would understand why all of this is happening to Jaggi, the name Jagtar’s friends know him by back home, in Scotland.


Why doesn’t India like Jagmeet Singh?

I’m officially launching my campaign to be the next Prime Minister of Canada.

This was Jagmeet Singh’s first tweet after being elected as the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) – the third biggest political force of the country. Singh became the first ever visible minority member to lead a major national party in Canada. Born to Punjabi Sikh parents in Scarborough, Ontario this kid went onto become a successful lawyer, a martial artist, a budding politician and now a potential future-PM. Normally even a humbler achievement than this of an Indian-origin person invokes thunderous applauds and victory sagas back home in India, but this one did not.


Jagmeet does not have many friends in Delhi. He has always been a staunch anti-Congress voice due to the party’s role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and has been the strongest force in Canada with respect to getting these riots termed as a ‘genocide’. He has also maintained the stance that the riots were an attempt by the government to extinguish the Sikh community from India and thus he was denied the visa to India by the UPA government back in 2013.

It is worth noting that Jagmeet does not restrict himself to speaking for the Sikh justice alone. His holistic approach of standing in solidarity with the side-lined and minorities in general has won him many followers in Canada. For this very reason, along with the Congress, he has also been a critic of Narendra Modi – due to Sangh’s active role in numerous anti-muslim riots. He strongly believes that minority voices in India are stifled and critics of the government are victimized. The hyper-nationalist BJP government of India doesn’t see him as a natural ally either. This was apparent during Jagmeet’s campaign, as there were numerous reports of Indian High Commission in Ottawa meddling in his affairs and trying to influence people against him. Jagmeet claimed that many of his donors backed out at the last moment alleging pressure from the Indian government. Few of the Hindu organizations in Canada actually campaigned openly against Jagmeet and asked people to avoid voting for him.

This was all at the central government level, and in spite of being a Sikh, Jagmeet isn’t popular with any of the political parties in Punjab either. This was made apparent recently after one of his interviews in which Jagmeet categorically said that he considers self-determination to be ‘a basic right’. He added that such a demand can be in Quebec, Catalonia or Punjab. Punjabi politicians from Capt. Amarinder Singh to the Akali spokesperson to AAP head Bhagwant Mann pounced on him in one voice rejecting his thought process. It is worth noting that Jagmeet has been raised in Canada, a country where freedom of speech, expression and self-determination is engraved as tenets. He isn’t labeled as an anti-national by the nationalist Canadians when he says so for Quebec – a province in Canada. In any of his speeches or interviews he has NEVER supported or called for an armed rebellion against the state of India. He has never said that terrorism in Punjab was justified. All he has ever asked for is giving the people the right to choose.

Indian political discourse has miles to go before it can even think of matching what Canada achieved on Oct 1, 2017 and Jagmeet Singh’s election is not just his win, it’s a win for democracy, tolerance, humanity, it’s a win for Canada.

Hamid’s only fault – being an Ansari



Hamid Ansari, the former Vice President of India, in an interview to Karan Thapar right before leaving the office, agreed that there is a feeling of unease and a sense of insecurity among the Muslims in the country. It is apparent that he made these remarks in the backdrop of numerous incidents of intolerance and cow vigilantism against the Muslim community in the past few months. Did he say that he himself felt insecure? No. Did he say that in his assessment an average muslim feels so? Yes. And is he alone in saying this? Definitely no.

Amnesty International in its June 28, 2017 news reports said, “The attacks have contributed to a growing sense of insecurity for many Muslims, and intensified religious tensions.” A joint report by two other rights groups, Mumbai-based Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) and the UK-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG) has accused the BJP for the spike in communal violence post its 2014 election win. A US government report, released by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) says, hate crimes against religious minorities, their social boycotts and forced conversions have escalated dramatically in India since 2014.

It is interesting and worth noting that none of these organizations came under such a zealous, hateful and systematic attack by India’s right as Mr. Ansari did.  After his interview, the national executive member of the BJP women wing, Priti Gandhi tweeted, “For 10 yrs my Hindu majority nation accepted you with open arms, placed you at the pinnacle of power & you still feel uneasy. Agenda kya hai?”. We might never know Ansari’s agenda but hers seemed obvious. She wanted to point out that Muslims are able to live in India thanks to the kindness of the Hindu majority and they should be thus grateful for it. Seems it does not matter that Ansari dint say that he was uncomfortable, because Mrs. Gandhi made full effort to suggest that the VP himself felt uneasy despite his high post.

An RSS leader, Indresh Kumar addressing a gathering in Nagpur, alleged that Ansari who remained secular for his whole tenure has now become a hardliner. According to Mr. Kumar, holding a sympathetic opinion about ones fellow community people is enough to qualify one as a fundamentalist. So much for Sangh’s own community outreach programs and cries for Hindu nation. After Indresh, it was the turn of Ansari’s successor, Venkaiah Naidu. He said to a PTI correspondent, “some people are saying minorities are insecure. It is a political propaganda. Compared to the entire world, minorities are more safe and secure in India and they get their due.” I wonder, what makes Naidu, a Hindu leader’s comments dismissing Muslim victimization, any less political and communal than Ansari’s?

Many more BJP and RSS leaders took blows at Ansari but a worthy mention goes to dear PM Modi.  His jibe and sarcasm was extremely stinging and direct. His exact words were, “A major part of your tenure as a diplomat has been spent in West Asia. Many years of your life were spent in that circle. You lived in that atmosphere, that thought, the debates among those people. Even after retirement, your work was the same, be it the Minority Commission or Aligarh University, your circle was the same”. He suggested explicitly that Ansari has been surrounded by ungrateful Muslims all his life, who thrive on victimhood mentality and will never be able come out of it. I would like to know if someone will ever mention the analogous to Mr. Modi? Would anyone dare to tell him how all his life he’s been surrounded by Sangh and like-minded people who must have made him a loathing Hindu and a Muslim-hating bigot?

It is worth mentioning that right wing’s peculiar liking for Abdul Kalam, another prominent Muslim who held a high constitutional post in recent times, bears from the fact that all his life, Kalam never raised an issue which was exclusive to the plight of Muslims. For the BJP, Kalam was, is and will remain the educated, vegetarian, bachelor – ‘good’ Muslim whose appointment as the President of India served as an emergency rescue for BJP’s tarnished image after the 2002 riots. Had Kalam gotten up and spoken openly about the Muslim killings of those times, presumably the right would have lynched his image the same way or even worse than Ansari. It is wonder-able as to what exactly is minority-appeasement that the right in India talks about? Till a Kalam, an Ansari or a Manmohan Singh latches on to his seat without saying a word about his community’s state or persecution, he is treated as a symbol of Hindu tolerance and large hearted-ness; and as soon as he utters a word, the tag of a Pakistani or a Khalistani is always mere few inches away.

Nobody should have an iota of doubt that casting aspersions on Mr. Ansari is way more convenient and main-stream than on the Modis or the Naidus, just because he’s a Muslim. This goes beyond political leaders and extends to media personalities and influencers likewise. As an example, it took Sudhir Chaudhary (Editor-in-Chief of Zee News) a tiny column in DNA to label Ansari an equivalent of Pakistani propagandist. Mr. Chaudhary went on to remind Ansari how India in-spite of being a Hindu majority nation has been so kind to the Bollywood Khans. He for sure took his inspiration from Mrs. Gandhis tweet, mentioned earlier.

Another interesting and provoking piece on the topic is from Anand Vardhan at Newslaundry. He not only praised Modi for calling Ansari out for his ‘minoritarian alarm’, but also lent a lineage to Ansari’s comments and behaviour by linking it to Aligarh Muslim University. Maybe Mr. Vardhan wants a tank at AMU after one has been installed at JNU already. Again, according to him, a Muslim VP pointing out the fallacy of the current government by voicing his honest opinion on the condition of Muslims is an un-statesman like behaviour. It seems his main objection is to Mr. Ansari’s perception of labeling ‘every day’ skirmishes as ‘hate crimes’. I guess he also needs to look at the above mentioned independent agency reports and judge for himself if killing of innocent Muslims in broad daylight by blood thirsty Hindu mobs should be called a skirmish or an act of communal violence. He goes on to confidently say that directly elected political leaders like the PM, have the right to be perceptive, have an opinion and even express it but others like Mr. Ansari should be cold and rely on critical scrutiny. This seemed an extremely sad and desperate attempt to defend the even sadder Mann Ki Baat series of PM Modi and the daily venom that comes out of one or the other BJP MP’s mouth.

Hamid Ansari, the grandson of a renowned freedom fighter, has displayed exemplary service ethics and behaviour in all his public postings ranging from IFS, United Nations representative, Indian high commissioner, Ambassador and many others. To bring him down to the level of trolls is a grave injustice and mistake on the part of the trolls, few of which I have highlighted above.


No state deserves a KPS Gill

Thousands of mothers await their sons even though some may know that that the oppressor has not spared their sons’ lives on this earth. A mother’s heart is such that even if she sees her son’s dead body, she does not accept that her son has left her. And those mothers who have not even seen their children’s dead bodies, they were asking us: at least find out, is our son alive or not?1

-Jaswant Singh Khalra, human rights activist, killed October 1995


KPS Gill’s tale begins in 1988, when he came to Punjab as the Director General of Police. Punjab back then was a state reeling in militancy and facing it’s darkest times. To understand the Punjab phenomenon, we need to go further back, to around 1977 when after losing an election, the disgruntled former CM, Giani Zail Singh cooked up a strategy with Sanjay Gandhi to create an alternative sikh power house against the rising Akali Dal. This event marked the emergence of Sant Bhinderanwale and little did the Congress party realize that they had created a Frankenstein. Bhinderanwale, due to his radical ideas and exemplary oratory skills, became a rage in the revolutionary minds of Punjab and after realizing the extent of his hold and influence, he stopped heeding to his masters all together. The 1980s in Punjab witnessed a decade-long insurgency by Sikh militants, primarily attempting to procure greater autonomy. Militants were responsible for numerous excesses, including the killings of Hindu and Sikh civilians and assassinations of political leaders.

The Indian state reacted to all of this with utmost force. The particular state action which catapulted Punjab into a black hole was the 1984 army invasion of the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, Harmandir Sahib. The state attack was not just on the religious centre, but the political mecca of Sikhs as well. Along with the militants, thousands of innocent pilgrims were massacred and the holy building was almost completely destroyed by the army tanks. This attack affected the Indian Sikh psyche (even the moderate ones) more than anything ever had and it started to seem that India might lose Punjab. As a result of the simmering anger, in October 1984, the Sikh bodyguards of Indira Gandhi assassinated her. What followed the Indira Gandhi killing is the bloodiest riot in the history of independent India (leaving the partition). More than 10,000 Sikhs were killed by Congress party supporters (primarily Hindus) across the country. If anything could make the Punjab situation worse, it was this.

From May 11, 1987 to February 25, 1992, the Indian government dismissed the elected government in Punjab and imposed President’s Rule. This coincided with the time when KPS was brought in to try his iron hand on the terrorists. Also, the National Security Act was amended to allow detention without trial for up to two years in Punjab for acts prejudicial to the security or defence of India. Along with this, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act of 1987 gave rights to the police for using confessions in the court as admissible evidence. The police brutality that ensued saw thousands of terrorists being killed and prosecuted but a much greater amount of innocent Sikhs being framed in false cases and killed in fake encounters. Reports from different human rights groups, media houses like BBC, and the US state department explain in detail how Punjab police under KPS was worse than even the militants. What KPS promoted is called ‘meeting targets’ in today’s marketing lingo. A police officer who could bring a certain number of dead bodies of ‘alleged’ terrorists was rewarded and recognized highly. As a result, there were villages which ended up with no Sikh male at all in the age range of 15 to 40. They were either arrested, killed or they escaped to save their lives. Innocent or terrorist ceased to matter in KPS’s time, and then the families of those who ran away were often tortured while other measures like destruction of property and livestock were also used extensively.

In early 1995, human rights activists Jaswant Singh Khalra exposed over 6,000 secret cremations by the police in just one of then 13 districts in Punjab. Later, in the same year he was arrested by the police, but no records were shown of his detention. He was never found after. By the time Gill retired from the IPS in 1995, 500 Punjab police personnel were facing lawsuits already. By 1997, it increased to 1200 and the government had to disburse lakhs of rupees as damages in umpteen number of cases that ended up in victim’s favour. There is no dearth of such incidents, reports, evidence and court rulings that clearly dictate the mismanagement and brutality of KPS’s time.

The sins of Gill though, do not just end with his retirement. After leading the described reign of terror, he just went away from Punjab and never ever returned back. He did not care to fight for his junior officers and a lot of them ended up in jail while he lived a life of luxury and power. A few of those police officers committed suicide, the case of Ajit Singh Sandhu being a famous one. KPS Gill later ran another super mismanaged organization, the Indian Hockey Federation and got embroiled in the charges of nepotism and incompetence. Also, in 1996, he was convicted for sexual harassing a lady IAS officer named Rupan Deol Bajaj.

Despite all the known facts, there are many main-stream journalists like Shekhar Gupta who carry and propagate a very rosy picture of KPS Gill and his role in bringing peace to Punjab. Mr. Gupta’s hate for anything remotely related to Sikh identity and autonomy is well known and can be observed in his anniversary writings about Operation Bluestar. A more surprising piece of writing though was the recent opinion article by Hartosh Singh Bal in scroll.in, where he based his entire 2500 word essay on facts and numbers from an organization named Institute of Conflict Management Data. He did not mention even once that this particular body was founded and headed by KPS Gill himself. It’s not only strange but disrespectful towards the thousands of innocents killed by the same man. The only argument that Hartosh might have, is the first line of his piece, “Anything I write on KPS Gill cannot be unbiased.”



Why does the right suddenly love Bhagat Singh?

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“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feelings of a heartless world just as it is the spirit of unspiritual conditions. It is the opium of the people. People cannot be really happy until they have been deprived of illusory happiness by the abolition of religion”

These are few of the lines written and quoted by Bhagat Singh (1907-1931) against religiosity, doctrine and communalism. If he was alive today, there is no doubt that he would have been an ‘anti-national sickular‘ in the eyes of BJP, RSS, the supportive twitter trolls and the conforming media channels. So it amazes one and all when PM Narendra Modi regularly tweets on every 23rd March (since last 2-3 years) about how inspiring Bhagat Singh’s sacrifice was and how Bhagat was the real son of the soil.

If we go back 85 years, things were never rosy between Bhagat Singh and the Sangh. During the late 1920’s, the founder of RSS (1925), Hedgewar was completely focused on developing the organizational framework and he steered clear of the anti-colonial politics. He was so busy in strengthening his clutch on the Hindus that he never showed interest in even the Congress’s efforts towards the freedom struggle. Likewise, British never considered Hedgewar a threat and labeled him the same in their annual intelligence reports. Finally, when Bhagat Singh was executed, Hedgewar was busy in Varanasi arranging RSS programs and he had absolutely no views to express on this gross travesty of justice.

Another Sangh ideologue of the time, Savarkar was busy bringing together the upper-caste Hindus and the untouchables during the days when Bhagat Singh was hanged. Savarkar was more pro-British than even Hedgewar and was released by the British from jail after he pledged to never practice politics again. Also, Savarkar was typically infamous because of his multiple pleading letters and requests of mercy to the British. We can take a pause and compare this with what Bhagat Singh did instead. In the end, to set the record straight, Balasahab Deoras, the third chief of the RSS went on to the extent of calling Bhagat Singh and his contemporaries ‘stupids‘ in one of his writings.

From the very beginning, the RSS thinking and ideology is expressed in its regular magazines/newspapers and there is not a single line challenging, exposing, criticizing or confronting the inhuman rule of the British masters in the entire literature of the RSS from 1925 to 1947. It is also well documented that the Sangh did not take part in the Quit India movement but there is more to it than just maintaining the status-quo.  Syama Prasad Mukherjee, who was then the Hindu Mahasabha president and later founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (which subsequently evolved to BJP) collaborated with the British to kill the Quit India Movement.

So, how on the earth does today’s BJP try to own up Bhagat Singh, a young maverick whose only life goal was to see an independent India; and on top of it, he was a Marxist, a word that cannot go down the throat of a single Sangh affiliate today or back then. Bhagat Singh is not the only one though, whom the Sangh tries to grab from the history books. Now and again, they vehemently lay a similar claim on Sardar Patel and Ambedkar. In the absence of any national hero of their own, this vulturism seems to be their only option and a well-read populace should be able to un-code their sly agenda.

What went wrong for AAP in Punjab?


Every Punjabi voter irrespective of the party choice, every journalist that visited Punjab in these last few months, every newspaper’s editorial section and even the opponents of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in private unanimously expressed a common thought before the March 11 results. The thought being, AAP will secure anywhere from 45 to 75 seats in the new assembly and be the major player in government formation. AAP leaders, aware of this strong perception were not at all modest and could be often seen making tall claims, some even vouching for 100+ seats in the 117 member assembly. Along with the public mood, they had other more reliable cues to be as confident as they were. Lakhs of Punjabis turned up in hundreds of rallies that AAP organized in 6 odd months before the elections. Having not relied on distributing liquor, money and other favours to attract the crowd, it made the leaders, the volunteers and the supporters extremely confident of a landslide victory. So did something change suddenly? Why did Congress come out victorious in the Punjab battle? Did anything transpire behind the scenes that completely falsified and destroyed the virtual AAP-wave? Let us divulge into few of the post-result theories to explain this unexpected result of AAP ending up with just 22 seats.

Looking at the constituency-wise polling data, the most obvious reflection is that the worst areas of performance for AAP were the urban centres and the Hindu-dominated pockets. What deficiencies did AAP suffer from that it ended up repelling this demography completely? It is extremely intriguing because out of Kejriwal and his opponents Capt Amarinder and Prakash Singh Badal, he is the one and the only Hindu face. To understand this, we should go back 18 months to the time when the AAP-wave started emerging. The Sikh groups were up in arms because of the inability of the Akalis to nab the culprits responsible for numerous sacrilege incidents of the Guru Granth Sahib. The disenchantment with the government was at its peak and the only one that listened to all these folks was Arvind Kejriwal. He came to the Muktsar Maghi Mela and roared, promising to punish the culprits in front of this crowd of lakhs of Sikhs. The Panthic vote that normally used to sway elections in the favour of the Akalis started moving towards AAP. This shift continued when AAP pandered to the affluent NRI Punjabis in Canada, US and rest of the world. The NRIs (mostly Sikhs) not only donated large amounts of money but also came in droves to campaign for the party. All seemed to be going well for AAP until the strategists in the Congress decided to turn the tables. It is noteworthy here that thousands of Punjabis left India and took asylum in different foreign countries during the dark days of militancy. After being unsuccessful in attracting any NRI support for these elections, Congress decided to take its chance and took an anti-NRI stance. Capt in his speeches started blaming AAP for using Khalistani money in its campaign and for cozying up with anti-national secessionist forces. This rhetoric did strike well with the Hindus, also because they have suffered historically at the hands of Sikh extremists. To add to the fear, just 40 days before the polls, a right-wing Hindu leader was shot dead in Ludhiana by unidentified gunmen and just 4 days before the polls, a blast ripped through a Congress political rally at Maur near Bathinda. Nobody has till date been arrested for any of these two incidents and it seems nobody will ever be.

An outsider might tend to think of Punjab as a Sikh state which is without any doubt an ignorant and faulty assessment at multiple levels. Hindu voters have always been the deciding factor in Punjab elections, be it when they helped Congress of 2002 topple the Akalis or when they sided with BJP-Akali alliance in 2007 and 2012. Even within the Sikhs of Punjab, divisions run deep on the lines of caste, urban-rural divide and even the occupation. Affluent urban Sikhs along with the service-class could not come around supporting a risky, macho and unconventional party being run on the ground by young and passionate volunteers. They just could not believe that AAP had it in it to give them a stable government. The same slogans of Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann that drew and attracted thousands of rural voters every single day, fell flat in front of this group of people. This was supposed to be the silent voter that could take AAP across the 59 seat mark but on the voting day it spoke up for the tried and tested leadership of Capt Amarinder. AAP did realize this mistake around a month before the polls and even came up with a special manifesto for the government employees, but maybe it was too late.

One of the main reason why AAP could not come across as a stable option was its inability to project a CM-face. This gave the opposing parties a chance to spread numerous conspiracy theories such as AAP importing a parachute CM from outside the state. For a state known to always elect a Sikh CM, this uncertainty was too much to digest. AAP on the other hand, feared creating factions within the party and thus kept several leaders like Mann, HS Phoolka, Sukhpal Khaira, Kanwar Sandhu and even youngsters like Harjot Bains and Himmat Shergill in fray for the CM post. It did not want to pitch the supporters of these leaders against each other by announcing any one name. These leaders belonged to Punjab and given a chance, anyone of them could have carved a niche in people’s hearts and minds but with uncertainty looming over the heads of these leaders, the voters always perceived them as one rung below the Delhi appointed duo of Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak. Punjabis are known to be loving, kind, affectionate and accepting, but they are also known to be people with pride. When Congress and Akalis told the voters again and again about people from UP deciding AAP’s candidates and thus their future, AAP suddenly started to seem as the outsider party to the voters. The same voters who had passionately chosen AAP in 2014 Lok Sabha elections now seemed hesitant. Even the well thought and researched AAP strategy of attacking Akalis on the rampant drug usage in Punjab was projected by the Akali-BJP alliance as a ploy of some outsiders to malign the Punjabi youth.

Coming to ticket distribution, the failure of AAP leadership to placate Navjot Sidhu should be seen as a major factor contributing especially to its dismal performance in the Majha region. It can however also be debated that promising the CM post to Sidhu would have resulted in Mann and Phoolka turning rogue and thus hurting AAP even more but in politics, you are expected to be astute and smart enough to manufacture compromises that suit multiple sides and Kejriwal failed to do so in this particular case. Another peculiar problem for AAP was the lack of funds with regards to certain candidates. Even if the party was willing to offer tickets to old time volunteers and workers, certain potential candidates were not well-off financially and could not garner sufficient donations to run a decent campaign. These tickets were thus awarded to the next best choice or to the most affluent one, which along with inviting dissent from the party workers also meant weak candidates.

In the end, what was supposed to be an AAP-wave ended up being Congress’s baby in spite of the Congress losing 2% votes in comparison to 2012. The main reason being, AAP severely denting the Akali vote-bank of 2012 and bringing it down by almost 10%. AAP did extremely well in the reserved seats in Malwa and gained some rural Congress vote-share too but the same Congress was able to snatch BJP votes and thus managed to produce terrific performance in cities across the state. BJP came out as the worst in these elections with just 3 seats out of the 23 it contested.

It is worth mentioning that post-failure, it is easier to point out the flaws and invent plausible theories to satisfy the outcomes but it should not be forgotten that a 4-year old party is now the official opposition in the Punjab assembly while the 95-year old Akali Dal has been decimated to the third position. No doubt AAP has a lot to learn from this election, but it should take solace in the fact that its entire campaign was executed on the ground by inexperienced but passionate and hard-working youngsters who were extremely close to out-maneuver Prashant Kishore, who himself tweeted acknowledging this fact.