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This refers to your cover story Panth and a Foreign Hand (Feb 12). Insightful coverage of how the attitudes of the Sikh diaspora are shaping up around the question of Khalistan. Prof Rajivlochan’s article, The British Seeds of Secession, provided an apt historical backdrop to put the current separatist trend in perspective.
Guriqbal Singh Bodal, On E-Mail
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s approach to the issue of separatism is rational and pragmatic. His statement, “It is only the radicals and the Khalistani sympathisers with whom I have a problem,” is reassuring given how sensitive the situation is in the current context of the Sikh diaspora. The government at the Centre would be able to deal with the problem better if they engaged with Captain Singh in spite of their political differences.
S. Sreenivas, Bangalore
The Indian government doesn’t want Sikhs and other minorities to raise their voices against the long and continuing history of human rights violations in India. Before venturing into an analysis of how minorities in Western countries are ‘overstepping the line’, why don’t the government and the media (hard to tell which is which anymore) look at what is happening within the country? Here, right wing Hindutva forces are openly threatening, attacking and killing innocents belonging to minorities while the government looks the other way.
Kanwal Gill, On E-Mail
This refers to Marked by a violent time. Kulbir Kaur Dhami has set a great example by taking hundreds of children—who were orphaned or abandoned due to police encounters during and after the Punjab insurgency years—into her care. Since both Kulbir Kaur and her husband had experienced suffering in those times, they would have known well how to take care of the youngsters who were left alone at the end of a dreadfully violent conflict.
Ramachandran Nair, Muscat
It seems Canada’s multiculturalism model is being exploited by all the hardline elements, whether it is Khalistanis or Islamists. PM Justin Trudeau’s appeasement policy may bear sour fruits for Canada in the future.
Prateek Sachan, On E-Mail
By saying that he has no reservations in welcoming Canadian PM Justin Trudeau to Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh has shown admirable statesmanship. He had earlier boycotted Canadian defence minister Harjit Sajjan and advised Trudeau to keep a check on Khalistani elements in Canada. The Punjab CM’s advice about the burgeoning of Khalistani elements’ ingress and influence in the Canadian government must be considered seriously by Trudeau. In 2017, some ministers with Khalistani leanings in Trudeau’s cabinet prevented Singh from meeting with the Punjabi diaspora in Canada, when he went there before the Punjab Assembly elections.
P.S. Kaur, On E-Mail
Despite abjectly ignoring the rights of Canada’s indigenous population, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s diversity and inclusion experiment has earned him the affection of many communities, including Sikhs. Even those within the Sikh diaspora with separatist leanings have warmed up to the perhaps ‘overliberal’ Trudeau. But Canada’s liberal edifice is also marked by a painful chapter, the bombed AI Flight 182 in 1985 in which the majority of the dead were Canadians. Khalistan sympathisers have found quite an acceptance in Trudeau’s government. A poll conducted by the Canada-based Angus Reid Institute showed that nearly two-thirds of Canadians are open to the idea of having a Sikh PM. Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament, had emerged as a viable leader of the New Democratic Party. Singh’s statement that self-determination is a basic right of the people in Punjab, Quebec and Catalonia, reminds us of the black days of the Khalistan movement, way back in the 1980s. The way these elements are getting a foothold in Canada, it won’t be impossible for a Khalistani sympathiser to become Canada’s PM.
Lal Singh, Amritsar
Stereotypes in both Indian literature and popular culture have portrayed Sikh characters as ‘courageous, loyal but slow witted’. Instances of such depictions are clear cases of essentialism. I was reading an account of an American traveller who wrote about a Sikh he met on a rail journey. It was so fresh and original. Sometimes, you need an outside gaze to peep into your own history from a new perspective.
Sumir Sharma, On E-Mail
Unless it is acknowledged and dealt with every day, a violent past never ceases to haunt.
Anil S., On E-Mail
The timing of your cover story, Panth and the Foreign hand, coinciding with the Canadian PM’s trip to India, expected to start on February 17, leaves none in doubt that Outlook has aimed to embarrass Justin Trudeau. The latest issue of your magazine is a well-planned propaganda sheet containing stereotyped anti-Sikh propaganda, akin to what the Indian establishment has been doing for decades—refusing to acknowledge the sovereign character of the Sikh people and their aspirations for independence.
This is nothing new. It has been going on since the seventies. In December 1971, when Dr Jagjit Singh Chauhan ran an advertisement in The New York Times introducing the mission for Khalistan, India ran a propaganda piece which said that the CIA was behind the move. In August 1982, after Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale launched the ‘Dharam Yudh Morcha’ and the subsequent armed resistance by Sikh freedom fighters against Indian repression, India blamed Pakistan for perpetuating the struggle in Punjab.
This time around, as the Outlook cover story shows, the language is similar; only, the focus of India and the media has changed. The new target is the Sikh community in the UK, Italy and Canada, courtesy of Punjab police framing charges against a few Sikhs residing in these countries for funding the independence struggle in Punjab. Unfortunately, Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, with his new-found love for neo-nationalism (read Hindutva) and Narendra Modi, has corroborated these accusations.
By carrying the photo of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau on the cover page with the title Khalistan-II (Made in Canada), the magazine has offended the political sensibilities of Canada—a Commonwealth friend of India—and started a fresh tirade against the Sikh diaspora, which as part of the Sikh nation has been making the right moves on Canadian soil—raising human rights concerns and endorsing the call for the right to self-determination.
The Sikhs settled in Canada, the UK, Europe and elsewhere need no certification or clearance to stand up for the rights of the Sikhs in Punjab, who are suffering under the jackboot of Indian hegemony. They are well within their social and political rights to lend voice to the true destiny of the Sikhs and to highlight human rights abuses in Punjab.
Who are these Sikhs? India perceives all diaspora Sikhs supporting the right to self-determination as agents out to create mischief in India. The reality is that they are Punjabi-born Sikhs who have migrated to foreign countries, and who want to see their homeland free from India’s political stranglehold.
With India facing embarrassment as many of its officials have been debarred from Gurdwara premises due to their malicious campaign against Sikh activists, Outlook’s cover story looks like India’s response to the movement brewing in Canada.
We are grateful to Canada for its multicultural ethos and the space that it provides for the free expression of the political will of the Sikhs and others. India will never be able to digest that Canada and other countries are much more vibrant democracies. While in India, the right to freedom of expression is only on paper, in countries like Canada, it is being practised in letter and spirit.
New Delhi is in denial mode as far as Sikh aspirations for independence are concerned. They never accepted that the Sikh liberation struggle is indigenous in character and that the aspiration for nationhood is rooted in the Sikh religio-political doctrine. Ever since the Sikhs lost their self-rule in 1859, they have been longing to regain it.
Indeed, as the Outlook reporter has mentioned in the concluding paragraph, the original issues—the attack on Darbar Sahib, the November 1984 pogrom and the failure of India’s justice delivery system have further strengthened the Sikh resolve to be free from the Indian yoke.
Pressures of survival, the gradual assimilation of the Sikh ethos and culture and economic interests may have gained some leverage in today’s times, but at heart, the Sikh spirit is free. This free spirit will continue to seek support, assistance and even recognition for the right to self determination from the United Nations and the international community including Canada, notwithstanding Indian propaganda.
Kanwar Pal Singh, spokesperson, Dal Khalsa
Apropos of Nero Plays A Veena Called Saraswati (Feb 12), Haryana always hits the headlines for the wrong reasons. When the CM gave a red-carpet welcome to Ram Rahim and showered him with a bonanza from the state exchequer, it was noticed. The Karni Sena’s vandalism and the soaring number of crimes against women have become matters of national concern. Khattar’s policy of rehne do has done nothing but fuel anxiety and insecurity. It is time the Centre intervened and brought normality.
C. Chandrasekaran, On E-Mail
The talent of the best performers remains indelible in the memory of film-lovers (Act 2 Diary, Feb 12). Undoubtedly, Govind Namdev’s performances in films have left a mark on the audiences. It would be great if he begins to train actors.
Parshuram Gautampurkar, Sawai Madhopur
This refers to your editorial comment Saluting the DM (Feb 12). Does entering a Muslim-dominated area in India in huge groups require a visa? Is it a restricted zone for non-Muslims? Should energetically raising anti-Pakistan slogans in general offend the inhabitants of the area? Everyone in this country should join in anti-Pakistan sloganeering to make our voices heard. Does the DM of Bareilly really deserve a salute? Please think again.
Pramod Srivastava, On E-Mail
The young district magistrate of Bareilly, probably not yet groomed to the bureaucratic culture of sycophancy, stands out in his tribe of officials who don’t risk offending their political masters either for the sake of perks or out of the fear of punishment or both. One understands the motive of the erstwhile British rulers in encouraging caste and religious prejudices, besides patronising nawabs, rajas and zamindars: to take full advantage of our feudal culture in order to exploit our resources with least resistance. But why are our own elected people openly encouraging the trend of bullying minorities?
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
This is about Outlook’s package on the Union Budget (Vox Populi, Feb 12). Finance minister Arun Jaitley’s decision to bring back the long term capital gains tax (LTCG) on equities, which had been scrapped earlier, is hasty and ill-advised. After the steep downward revision of interest rates in banks and post offices, the middle class, especially senior citizens, looked at mutual funds to bolster their falling income. But the government has nearly put paid to their hopes by imposing LTCG. It is even devoid of the indexation benefit necessary to offset the effect of inflation on LTCG. This is not a wise move on the part of the BJP, as it alienates its core constituency—the middle class. What’s more, the Security Transaction Tax (STT), which was introduced in place of LTCG in 2004, has not been scrapped in this budget. As a result, India will perhaps be the only country to have two different taxes on equities, and this will certainly make it less attractive to foreign investors.
K.R. Narasimhan, Chennai
With the general elections due in a year, it would have been too much to expect the NDA government to present a big bang reformist budget. What it has come up with this time is disappointing as this budget deviates from its earlier deficit targets. The government could still be credited with not compromising on fiscal prudence in this budget, unlike the UPA regime, but Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s track record has been dented somewhat, with the Centre’s fiscal deficit for 2017-18 estimated at 3.5 per cent of the GDP, as against the originally budgeted 2.3 per cent. These fiscal slippages may have been tolerable when global interest rates and oil prices were low, but not now, when crude prices have shot up to $70 a barrel. There is also a lack of clarity on how the Modi government plans to give the promised 50 per cent return on production costs to farmers while fixing the MSP, and how they will get these benefits.
L.J.S. Panesar, On E-Mail
In the tug-of-war between populism and fiscal prudence, the former seems to have won out in this Budget. It reaches out to the rural sector, workers, small industries and senior citizens without, however, going overboard with freebies. Mr. Modi has perhaps become cautious ahead of the polls in eight states. It seems the health protection scheme is going to be an election hoax like other empty promises made by Modi during the Lok Sabha polls, 2014 since the fiscal cost of subsidising the premiums for the implementation of the scheme in reality has not been cleared.
Buddhadev Nandi, Bishnupur
The PM hailed this budget as being farmer-friendly, citizen-friendly, business environment-friendly and development friendly. But it has turned out to be one big jumla, as the stock market crashed shortly afterwards, with experts blaming the budget for the sensex dropping by more than 800 points.
Abdul Majid Qasmi, Deoband
Apropos Gandhi Smriti Diary (Feb 5 ), just as we still live in the country that Nehru built, so also do we yet dwell in the land of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, and the father of the nation will live on as long as India endures. His life was his message. As a child, even when his teacher permitted the children to copy the right answers for a test, the little Gandhi refused to do so and was the only one to fail the test. Let this country follow his ideals and embrace the spirit of religious toleration.
Victor Raj, Secunderabad