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Sikh MP's motion on 1984 riots divides Indo-Canadians

Toronto, June 10

Two Canadian MPs, including Punjab-born Sukh Dhaliwal, gave a notice to table a petition in the nation's parliament Wednesday asking the Canadian government to recognize the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India as an act of genocide.

But because of urgent government matters, the petition could be not tabled Wednesday.

Andrew Kania, who represents the Punjabi-dominant Brampton West constituency on the outskirts of Toronto, has joined Dhaliwal in moving the petition in the House. Dhaliwal, who moved to Canada in 1984, represents another Sikh-dominant constituency of Newton-North Delta on the outskirts of Vancouver.

Both the MPs, who belong to the opposition Liberal Party, say the petition has been signed by 10,000 people even as their party boss Michael Ignatieff has condemned the move.

Four other MPs, including Indo-Canadian Navdeep Bains and Gurbax Malhi, are also reportedly supporting the petition.

"The failure of successive Indian governments to bring to justice those responsible for mass revenge attacks on Sikhs after the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi 25 years ago is a severe blot on India's legal system and democracy,'' the Globe and Mail newspaper quoted Bains as saying.

The petition drew angry reaction from many quarters.

"What happened to innocent Sikhs in 1984 was tragic event for which no guilty should be spared and we have been told that the Indian government is taking steps. But the petition is a mischievous and divisive step by these individuals who want to harm the Indo-Canadian community. The petition is only to promote their own agenda,'' said Indo-Canadian leader and parliamentary secretary Deepak Obhrai.

"The Indian prime minister, who is the most respected Sikh in the world has made statements on this and the Indian government is addressing the issue. But these guys want to use Canada to divide India,'' he said.

The Canada India Foundation (CIF), which is an advocacy group for better India-Canada relations, also condemned the petition as "calculated to inflame anti-India sentiments among the Sikh community.''

Calling it "yet another measure by an extremist fringe element to foment division with and within the Sikh community in Canada,'' CIF spokesperson Manoj Pundit said, "The presentation of the petition in Parliament is ill-advised and ill-intentioned since there is no justification for Canada to take the position that the petition demands.

"We would surmise that the petition is deliberately timed to coincide with the upcoming arrival of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Canada for the G8/ G20 summit.''



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Sukh Dhaliwal