Sikh militancy not over yet
B.C. politicians, including Premier Gordon Campbell
and opposition leader Carole James skipped the Vaisakhi
Parade in Surrey
Surrey, April 25, 2008
The controversy revolving around the Surrey Vaisakhi Parade refuses
to die down even days after the event passed peacefully. The April
12 parade was organized to celebrate the harvest festival and the
birth of the Khalsa, the most devout form of Sikhism.
Over 100,000 people participated in the event organized by the
management of the Dashmesh Darbar Sikh temple, which supports the
struggle for Khalistan or a separate Sikh homeland in India. Prominent
B.C. politicians, including Premier Gordon Campbell and opposition
leader Carole James skipped the event in an apparent bid to avoid
Last year, the organizers of the event had glorified Talwinder
Singh Parmar, a slain Sikh militant and an alleged mastermind of
the Air India bombing of 1985. The presence of prominent politicians
in that parade thus became a major source of embarrassment. Though
the organizers decided not to display the picture of Parmar this
time, they insisted on displaying the pictures of other Sikh rebels,
including the assassins of the former Indian prime minister, Indira
This week, the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Government
House Leader Mike de Jong addressed a press conference in Surrey
where he admitted that the provincial government wants to have better
trade relations with India.
The Punjabi Press Club claims that de Jong was originally scheduled
to have a discussion with them, but the media advisory sent out
by the Public Affairs Bureau said that the honourable Mike de Jong,
Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Government House Leader, will
be meeting with members of the South Asian media to discuss community
The event eventually turned into a press conference that was attended
by representatives of the mainstream media as well. The last minute
change annoyed some representatives of the Punjabi Press Club, who
skipped the meeting.
Mike de Jong insisted that the B.C. government does not want to
get involved in the internal disputes of India. However, he remained
evasive on some issues and gave diplomatic replies to some questions.
Asked whether the B.C. Liberal candidates will visit the Dashmesh
Darbar Sikh temple during the next election campaign as the "objectionable"
pictures will still remain on the walls of the temple, he described
the question as hypothetical.
Likewise, he could not explain how B.C. politicians are going to
deal with the apex religious body of the Sikhs, the SGPC which recognizes
some of the Sikh militants as martyrs, including the assassins of
Gandhi. As a practice, the SGPC honours provincial politicians when
they visit the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs in
Punjab, India that was stormed by the army on the instructions of
Gandhi to flush out extremists.
Interestingly, a similar parade organized by the supporters of
Khalistan in Toronto displayed the pictures of the same militants
whose pictures stirred a controversy in Surrey. However, the Khalistan
supporters claim that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty participated
in that event. Are East Coast politics different from West Coast
The real test of for B.C.'s politicians on Sikh militancy is yet
to come. Only the time will tell how long and how far they stick
to their position.
Gurpreet Singh is a broadcaster with Surrey-based Radio India.