India-Canada relations are on the downslide, though both are vibrant democracies. The source of strained relations is the 770,000-strong Sikh Diaspora in Canada; many had chosen to settle down in Canada after migrating from Punjab, India.
After the partition of India in 1947, more Sikhs headed toward Canada, supported by their kin and friends. After the Indian government’s military action in the Golden Temple of Amritsar in 1984 against Sikh insurgents led by Sant Bhindranwale and the massacre of Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards with dire consequences for the Sikh community of Delhi, many Sikhs migrated to Canada and joined the diaspora.
Sikhs all over India were gripped by anti-India government hysteria, and they focused their hatred against the Hindu community they alleged was the actual holder of power. This erroneous concept had developed out of vicious and false propaganda spread by Pakistani media serving the creamy layer of Pak society.
The Sikh community branched from the Hindu community of India nearly five hundred years ago. The reason was to protect the Hindu community against many atrocities perpetrated by the alien rulers. Therefore, martial qualities were injected into their blood. Their great gurus made the sacrifice for Hindu India.
The Sikhs are perhaps the most adventurous people among Indian communities. Wherever the Sikh diaspora chooses to settle down, be it the US, Canada, UK, European countries, or Australia, they have proved their mettle as proud people who would eat from their platter without depending on the munificence of their local hosts.
They are hardworking people with sharp brains and a liking for mechanics. The proverb is “Show a Sikh the way of dismantling a nuclear bomb, and he will re-assemble it on his own. They have captured the transport industry wherever they settled within or outside India. In California, they have become distinguished farmholders, making valuable contributions to the US economy by raising productive and prosperous farms.
The Sikhs are called the steel arm of the Indian military establishment. They have held, and very rightly, top commanding positions in all three wings of Indian armed forces and in paramilitary forces. Their bravery and patriotism are proverbial. India is proud of them, and so are those countries where their strong diaspora has settled and contributed richly to the economy.
Historically, the Sikhs have never been diehard separatists. Some of their stray leaders did talk of a separate homeland for the Sikhs when India’s division on a religious basis was discussed. However, the All India Congress Committee convinced the British rulers that in independent India, Sikhs would be given all the privileges and rights that accrue to a minority community.
In a sense, they were not a minority community because they enjoyed an overwhelming majority in the Indian part of Punjab, which they always considered their homeland and where they had their government, notwithstanding whichever political party they adhered to.
In free India, they prospered in all walks of life. India had Sikhs as President, Vice President, Prime Minister, and Cabinet ministers; Army, Air Force, and Navy chiefs; provincial governors and chief ministers; entrepreneurs and big business corporations; educationists, scientists, judges of the High Court and Supreme Court, ambassadors and policy planners. There is no field in all the organs of the State where they have not an adequate representation.
The estrangement between the Indian government and the Sikh community (or, to put it in precise words, between some sections of the Union government and the Sikhs) cropped up with the Bhindranwale episode. Looking back in history, one cannot understand that the Congress High Command, which ruled over this country for nearly seven decades following the grant of independence on August 15, 1947, did not handle the Bhindranwale or Golden Temple issue deftly. The reason was banished, and political motivation supervened.
The Sikh community took affront. It considered the desecration of the Golden Temple an onslaught on their religious identity. Under this pretext, they widely propagated the long-lurking concept of Khalistan, meaning Sikh Land. This was a strong divergence point between the Indian nation and the Sikh community.
So intense was the pro-Khalistan propaganda that even the rational thinkers in the Sikh community began to dream of a separate Sikh homeland. This meant vivisection of India on religious and ethnic counts. What government in New Delhi would allow that?
The Sikh Diaspora all over the world is a prosperous community. It has cast aside cumbersome rituals and customs. Its feasts are simple, and so are marriage ceremonies. Religion binds the community, and attendance at Sunday congregations is a must for every Sikh.
They are disciplined and progressive, never glued to outdated life and customs. Therefore, they have been able to raise enormous funds for “the religious cause,” which is Khalistan.
The present-day Punjab province of Pakistan has been the historic center of the Sikh community and kingdom. Lahore was the capital of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Many important Sikh worshipping places, called gurudwaras, are located in Pakistan, and some Sikhs did not migrate to India in 1947 but stuck to their worshipping and cultural sites.
As India-Pakistan acrimony stretched from decade to decade, and in the 1980s climaxed with the Golden Temple episode, Pakistan’s intelligence agency made a dent in the Sikh community and promised to give them full support in their demand for Khalistan.
This way, Pakistan became the foremost country to patronize the Khalistan movement and provide logistic and other support to Sikh extremists to create disturbance and disruption in the adjoining eastern Punjab in India.
They planned armed resistance, and their diaspora collected massive amounts to grist the insurrection mill. They established close contacts with the diaspora, especially in Canada, with a large Sikh population. At home, they were patronized by almost all political parties that opposed current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The history of Sikhs tells us that except for internal dissensions, rivalry, and bickering at the Sikh Durbar after the demise of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Sikh community had all the ingredients that could make it a nation with a homeland.
The Sikhs did not lose battles because they were not good soldiers; they lost owing to internal dissensions and intrigues at the Sikh court. It is the enlightened segment within the Sikh community that could visualize the drawbacks in the community and, therefore, decided to distance itself from the separatist Khalistanis.
A diaspora has to go with most people in their newfound homeland. But the case in Canada is the reverse of this. It is the Diaspora that is driving the political parties in Canada. The Sikhs in Canada have very ably understood the power they wield as the kingmakers.
Justin Trudeau, the sitting Prime Minister of Canada, has understood this. Like a cheap and almost fake Eastern democracy, Trudeau has begun to believe that succumbing to the wishes, right or wrong, of its vote bank is the essential and fundamental condition of a true democracy.
By succumbing to the pressures of the Sikh diaspora, Trudeau has shown that he is, at best, a factional leader and not a leader of national stature with a world vision.
An elected Prime Minister is not expected to soft paddle with its diaspora that has the blood of the Prime Minister of India on their hands. An elected Prime Minister is not likely to let criminals and murderers go scot-free when the world knows that they are responsible for the bombing of an Indian airliner in 1985, which took the toll of more than 300 innocent passengers.
Trudeau has said on the floor of the parliament that India seems to be involved in the killing of a Khalistan leader called Najjar, but he never said in or outside the parliament who were the perpetrators of the crime of blowing up an Indian airliner in 1985.
He is allowing all sorts of anti-India activities to occur in Canada, violating the Geneva Convention and International law. He is running counter to the efforts of the world bodies to contain and eradicate terrorism.
He is serving the interests of the diaspora at the cost of his country’s interest. The diaspora supports the breaking up of their motherland to pieces, thus bringing disaster to their homeland community of Sikhs and Hindus of Punjab. They make Trudeau an accomplice in this perfidy.