SAN Wed, 10 Sep 2014 21:52:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 1984 Living History Project Mon, 08 Sep 2014 21:59:42 +0000 While we are hearing a lot about the 30th anniversary of 1984 this year, how can we make ourselves relevant to this historic year? Or, then again, is this history even relevant to us?

Some of us think that 30 years is a long time. That, sitting in the diaspora, June 1984 is something that happened in a distant world to “extremists” that entered Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar. That the pogroms of November 1984 were riots that only affected the Sikhs of Delhi as a reaction of the assassination of Indira Gandhi. We believe these things because that is what the media wants us to believe. It is the only narrative that is allowed to exist in the mainstream.

I believed all of it too. Until, I heard the story of my uncle who “disappeared” for five months during the 1990s. He was dropped back home—thrown off–by the police and was in such a bad shape that he couldn’t move for six months. Hearing this account from my family member, hit home for me. It is then, that I realized that I am not removed and thirty years ago is not a long time. I realized all the manufactured information that had been fed to me until then and the well-crafted excuses that were given for the atrocities. For June 1984, “If Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale had not taken arms into Harmandir Sahib, then the army wouldn’t have gone in”. However, they failed to mention the reason about forty other Gurdwaras were attacked on the same day. For November 1984, “People were angry because Indira Gandhi was killed and therefore there were riots”. They failed to mention that only Sikhs died all across India, even though “riots” indicate two groups of people fighting each other.

Thousands of Sikhs died, thousands of Sikh women were raped, thousands of Sikh children were orphaned during 1984. And what continued after is a story seldom heard. It is because we are not speaking that the rehearsed propaganda is becoming our narrative. 1984 is not a long time ago, it is not a thing that happened in the distant land of Panjab and Delhi.  It was not just a physical attack. It was an attack on the Sikh spirit and psyche.  Every Sikh is a survivor, a soldier. It is time we took back our history and wrote our own narratives.

Whether in Panjab, Delhi, Melbourne, California or Singapore, every Sikh old enough to remember 1984 has a story to tell. The 1984 Living History Project seeks to document and archive these stories of strength and resilience. The project seeks to build awareness of state-sponsored human rights violations, suppression of information & social trauma.

Making a video is easy and does not require any great technical skills. If you use a Smart Phone, you can make a video!

To conduct a “1984 Memory Studio” in your city—a low-investment event to conduct lots of interviews during one day in your Gurdwara or during a local event–contact the Project. A group of sevadaars—no one organization—has taken it upon themselves to make a 1000 videos. This can’t happen unless more folks make and submit videos!

Ever since the founding of Sikhi, every time some outside power has tried to destroy our history, it has failed. So talk to your parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents- record their experiences and help write our own history, so this time too, the propaganda efforts fail, finally.



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15 Reasons Not to Celebrate Indian Independence Day Fri, 15 Aug 2014 17:26:58 +0000 Some observe Indian Independence Day as “Black Day”. Why? Because the notion of independence and freedom is a dream that has yet to be realized. From adherence to international law, democratic principles, human rights and social justice, some feel India cannot ignore her failures and that using Independence Day as an excuse to sweep all of India’s shortcomings under the rug of unquestioned patriotism, is simply unacceptable.

Every nation has shortcomings and while some celebrate Independence Days others take it as an opportunity for introspect and reflection.  Here are 15 reasons some may choose not to observe Indian Independence Day.

1. 2 Farmers commit suicide every day


“The India Tribune estimated that an Indian farmer kills himself every 12 hours. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), between 1995 and 2009 a quarter of a million farmers have killed themselves”, yet no one seems to care. [source]


2. One third of Indian Politicians face Criminal Charges


“India’s most respected election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms informed us that nearly a third of MPs – 158 of 543 – in the parliament faced criminal charges.” [source]


3. India’s National Hero was a racist

“Gandhi was an unabashedly diehard supporter of India’s Hindu caste system, and would never mix with a lowly group or caste, and Lelyveld in Great Soul lays out Gandhi’s unedited views:

“We were then marched off to a prison intended for Kaffirs [offensive term equivalent to the n-word],” Gandhi complained during one of his campaigns for the rights of Indians settled there. “We could understand not being classed with whites, but to be placed on the same level as the Natives seemed too much to put up with. Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilized — the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live like animals.”

On white Afrikaners and Indians, he wrote: “We believe as much in the purity of races as we think they do.”” [source]

4. Nearly 70% of Indians live on less than $2 a day


Poverty in India is widespread, with the nation estimated to have a third of the world’s poor. In 2010, the World Bank reported that 32.7% of the total Indian people fall below the international poverty line of US$ 1.25 per day (PPP) while 68.7% live on less than US$ 2 per day. [source]


5. The 1984 Sikh Genocide


No one has ever been prosecuted for the 1984 Sikh Genocide and the killers of innocent Sikhs are protected with state impunity. [source]


6. 48 Thousand cases of Child Rape


Marital rape is not a criminal offence in India and is still India’s most common crime against women. Since, 2001 there has been a 336% increase in the number of rapes against children. A report by Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) stated that 48,338 child rape cases were recorded during 2001-11. [source]


7. The Caste System


Statistics compiled by India’s National Crime Records Bureau indicate that in the year 2000, the last year for which figures are available, 25,455 crimes were committed against Dalits. Every hour two Dalits are assaulted; every day three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched. No one believes these numbers are anywhere close to the reality of crimes committed against Dalits. [source]

8. Irom Sharmila’s 13 year Fast


Irom Sharmila is a civil rights activist, political activist, and poet from the Indian state of Manipur. She has been on hunger strike to demand that the Indian government repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA). The Indian government is currently force feeding her and has her on trial for attempted suicide. The irony is not lost here.


9. The Death Penalty


” The architect of the Constitution, Babasaheb Ambedkar, admitted in the Constituent Assembly that people may not follow non-violence in practice but “they certainly adhere to the principle of non-violence as a moral mandate which they ought to observe as far as they possibly can.” With this in mind, he said, “the proper thing for this country to do is to abolish the death sentence altogether…Last year 14 eminent retired judges wrote to the President, pointing out that the Supreme Court had erroneously given the death penalty to 15 people since 1996, of whom two were hanged. The judges called this “the gravest known miscarriage of justice in the history of crime and punishment in independent India.” [source]


10. Hindutva


The poster says it all.


11. Homophobia is legal

It’s true, google it.


12. Mass Graves

“In September, the state government rejected calls for DNA testing of 2,730 corpses that a police investigative team found in unmarked graves at 38 sites in north Kashmir in July 2011. Some of the gravesites are believed to hold victims of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial execution by government security forces dating back to the 1990s.” [source]


13. No Freedom of Expression

“In 2012, the central government used the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules to tighten internet censorship, raising concerns about restrictions on the right to free speech. Under the rules, intermediaries such as internet service providers and search engines are required to remove content within 36 hours that is deemed offensive. However, criteria for prohibited content are ambiguous and frequently used to stifle criticism of the government.” [source]


14. Sexism and Lack of Women’s Rights

As a result of infanticide and the killing female babies “In an alarming trend, girl child numbers in India have shown a sharper decline than the male children in the decade beginning 2001, leading to a skewed child sex ratio.”  [source]  Further, “Violence against women and girls continues… with increased reports of sexual assault, including against those with disabilities…” [source]


15. Narendra Modi


Because alleged perpetrator of Genocide Narendra Modi, the leader of the BJP which is linked to violent Hindutva organizations is the Prime Minister of India. Modi has previously been denied a visa to the USA for his alleged role in the mass murder of Muslims in Gujarat. [source]



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RALLY AGAINST RACISM | BRAMPTON CITY HALL Fri, 08 Aug 2014 14:12:56 +0000 Brampton United Against Racism will be hosting a Rally against the latest anti-immigration flyer that has spread across the streets of Brampton, once again.

Brampton is one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in Canada and visible minorities such as South Asians, African Canadians, West Indian, Latin American, Filipino, Chinese, Arabs, Japanese, Korean, and more make up 66% of Brampton’s population.

Join the citizens of Brampton as they speak out and put a stop to racism in order to make Brampton more inclusive, vibrant and resilient. Feel free to spread the word and bring as many people as you wish!

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SIGN NOW: SIKH SOLIDARITY WITH GAZA Mon, 21 Jul 2014 21:47:25 +0000 Photo Credit: Gurinder Singh from Oakland, CA


“I am not a political leader, that can give you some political line or pull a political antic – from a human rights platform I will definitely say this to you: the Khalsa was inaugurated to protect human rights, the human rights of the world. And if you cannot protect your own human rights, you will not be able to give any definition of the Khalsa in the world.” – Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra

Inspired by Jaswant Singh Khalra – from Punjab to Palestine we express our solidarity with the innocent men, women and children of Gaza.

The darkness of war that has overcome the occupied territories of Gaza can be challenged with love and solidarity. We offer our solidarity on behalf of the Khalsa Panth and Sikh community and call for a proper, fair, balanced and internationally-guaranteed ceasefire that brings relief to the people of Gaza.

Sign the petition now to call for immediate international action to ensure and oversee a fair and lasting ceasefire deal in Gaza, investigations into allegations of war crimes, re-opening the borders and crossings, ending the blockade of Gaza’s 1.5 million civilians and ending the illegal land-grabs and settlement of Palestinian lands.


143 signatures

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Emotion at the Cost of Truth: One Kaur’s Experience Viewing Punjab 1984 Fri, 27 Jun 2014 18:17:04 +0000 The following review was written by Jasmin Kaur, a founding organizer of Azaadi.


Last night, I went to a showing of Punjab 1984. Writing when you’re emotional has its place, but I chose to step away from my immediate feelings after walking out of the theatre last night and reflect on how I actually felt after I was able to separate myself from that experience somewhat.

I stepped into that theatre not entirely knowing what to expect, but not expecting something like Sadda Haq (which I thought was really well done). And then the movie started and I was taken aback by the realness of the images before me, by the humanness of the families being portrayed and by the storyline that was developing. It drew feeling out of you.

Just to get you up to speed, Shivjit Singh (Diljit) is a kharku singh who is moved to join the Khalistan freedom movement after his father is killed in the 1984 attack on Darbar Sahib (his death justified by Panjab police with a baseless allegation that he was a terrorist) and he himself is tortured in police interrogation. Experiencing firsthand the brutality of Panjab police and injustice within India’s judicial system, he takes up armed resistance against the state. Were I to have walked out of the theatre before the end of the first half, I would have had trouble writing a coherent review encouraging you to watch it because I was truly moved by the humanness of the story that was being depicted.

But then comes the second half. For those who have seen it already and those who are going to see it, you may have different reactions to this portion. The second half of the film is largely dedicated to portraying the film’s perception of the actions of kharku singhs. Emphasis on the word ‘perception’. The first major depiction is of Shivjit Singh placing explosives on a bus full of innocent people, which his “higher-ups” demanded of him. The next was imagery of kharkus lining up innocent Hindus, even those who were Khalistani sympathizers, and shooting them with as much discrimination as Panjab police. After that came the killing of a rehatvaan (spiritually disciplined) kharku singh by corrupted “kharku singhs”. Suddenly I was no longer teary-eyed and emotional over the film, but aware that I needed to analyze the content with a sobered sense of detachment.

You can question what the purpose in these portrayals was. Perhaps, in the film-maker’s eyes, it was to reflect the human reality of those placed on all spectrums of the Panjab struggle. Perhaps it was to appease those in Panjab who have an interest in preventing outright sympathy with the Khalistan movement. Perhaps it was the film’s attempt to make everyone happy. The practical implication, however, was that most Khalistani freedom fighters are self-interested, manipulative and corrupted.

The implication of this portrayal of the Khalistan movement was that if you are not the type of person to critically analyze the media that you are viewing, or do not have a solid base of knowledge on 1984 and the freedom movement to begin with, or were simply drawn into the emotional roller coaster that the film was attempting to take you on, you would leave with the perception that the struggle for Khalistan was obsolete because the only kharku who can remain true to his cause is a fictionalized, idealized character played by Diljit.

This is where it should start concerning you that one of the main characters who you can sympathize with and believe in throughout is a famous, well-known celebrity. Celebrities are different than real people, right? Only someone so plainly exceptional could have come out of the movement so morally unscathed, right?

Where Sadda Haq acted as a well-written argument for the relevance of the Panjab freedom movement, Punjab 1984 was an emotional trip that attempted to humanize a political struggle while forgetting (perhaps conveniently) to build a factual base for the emotional content that was being showered upon the audience. For someone walking into that theatre with limited background knowledge to see the main portrayal of a kharku jathebandi as being succumbed to corruption and openly opposing Sikh values, a judgement is going to be made about the overall sincerity of the Khalistan movement. If this film was packaged as a reflection of the Khalistan movement, the producers should have spoken to actual freedom fighters and those central to the Khalistan movement before attempting to create a script. Creating judgements from the sidelines about a movement with deep complexities was plainly irresponsible on the production team’s part.

By no means am I saying that every individual involved in the Khalistan movement was a reflection of Sikh values. That is the humanness of any freedom struggle. Humans don’t come pre-labelled as good or bad – it is a spectrum. But for this film to portray the steadfast and morally true kharkus as the rare minority was backwards and harmful. It is not a reflection of the ideological roots of the Khalistan movement and serves to undermine the validity of that struggle.

This film did little justice to the ideology of the Khalistan movement. No doubt, it left you feeling emotional and charged up, but I question whether the emotional build-up was actually a good thing. Without proper context established for 1984 and without proper explanation for the purpose of Khalistan, (other than what you can infer through emotion) the audience is left with dangerous gaps. Yes, it’s important to feel and to experience through emotion, but hasn’t our community been doing that for long enough? What we are missing is dialogue and critical analysis. To charge up an audience and leave them ultimately feeling disillusioned to everyone in this film but an idealized celebrity figure is wrong, in my opinion.

I would not encourage someone with no background information about the Khalistan movement to watch this film and accept it as a remotely accurate portrayal of Khalistani freedom fighters or the ideology of the Khalistan movement. I think the primary benefit in viewing this film, however, is for the purpose of analysis and critical discussion. If you watch the film, take out the time to really analyze the content that’s being presented to you. It’s easy to see through the lens of emotion and lose sight of the problematic content being represented.


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PETITION: We Condemn “Immigration Watch Canada’s” Racist Flyers Fri, 25 Apr 2014 04:40:47 +0000  

We Condemn "Immigration Watch Canada's" Racist Flyers

These flyers that have particularly targeted Sikhs and suggest that Sikhs are less Canadian or not "mainstream" simply because of their cultural, religious and ethnic background.

Diversity is our strength and ignorance is our weakness. We condemn the racist propaganda of Immigration Watch Canada.


302 signatures

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SAN Leads The Charge As Punjabi Singers Retract Support For Badal Wed, 16 Apr 2014 14:53:36 +0000 The power of the people is strong.

In an article posted online a few weeks back the Sikh Activist Network questioned why Punjabi Singers were endorsing Parkash Badal and Modi (read here).  With a considerable amount of greivances against these two politicians, including an array of allegations ranging from corruption, torture and genocide, what good come of it?

Since we posted that article, the reaction began to spread like wild fire, the Diaspora (especially the Diaspora) was offended and responded with threats of boycotts and protest at concerts – for these artists the consequences of their actions became very real, very quickly.

Activists across the globe, responded peacefully looking for accountability –  the result was powerful.

Just yesterday the mainstream Indian media covered our article in The Tribune newspaper (which can be found here) along with reaction from the artists in question.

Here’s what they had to say, is it genuine? Share your thoughts:








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VIDEO | Jazzy B praises Modi & Badal Wed, 26 Mar 2014 15:52:24 +0000 Jazzy B has released a video endorsement in praise of Badal and Modi.  Jazzy B has been one of few singers that has openly supported the shaheeds of 1984, praised the call for justice and more.  Jazzy B definitely has a soft spot for the struggle in his heart, so why this video? Is this endorsement Jazzy B playing the game, simply endorsing what he may view as the lesser of two evils when contrasted with the Congress or was he bullied into it?

Share your thoughts below.


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German Government Charges Indian Agent For Spying On The Sikh Community Mon, 24 Mar 2014 17:31:53 +0000 The German government has laid charges against a 45 year old Indian for foreign interference.  Federal prosecutors have changed the man for spying on those belonging to Sikh organizations and passing on information to Indian intelligence services.

For many years, Sikh Canadians have expressed similar concerns of foreign interference and spying.  The recent news raises suspicion that the practice of spying by Indian nationals on Sikh Organizations and the Diaspora is patterned and that the recent developments in Germany are not an isolated case.

Stay tuned for more details.

Source: The Montreal Gazette

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It’s Official! FIFA rules in favour of Religious Headgear Sat, 01 Mar 2014 18:14:54 +0000 It’s official soccers international governing body FIFA has ruled in favour of authorisinghead covers for religious purposes during all matches.

Yes, that means Quebec must now adopt the international bodies regulations, meaning both Muslim women and Sikhs will be provided protection when stepping onto the soccer field. FIFA did add that male players will also be authorized to play following a request from the Sikh community in Canada.

The only the string attached is that the head cover must match the team jersey.

So, congratulations folks, racism 0 – common decency 1.

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