Wayward warriors and Sikh imagery in gang violence

a_warrior__s_religion.jpgWhile many may still be reveling in Slumdog’s Sunday limelight, a darker movie aboutIndo-Canadians in Vancouver (the vast majority of who arePunjabi-Sikh), aiming to shed light on gang violence, issparking criticism. [See trailer here.]

The film titled “A Warrior’s Religion” was made by Mani Amar, who describes it as a poetic documentary. When asked about what drove him to make the film, he said:

It had to be done. How many more people need to die? We are past the 130 mark of deaths in our community. The issue is not slowing down … How readily we have accepted gang violence and how engrossed we are in it is what propelled me to do it. We are so relaxed about an issue that we should not be relaxed about at all. [link]

In the film, Mani interviews Bal Buttar, a high-profile former gang member who is now blind and a quadriplegic afterbeing shot in a gang related incident.

Mani said: When I met Buttar, I laid it out on the table directly to him and said to Buttar, I dont respect you. You have an opportunity in your life to show youth that this is what gang violence will bring you. For whatever reason, Buttar accepted the challenge. In the end though, I reaffirmed that its only death or jail to get out. For Mani, what resonated most from the interviews was Buttars way of explaining karma: You take blood. That blood gets taken from you. [link]

Controversyhas arisen from the film’s name, “A Warrior’s Religion,”and its use ofvisual references to Sikhism through images of gurdwaras, scenes from a Vaisaikhi parade, martyrs, and an image of a khanda in flames with bullet holes in the background. Maniexplains how he chose the name:

I chose the title for a couple of reasons. One issue is that these guys (those who died in gang-related activity) come from a warrior background. Secondly, whether you like it or not, Sikhism was based on the warrior principles from our tenth Guru and forward… A lot of people think of being in gangs as being the equivalent of being a warrior, a warrior gangster. Mani added, across the globe, Sikhs have always been defenders of the oppressed and the violence they use is as a very last resort, when defending a cause. [link]

Amar also explains his use of images of Sikh martyrs:

I want to show that being a warrior does not necessarily mean being a gangster or murderer. I showed these images of killed or beaten Sikhs defending the Sikh religion. Thirdly, like it or not, the majority of gang-related violent deaths in the last 19 years in B.C. in the South Asian community are directly linked to people of Sikh background. [link]

I do hope that the vast distinction between the type of warrior that the 10th Guru envisioned Sikhs to be and the “warriors” that gang members believe themselves to be is made adequately clear. Otherwise, it could lead audiences who are unaware of Sikh history(both Punjabi,Sikhand non-Punjabi or non-Sikh) to misinterpret this history.No influence of Sikhi could havecontributed to any involvement in a gang; the self-absorbed life of fighting forpower is antithetical to Sikhi’s calls of defending the oppressed.

YouTube Preview Image

There will undoubtedly be criticism about the use of Sikh symbols and imagery in the movie. Though criticism is often resisted, it’s also often the beginning of many important conversations. Whatever criticism is sparked by the title of this film and its use of Sikh symbols may ultimately lead to a conversation about what responsibilities we have as Sikhs to acknowledge and address Punjabi hypermasculinity and lack ofmale accountability. And that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

“A Warrior’s Religion” isscreening in Surrey on March 18th and 19th.

I hope the movie will make its way to East Cost cities in the U.S. so I can check it out.


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23 Responses to “Wayward warriors and Sikh imagery in gang violence”

  1. Mewa Singh says:

    While, I, like Reema, am eager to watch the new film. There was one comment by the documentarian that seems rather misleading:

    We are past the 130 mark of deaths in our community. The issue is not slowing down

    While undoubtedly the community needs to face this issue head-on, the high point of violence related to criminality has largely subsided since the 1990s and early 2000s. The days of Bindy Johal are over, and while underlying problems of Punjabi male hypermasculinity continue, one should not believe that the issue is "not slowing down."

  2. Mewa Singh says:

    While, I, like Reema, am eager to watch the new film. There was one comment by the documentarian that seems rather misleading:

    We are past the 130 mark of deaths in our community. The issue is not slowing down

    While undoubtedly the community needs to face this issue head-on, the high point of violence related to criminality has largely subsided since the 1990s and early 2000s. The days of Bindy Johal are over, and while underlying problems of Punjabi male hypermasculinity continue, one should not believe that the issue is “not slowing down.”

  3. Harinder says:

    This begets the question what do "Warriors" do in peace time ?

    Army life is pretty ritulistic and confined to barracks.

    Police life is to petty in its dimension .

    So what should a Warrior Metamorphose into ?

  4. Harinder says:

    This begets the question what do “Warriors” do in peace time ?

    Army life is pretty ritulistic and confined to barracks.
    Police life is to petty in its dimension .

    So what should a Warrior Metamorphose into ?

  5. lee says:

    every one knows why this is happening.

    dont be fooled by the canadian accent of indo-punjabi-canadians.

    its not really real gang violence, its just some kids who watch too many bollywood films(very violent scenes), who get frustrated that sikhs are mis represented, and enter gang warfare (buy a gun) as a means redeem their ego.

    e.g- I am a jatt, i must represent the jatt way and kill all thoes that tresspass on my land.

    canada has some way to go before the immature punjabis (non religious) settle down and start taking life more seriously.

    sikh in canada are rich, however its ahsame they do nto follow the miri piri concept of sikhism.

    the police are capitalising on the fact that the sikh community is extremly shocked when a sikh is killed in a gun shoot out, this means the police get more funding.

    the goverment will encourage any behaviour where it can make money from its own citerzens.

    where is the intelligence. –the only time a sikh should die, if if they are fighting for the rights of humans, regardless of religion, race or gender– a true religion of shaheeds- a saint soldier

  6. lee says:

    every one knows why this is happening.

    dont be fooled by the canadian accent of indo-punjabi-canadians.

    its not really real gang violence, its just some kids who watch too many bollywood films(very violent scenes), who get frustrated that sikhs are mis represented, and enter gang warfare (buy a gun) as a means redeem their ego.

    e.g- I am a jatt, i must represent the jatt way and kill all thoes that tresspass on my land.

    canada has some way to go before the immature punjabis (non religious) settle down and start taking life more seriously.

    sikh in canada are rich, however its ahsame they do nto follow the miri piri concept of sikhism.

    the police are capitalising on the fact that the sikh community is extremly shocked when a sikh is killed in a gun shoot out, this means the police get more funding.

    the goverment will encourage any behaviour where it can make money from its own citerzens.

    where is the intelligence. –the only time a sikh should die, if if they are fighting for the rights of humans, regardless of religion, race or gender– a true religion of shaheeds- a saint soldier

  7. random says:

    are you serious?

    you really think watching bollywood movies is a major contributor to indo-canadian violence? Get real…the issues way deeper than that

  8. random says:

    are you serious?
    you really think watching bollywood movies is a major contributor to indo-canadian violence? Get real…the issues way deeper than that

  9. TheTruth says:

    Simply because these kids have parents who consider themselves sikhs doesn;t mean these idiots in gangs have anything to do with being a sikh in any way shape or form. Stupid title, very misleading. This title insults all warriros. This dude missed the mark, this is a south asian issue, primarily punjabi. Religous affliations are meaningless in this crisis.

    The cause of this systemic issue is a lack of parenting at the end of the day in my opinion. Some punjabi parents just don't know how to deal with todays kids and they basically can't reach there kids because they just don't know how to. If you can't reach you kid, how can you teach him/her about sikhi or anything moral/right/good?

    The historical reference of the 10th guru creating a Khalsa warrior army and these cowards is insulting. Gangs members I know may think of themseleves as soliders of the streets, but none of them would ever dare to call themseleves warriors in relation to those of the mighty khalsa panth of old. Many if not all, know nothing of the valor or bravery put forth by those that died defending justice and the truth.

    A great chance was blown if this person did not take a look into why this was happening in his punjabi community by examining the dynamics of the punjabi family and trying to locate where the breakdown was occuring. My sympathy goes out to Mr. Bhullar, and may his story deter other lost kids off the path of violence and death.

    I still think the link to sikhi was not a wise a choice in reference to the title.

    These pieces of turds that call themselves warriors or gangsters are the exact opposite of what a warrior saint is. If the directors aim was somehow to show how the so call sikh punjabi community has fallen from where it should be, then including aspects of sikhi makes sense. If not, then I don't see any justification other than to attract as many people as possible to check out the movie. Make ur money sir.

    This line from Shoot Em Up pretty much sums up gun carrying punjabi gang members. You all can figure out with type they are. Its a joke that sikh warriorhood is being linked to the crisis of gang violence in vancouver in any way shape or form in this film.

    Hammerson: You know, Hertz, people love guns because America is a land of opportunity where a poor man can become rich and a P#$$Y can become a tough guy, if he's got a gun in his hand. Now, I'm hopin' you're not just a p#$$y with a gun in your hand.

  10. TheTruth says:

    Simply because these kids have parents who consider themselves sikhs doesn;t mean these idiots in gangs have anything to do with being a sikh in any way shape or form. Stupid title, very misleading. This title insults all warriros. This dude missed the mark, this is a south asian issue, primarily punjabi. Religous affliations are meaningless in this crisis.

    The cause of this systemic issue is a lack of parenting at the end of the day in my opinion. Some punjabi parents just don’t know how to deal with todays kids and they basically can’t reach there kids because they just don’t know how to. If you can’t reach you kid, how can you teach him/her about sikhi or anything moral/right/good?

    The historical reference of the 10th guru creating a Khalsa warrior army and these cowards is insulting. Gangs members I know may think of themseleves as soliders of the streets, but none of them would ever dare to call themseleves warriors in relation to those of the mighty khalsa panth of old. Many if not all, know nothing of the valor or bravery put forth by those that died defending justice and the truth.

    A great chance was blown if this person did not take a look into why this was happening in his punjabi community by examining the dynamics of the punjabi family and trying to locate where the breakdown was occuring. My sympathy goes out to Mr. Bhullar, and may his story deter other lost kids off the path of violence and death.

    I still think the link to sikhi was not a wise a choice in reference to the title.

    These pieces of turds that call themselves warriors or gangsters are the exact opposite of what a warrior saint is. If the directors aim was somehow to show how the so call sikh punjabi community has fallen from where it should be, then including aspects of sikhi makes sense. If not, then I don’t see any justification other than to attract as many people as possible to check out the movie. Make ur money sir.

    This line from Shoot Em Up pretty much sums up gun carrying punjabi gang members. You all can figure out with type they are. Its a joke that sikh warriorhood is being linked to the crisis of gang violence in vancouver in any way shape or form in this film.

    Hammerson: You know, Hertz, people love guns because America is a land of opportunity where a poor man can become rich and a P#$$Y can become a tough guy, if he’s got a gun in his hand. Now, I’m hopin’ you’re not just a p#$$y with a gun in your hand.

  11. TheTruth says:

    //// Meant to say Mr. Buttar not Bhullar, mixed that up with someone I knew.

  12. TheTruth says:

    /\/\/\/\ Meant to say Mr. Buttar not Bhullar, mixed that up with someone I knew.

  13. Jim says:

    The reason for all these killings and gang violence is MONEY! thats it MONEY! Everyone wants to live the dream but the dream has a price.

  14. Jim says:

    The reason for all these killings and gang violence is MONEY! thats it MONEY! Everyone wants to live the dream but the dream has a price.

  15. Suki says:

    So glad to see another issue that important to the punjabi sikh community and once again many blame the person in this case the filmmaker instead of dealing with why so many young males from the punjabi sikh community end up like this.

    Since the early 90's over 150 young males from our community have been killed mostly by other people of the same background.

    A few facts that should not be swept under the table.

    -When these kids die, there funerals are done at the gurdwaras with sikh funeral rites.

    -Some of the biggest young gang members have come from some of the most religous sikh families in Vancouver, who fathers were the biggest supporters of Khalistan and close friends of the men who want on trial in the Air India case.

    -I have lost count at how many times I have seen young punjabi males with the sikh khanda tattoos on there arms and they think it a symbol of punjabi pride

    -Some young people see the picture of sikh freedom fighters from the 80's with machine guns on the gurdwaras walls and they think that is cool.

    – Several reports in the past few years have come out that when the moderate and fundamentalists leaders were fighting over leadership of the temples, that they hired some gangs thugs to rough up the other sides.

    The sad thing is some of these young men have misinterpted certain parts of sikhism and think violence is cool. The sikh religon is being hurt by these young thugs and the community leaders have failed to do anything about this issue.

  16. Suki says:

    So glad to see another issue that important to the punjabi sikh community and once again many blame the person in this case the filmmaker instead of dealing with why so many young males from the punjabi sikh community end up like this.

    Since the early 90’s over 150 young males from our community have been killed mostly by other people of the same background.

    A few facts that should not be swept under the table.

    -When these kids die, there funerals are done at the gurdwaras with sikh funeral rites.
    -Some of the biggest young gang members have come from some of the most religous sikh families in Vancouver, who fathers were the biggest supporters of Khalistan and close friends of the men who want on trial in the Air India case.
    -I have lost count at how many times I have seen young punjabi males with the sikh khanda tattoos on there arms and they think it a symbol of punjabi pride
    -Some young people see the picture of sikh freedom fighters from the 80’s with machine guns on the gurdwaras walls and they think that is cool.
    – Several reports in the past few years have come out that when the moderate and fundamentalists leaders were fighting over leadership of the temples, that they hired some gangs thugs to rough up the other sides.

    The sad thing is some of these young men have misinterpted certain parts of sikhism and think violence is cool. The sikh religon is being hurt by these young thugs and the community leaders have failed to do anything about this issue.

  17. Suki says:

    That sad thing the biggest thing to blame though is punjabi culture. In the west the way punjabi males are raised should raise concerns but it doesn't. Most of these kids are treated like kings for no other reason then being born punjabi jatt male. It seems like every punjabi teenage male is driving a 20,000-30,000 dollar car. This is despite the fact most of these kids come from middle class families. You add the fact the males are given freedom while girls are not and you have a major double standard. Alot of there parents are not very educated so they don't pay much attention to there children education and little understanding of western culture.

    When you add the machoness and the never back down from fight way of punjabi thinking, and the fact many of these kids are raised by parents who think how much money you have very important and how big you house is. And alot of these parents work overtime just to afford everything that they have, so the young males want to take a shortcut and not work as hard as there parents.

    Another thing is the dirty little secert is there is alot of fraud in our community, be it immigration fraud, tax fraud or the biggest being Unemployment fraud. Maybe seeing there parents do this, the children think its ok to do the same thing.

    The thing that amazes me is that I know of families who have sons that have been killed or are in jail for living this lifestyle and they still don't lose any standing in the community. Where as girl could be Ivy league educated but be in relationship with a non punjabi guy and the parents are worse then the parents who sons are in gangs.

  18. Suki says:

    That sad thing the biggest thing to blame though is punjabi culture. In the west the way punjabi males are raised should raise concerns but it doesn’t. Most of these kids are treated like kings for no other reason then being born punjabi jatt male. It seems like every punjabi teenage male is driving a 20,000-30,000 dollar car. This is despite the fact most of these kids come from middle class families. You add the fact the males are given freedom while girls are not and you have a major double standard. Alot of there parents are not very educated so they don’t pay much attention to there children education and little understanding of western culture.

    When you add the machoness and the never back down from fight way of punjabi thinking, and the fact many of these kids are raised by parents who think how much money you have very important and how big you house is. And alot of these parents work overtime just to afford everything that they have, so the young males want to take a shortcut and not work as hard as there parents.

    Another thing is the dirty little secert is there is alot of fraud in our community, be it immigration fraud, tax fraud or the biggest being Unemployment fraud. Maybe seeing there parents do this, the children think its ok to do the same thing.

    The thing that amazes me is that I know of families who have sons that have been killed or are in jail for living this lifestyle and they still don’t lose any standing in the community. Where as girl could be Ivy league educated but be in relationship with a non punjabi guy and the parents are worse then the parents who sons are in gangs.

  19. Suki says:

    Leader of the gang was 58 year old Udham singh Sanghera. 58 year old leader of a gang.

    http://www.theprovince.com/news/South+Vancouver+g

  20. Suki says:

    Leader of the gang was 58 year old Udham singh Sanghera. 58 year old leader of a gang.

    http://www.theprovince.com/news/South+Vancouver+gangs+responsible+shootings+past+years+Police/1361497/story.htm

  21. Tom says:

    I must say, that Bindy Johal was a PIMP daddy… he should have quit while he was ahead….unlucky Dude.

  22. Tom says:

    I must say, that Bindy Johal was a PIMP daddy… he should have quit while he was ahead….unlucky Dude.

  23. […] 1990s and early 2000s that cost the lives of 100+ youth in our community, Mani Amars film A Warriors Religion that documents the real life stories and effects of the peak of the violence, and finally to the […]