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Sikh Youth Conference on Remembering 1984

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The topic of 1984 is hardly new in The Langar Hall and despite protestations from some amnesia-desiring commenters, we will not forget the Shaheeds of Darbar Sahib, the pograms in Delhi, the Ghallughara against the Sikhs from 1978-1995, or even the continuing impunity that continues today.

We have highlighted many events in the past and we will contine to do so.

In that spirit, I strongly urge TLH readers to attend this year’s Jakara Movement conference in Fresno, CA from June 18-21st. A number of invited guests’ names will be announced in the upcoming week. The title of the conference is “Remember 1984: reflect. respond. react.

2009 | 1984 | 25 years |No justice | No memory | No history | No people

Despite the fact that many wish to forget the events that befell and have shaped the Sikh Nation, it is vital for the next generation of Sikhs to be aware of our past and understand how it shapes our present and our future. While twenty-five years have passed since the attack on our sacred home, much has changed and much has remained the same. For the Nishan Sahib of our Nation to remain tall, it is for us to study our history, remember the past, and continue the fight for justice.

This year at Jakara, we will Remember 1984 and celebrate those Kaurs and Singhs that made the ultimate sacrifice for our Qaum.

Join us in Fresno as we Remember 1984: Reflect. Respond. React.

Register here TODAY and avoid a late fee. Below the fold you’ll find the agenda. See you there!

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Fighting With Courage and Inspiration: Voice of a Humane Dissident

mahmood_cynthia_web.jpgGo to virtually any diasporan Sikh’s house that has an interest in Sikhi and you will find the ubiquitous blue book. On the cover is a dashing picture of Shaheed Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale. The title: Fighting For Faith and Nation: Dialogues with Sikh Militants. While too few Sikhs actually complete the book to those that are patient and willing, anthropologist Cynthia Keppley Mahmood explores the world of Sikh militants through their own voices, allowing them to air the very humanity that continues to be denied by a totalitarian state machinery.

At a time when even too many Sikh authors and scholars were silent as Dr. Mahmood, herself, laments:

“Sikh Studies,” a traditionally Orientalist field that has consciously steered clear of the topic of conflict in Punjab, even as tens of thousands of Sikhs perished, wants us to look at medieval religious texts while the heart of Sikhism is in flames. If we touch the fire, if then too we burn and say ouch! – then we are shunned. But then again, academia has never done well in perilous times.

The Sikhs found two strong voices who I call our Sikh Bibiyan of the Academy Joyce Pettigrew and Cynthia Keppley Mahmood. In fact, Sikhs who have never had the fortune to meet them, lovingly refer to them by their first names [as if they are part of our family] Joyce and Cynthia [contrast this with those involved in Sikh Studies, who are only known by their last names McLeod, Oberoi, etc.] Cynthias book is a classic and its place on the bookshelf of every diasporan Sikh is every bit warranted. If it is not on yours, make sure to add it.

While all this is covering the familiar, what inspired her to write and give pen to the voices of Sikh militants is every bit as inspiring as those that she interviewed. In my opinion just as those that inspire by fighting for faith and nation, Cynthia is a fighter, gifted with courage and inspiration.

As part of Sikh Chics 1984 and I series, Cynthia reveals her own personal story for the first time:

In this deeply personal account, I describe for the first time how I was assaulted, beaten and raped by a gang of hired thugs or rogue police in a north central Indian state during fieldwork in 1992. A graphic narrative of this event leads into a brief meditation on the sorts of things readers would typically prefer not to know, and on our compulsion as engaged anthropologists to bring them into the conversation anyway. I conclude with the persisting hope of survivors of violence – like many of our ethnographic interlocutors in arenas of conflict – that healing is possible and that change toward justice can occur. Finally, I write of an anthropology that speaks from a spiritual, political and intellectual paradigm which recognizes that, unspoken or not, values of the heart are as central to our field as those of the mind. [Cynthia Keppley Mahmood, Senior Fellow in Peace Studies, Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame, U.S.A.]

I encourage ALL to read her entire piece.

Silencing truth through rape; an inquiry of the Sikh struggle survives

Cynthia Mahmood, author of the groundbreaking work, “Fighting for Faith and Nation,” just published an incredibly personal and powerful account of her rape and assault, possibly by Indian police, in an attempt to silence her mahmood.jpganthropological work on Sikhs in Punjab in the early 1990s. Luckily for all of us, the rape did not accomplish its goal and instead seems to have fueled Ms. Mahmood’s fire. She courageously continued her work and has again shown courage in speaking publicly about such a deeply personal, and deeply difficult incident. Ms. Mahmood’s work has been incredibly important to revealing the human side of the violent Sikh movement for independence and the brutal suffering of Sikh civilians in Punjab during the 1980s and 1990s. Without her contribution, the movement for justice for 1984 and the following decade would not be where it is today. Through her rigorous scholarship and powerful writing, she exposed a side of the story of Punjab that otherwise perhaps would have been left uncovered. In addition to “Fighting for Faith and Nation,” she co-authored the also ground-breaking work, “Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab.” I can’t emphasize enough how important her scholarship has been to the Sikh community. She’s a frequent speaker, commentator, and expert on Sikh separatism and human rights in Punjab.

I’m astounded and inspired. You must read the entire account, though I’ve copied a few passages below. Ms. Mahmood reveals herself to be resilient, committed to truth, and irrepressible in spirit.

During 1984, Ms. Mahmood was in India studying ancient Buddhism for her dissertation, “Rebellion and Response in Ancient India: Political Dynamics of the Hindu-Buddhist Tradition” when the struggle between Sikhs and the central government was constantly in the news. She travelled to Bihar in 1992 to study a tribal group, and in a north central Indian state, was discouraged- severely- by (possible) Hindu nationalists from studying the Sikhs of Punjab. The discouragement came in the form of a severe assault and a brutal gang-rape.

Her account of the rape is visceral and will leave you haunted.

Slash, slash, blood. I see the blood dripping, even in the dark. I smell my own blood over the smell of the rotten tangerines.

I cannot fight back, not against this. I should survive, only survive.

Oh! I hadn’t noticed. Black-shoe man is raping me. [link]

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Let The Truth Be Heard

AI_04260901_Apr._26_22.31.gifEarlier this month, worldwide Human Rights organization Amnesty International released a news article on the plight of Sikh Massacre victims of 1984, still awaiting justice after 25 years. This came shortly after the Delhi Court delayed ruling on Jagdish Tytler, due to the CBI’s inability to produce enough evidence against him. Ramesh Gopalakrishnan, Amnesty International’s South Asia Researcher stated:

“The fact that almost 3,000 people can be murdered without anyone being brought to justice is offensive to any notion of justice and should be an embarrassment to the Indian government.”

”For the Indian government to dismiss these cases due to lack of evidence is farcical. The various agencies responsible for carrying out the investigations failed to carry out the most cursory of tasks including recording eyewitness and survivor statements.”

As troubling as it is to read this, I was pleased to find that Amnesty International had covered it at all. As many of know, AI, as well as other independent human rights groups and initiatives were either banned or prevented from conducting research in India in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. It seems as though there is hope for an independent investigation on the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms and perhaps the subsequent disappearances during the counter-insurgency.

Not so fast…in an un-related story, the Tribune reported that Amnesty International has decided to shut down its India operations. The decision is said to have been triggered by continued denial to the Amnesty International Foundation of the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) registration by the Government of India.

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Sikh Knowledge

It seems like Canada is showcasing one socially conscious Sikh rapper after another. TLH has covered Humble The Poet and now here is Sikh Knowledge from Montreal. Sikh Knowledge raps with Lotus on issues effecting the 2nd generation and marginalized peoples.

Kanwar Anit Singh Saini, a.k.a. Sikh Knowledge, is the son of Punjabi Sikh immigrants. He works in the field of speech pathology where he contributes his musical knowledge to the health sciences field.

Check out his songs below and let us know what you think!
Disclaimer: There are graphic descriptions and swear words in the videos below.

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Feeling What We Remember

As we remember 1984 through concerts and acts of rebellion, let’s not forget the visceral spirit displayed by Singhs IN that time period.

Watch below the original version of a Punjabi kavita sung by Bhai Gursharan Singh during those turbulent times in Manji Sahib Hall located in the Darbar Sahib complex . This kavita captures the mood and spirit of those days. Tigerstyle later used it in one of their Shaheedi CDs to REMEMBER that spirit.

Intellectually, we can try to REMEMBER those days; but this kavita actually makes us FEEL how it was to live through that time.

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Move The Movement

2611_1158837971055_1230931860_31352873_6839774_n-230x300.jpgI know this concert has already been discussed, but the event had been postponed to this coming Friday…and with all the local buzz…it got me thinking about how we remember 1984.

The Sikh Student Association here at the University of Maryland, in conjunction with other student groups, is sponsoring a free concert on April 3rd, 2009 to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1984 Sikh genocide. In a previous post Truth To Power – in reference to the recent Ensaaf report, I had stated:

We must read such reports and present them … anywhere and everywhere … to anyone who will listen: our gurdwaras, our local Amnesty International chapters, student groups, talk radio, public television, newspaper op-eds, etc. We must also create awareness of these findings in whatever format we can – through music, art, theatre and poetry.

I was impressed to see the SSA acting on this principle.

The featured performer for the concert is Immortal Technique, an up-and-coming rapper who attracts a large and diverse audience, especially amongst college students. His intense style, controversial lyrics, and willingness to approach political subjects, such as the mid-east conflict, have made him a fan favorite amongst the politically aware.

It is refreshing to see students think “out-of-the-box” in remembering 1984, by attracting a mainstream artist and joining forces with other student activist groups under the tagline “Move the Movement.” The SSA plans to distribute background material on the 1984 atrocities and subsequent human rights violations, as well as feature short video clips and interviews with victims in between acts.

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Afghanistan’s “Person of the Year”: a 25 yr. old Sikh

Radio Free Afghanistan Anarkali_Honaryar.jpgjust chose Anarkali Honaryar fortheir “Person of the Year” award. Coincidentally,Anarkali is a member of Afghanistan’s minority Sikh community. At 25 years old, Anarkali is also a physician, a human rights activist, a member of Afghanistan’s Constitution Committee, and works for the Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan. Oh, and she finished high school at 12.

Wow. I think another fitting title would be Sikh Role Model of the Year (or the decade?). She has definitely just become my role model. And we can definitely add her to our list of sheroes.

Just what exactly was Anarkali given this award for?

She is well-known for helping women who suffer from domestic abuse, forced marriages, and gender discrimination. Honaryar is also an advocate on behalf of Afghanistan’s small, embattled Hindu minority, which lives in squalid conditions and faces harassment and discrimination. “We are thrilled to recognize Anarkali for her tireless work in promoting democracy, human rights, and civil society in Afghanistan,” said Radio Free Afghanistan Director Akbar Ayazi. “Anarkali has been taking part in Afghanistan’s reconstruction since she was a teenager — this recognition is well-deserved.” [Radio Free Europe]

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A United Front for Sikh Student Organizations

What exactly is the function of a Sikh Student Association? Is it simply to bring Sikh students together on campus for token meetings? Is it to celebrate Vaisakhi by organizing bhangra parties? Is it a platform to mobilize students to act upon issues impacting Sikh youth and the Sikh community? Is it… okay, I’ll stop with the questions.

To be quite honest, I don’t know the answers to these questions. I can speak to what I think the potential of such organizations is – what they could achieve and how an active and effective Sikh Student Organization could impact change. For example, here on TLH we’ve previously discussed how Sikh Student Associations in California have organized student initiated Kirtan and come together for Nagar Kirtans. Last week Camille discussed an initiative taken up by the University of Texas Sikh Student Association (the post stirred up some issues about the role of Sikh student associations). While these events are sporadic and intermittent – they are an example of one of the functional elements of a Sikh Student Organization – to educate ourselves and others about Sikhi.

However, it has to go beyond that. While I think any and all Sikh Student Associations should be given accolade for planning and participating in activities such as weekly Rehraas – there is much more to be achieved. Perhaps what’s integral to the success of these organizations (and to ensure they are effective) is to create an umbrella organization which provides resources and support to local Sikh Student Associations.

Take B.O.S.S. for example,

boss_logoThe British Organisation of Sikh Students is a non-political, non-profit making, independent body which acts as an umbrella organisation helping to develop, assist and support Sikh youth groups. [link]

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National Sikh Heritage Centre and Holocaust Museum

sikh_museum.gifAlthough it has been a few months since its ‘soft opening’, the National Sikh Heritage Centre and Holocaust Museum at Derby in the UK in July will soon host the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, to inaugurate the museum.

Although many Gurdwaras have a museum-room and apparently on the internet we have a cybersikhmuseum, the initiative to bring scattered items of Sikh heritage is much needed and should be lauded.

The Museum hosts a number of artifacts, including a canon that belonged to the Sarkar-e Khalsa during the time of Sardar (often erroneously called Maharaja by Sikhs) Ranjit Singh.

The library is currently featuring an exhibit From Jawans to Generals and in May will begin an exhibit on the Sikh Holocaust of 1984. They are beginning to collect rare books and hoping that the library will become a hub for Sikh scholarship.

The museum by bringing many such historical artifacts, located throughout UK together is more proof of the burgeoning of the Diaspora Sikh community and its finding new ways to engage with its changing self as well as non-Sikh community members. One hopes we will see similar initiatives in the US and Canada as well.

Fighting Back Against Abuse

If Baldev Mutta’s cellphone rings in the middle of a meeting, he picks it up. If it beeps over dinnertime or at midnight, he answers it. And if he has to go out to pick up a woman and find her a spot at a shelter at 3 a.m., he will do it. “It can mean the difference between life and death for a woman,” said Mutta, executive director of Punjabi Community Health Services in Brampton. “They are abused and don’t have anywhere else to go. This agency is their lifeline.” [link]

The Punjabi Community Health Services is an organization based in Brampton, Canada which provides variousservices to Punjabi women who have been abused. Instead of waiting for women to turn up at their doorstep, thisorganizationtakes a proactive approachby sendingworkers into the communityto speak with abused women. They visit Gurdwaras and community centers to find women in distress. At times they must speak with the women secretly at doctor’s appointments, grocery stores, even parking lots, so their families don’t find out.

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gulabi_gang.jpgIn related news, I recently read an articleabout the “Gulabi Gang” in an issue of Marie Claire which appeared on New America Mediayesterday aswell. The Gulabi Gangare a group of women in Indiawho have come together to fight against abuse. When local officials refused to take action against an alleged rapist, scores of pink-sari-clad women stormed the police station, demanding action – and thus, became know as the Gulabi Gang. For example, when Sampat Pal Devi learned that a friend had been beaten by her alcoholic husband and that the local police, chronically indifferent to violence against women, had looked the other way, something inside her snapped. In an effort to fight back, she gathered dozens of her female neighbors, armed them with sticks, and taught them how to fight back. Together, the self-declared Gulabi Gang have beaten up accused rapists, profligate officials, and husbands who’ve abandoned their wives.

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Sikh Spirit

ssf.jpg.pngI know, from personal experience, that Sikh student organizations are always looking for a way to “get involved” and participate in a good cause. So, when I read about a recent initiative encouraging this type of active involvement, I cheered (abeit silenty… and to myself). The Sikh Spirit Foundation is an organization dedicated to promoting sikh values through education. In line with this mission, the Foundation recently launched a contest looking for project ideas which could help sikh education or our local gurdwaras.

Help us assist the Sikh Community. Tell us how you would spend $25,000 to improve Sikh education or your local gurduara for a chance to win an iPod!

Submit two written paragraphs explaining what you would do and how it would help the Sikh community. Ideas will be judged according to feasibility, impact and need.

The Sikh Spirit Foundation intends to pursue the winning idea this summer by inviting the global community to submit proposals for the project. The Foundation will select and fund the best proposal among the submissions. [link]

Some of the organization’s grantees include: Ensaaf, Gyan Sewa Trust, Nanakshahi, Sikh Coalition, SikhNet, Sikh Research Institute, and Ujjaldidar Singh Memorial Foundation.

We’ve previously discussed involvement in the Sikh cause and lac(k)tivism – so it would be great to hear how youth and student organizations take the opportunity to suggest solutions to problems in gurdwaras and provide ideas for improving sikh education. Whether we acknowledge this or not, we are building a world today where our children will live tomorrow.To see the positive impact, itreally comes down to how much we are willing to invest in our community today. Weencourage you to go directly to the website to read submission guidelines – however, if you’d like to leave some thoughts here too – we’d love to hear your ideas!

Slumdog Millionaire: What To Do Once the Glitz And Glamour Is Gone?

slumdog_millionaire19.jpgAmidst all the Slumdog Millionaire Oscar hysteria, some have been asking how are we ACTUALLY going to combat the issues of poverty in Indian slums? I heard on Entertainment Tonight, or some show like that, the movies directors/producers have set up a trust-fund for the child-stars (who currently live in slums), are paying for their families to move into decent apartments, and will be paying for the childrens education.

But how about the rest of the families who were cheering away in Mumbai slums as Slumdog Millionaire won its eight Oscars? I came across this great blog post by Minal Hajratwala, Slumdog: Dont Just Watch, Do Something, which took scenes from the movie and talked about how we can address those poverty issues in reality. I am going to copy a few of those segments here, but please do visit Minal’s blog for the full-effect.

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Dont Feel Sorry For Me, I Am The Daughter Of A Shaheed

As the 25th anniversary of 1984 approaches us, TLH posts have covered some activities commemorating this devastating time in our history.

My most vivid memories of “1984” are watching Indira Gandhis funeral on television and the border of photos inside my local Gurdwaras Langar Hall of the men who had been tortuously killed during the Khalistani movement. As I got older, I always wondered how Sikh women were impacted by these events, aside from the infamous photo of a widow crying with her child in her arms.

I read about a woman who was strongly involved in the Sikh student movement in Punjab but now lived on the East Coast (USA). At the Fremont Gurdwara, I remember the single picture of a woman who helped make the border of Shaheeds’ photos hung high in the Langar Hall. I recall the emotional testimonies of widows left deserted by our community and the Indian government in the film, Widow Colony. Most recently, I came across this poem, Dont Feel Sorry For Me, I Am The Daughter Of A Shaheed written by woman who lost her family in the 1984 riots in Delhi.

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Sikhs, Immortal Technique, and 1984

sikh_immortal_technique.jpg2009 marks the 25th year since the events of 1984. Tragedy and the vibrancy of life mark the story that is 1984 and beyond. There will be many activities I assume over the next few months and I will do my best to stay informed and encourage participation by our readers, writers, and beyond.

Last year, I wrote that I was a HUGE fan of Immortal Technique. Although some of the commenters could not move beyond his usage of profanity, I think they are losing out on a phenomenal activist and inspiration. In that post I had mentioned his usage of a Sikh analogy, it seems next month he may be doing much more. The Sikh Students Association at the University of Maryland, College Park is one of the groups playing host to an upcoming performance on March 6th, 2009 at 6pm. The tagline of one of the posters (well one that I am sure the Sikh groups are promoting) is “Remembering 1984: 25 Years Since the Battle of Amritsar and the Sikh Genocide“. For more information visit Techs myspace page that states that free admission will be limited to the first 500 people.

Another great initiative that was recently brought to my attention is the One Million Chaupai Sahibs project. The target: 1,000,000 Chaupai Sahibs by June 2009. Whether individually or collectively, I hope the TLH community actively supports the project.

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India’s Shoot-Out Cops

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We recently posted on Ensaaf’s new report that studies the all too common practice of extra-judicial killings (usually referred to as ‘encounters’) and the mass cremations that followed by the Punjab police forces during the 1980s and 1990s. Well it looks like these practices were not limited to Punjab and these serious human rights violations are finally hitting the mainstream media.

This week, Time magazine writes about “Rights Groups Probe India’s Shoot-Out Cops“:

Scarcely a day passes in India by without news of an encounter between the police and criminals elements “encounter” being the local jargon for shootouts involving the police, who are allowed to fire only in self-defense. On Wednesday, it was a “dreaded mafia don” who was gunned down by the Uttar Pradesh police shot dead, and therefore unable to challenge the police account of the circumstances of the shooting. But some in India have begun to question the frequency of such “encounters”.

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Sikh Teenager Held in Asylum Detention Center

Satnam Singh Gurwara, a 16-year-old refugee from Afghanistan, is currently being held in a detention center in Manchester, UKafter his application for asylum was denied. His mother, is begging officials to show “humanity” and release her teenage son from the detention center. The Home Office is understood to have rejected his claim for asylum amid questions over his claimed age of 16.

singh.jpgSatnam Singh Gurwara says he was just 12 when he was snatched on his way to a Sikh temple in his native Afghanistan. He says he was held for two days and needed 39 stitches in his leg when he was released. But his family continued to face threats – and they decided to sell everything they owned and flee the country in April 2007. They settled in Bolton, where Satnam became a student at the community college. [link]

The Refugee and Asylum Participatory Action Research Organisation (RAPAR) is calling for the Home Office to release Satnam immediately.

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Abandoned Afghani bride’s struggle against Indian army doctor inspires many women

One Afghani woman has had enough. And her story hasstruck a chord with many Indian woman who are now supporting herstruggle to hold accountable an Indian Army doctor who married and abandoned her in Kabul after three weeks of marriage. Major Pant eventually called her, after returning to India, to tell her he was already married and had two children.

ahmadzai.jpgTwenty-year-old Sabra Ahmadzai finished her final high school test in Afghanistan, took out a bank loan and then flew to India on the last day of November. She came to look for an Indian army doctor who she said had deceived, married and then abandoned her in Kabul, making her an object of shame and ridicule.

In India, Ahmadzai’s journey has become a rallying point for young women across college campuses who find in her a source of inspiration to question powerful hierarchies of traditional societies. The students in three universities in the capital are trying to set up a “Justice Committee for Sabra” by enlisting eminent lawyers, retired judges, professors and independent activists. [Washington Post](emphasis added).

She had been pressured by her family and community to marry Major Pant who had been stationed in the medical hospital in Kabul. He wastwice her age. Pant approached her family three times with marriage proposals. When her mother turned him away for not being Muslim, he returned with a priest who would convert him to Islam.

“I did not love him. He was my boss and twice my age. But the elders and the priest said, ‘We have given our word and cannot take it back,’ ” she recalled. “He had won their hearts by treating sick children of my relatives, too. They liked him. I followed their wishes obediently.” [Washington Post]

What’s strikingare the layers ofabuse that Ahmadzai is fighting against- from the marriage coerced by her community to a man twice her age, herbattle to hold accountable an Indian army doctor for his lies and manipulation, to the stigma imposedon her as an abandoned bride.Ahmadzai has responded to the stigma by confronting the doctor who manipulated her. I’d be curious to know how she feels about the pressuresfrom her own community, which journalists haven’t questioned her about. For now, Ahmadzaiis at leastconfronting the Indian army doctorto regain, or perhaps gain for the first time,power and control over her own life.

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Sikh Raptors Fan Gets Roughed Up By Security At Toronto’s Air Canada Centre

Just when you think that everything is hunky-dory for Sikhs in Canada, you hear of an incident like this that makes your cringe. Here’s a first-hand account of an incident that took place at the Toronto Raptors game last Friday night.

Raptors.jpgMy brother, Gagandeep Singh Saluja and I, Simran Kaur Saluja attended a Raptors game at the Air Canada Centre on the night of Friday, January 30, 2009. I witnessed something which disturbed me tremendously. After a great night of getting two of the Raptors players to sign our jerseys and getting Jermaine ONeals wristband, my brother and I make our way out to see the post-game show.

He tells me he has to use the washroom. Entering a public washroom is not unlawful in any way. I witnessed many people entering and exiting the same washroom my brother wished to use. A security guard approached my brother, out of all people as he is a visible minority that stands out. The security guard told my brother to get out. For what reason? Well, let me describe my brother to you all. He is a third-year student studying Business Management at UTSC and a proud Sikh youth who wears his turban with pride and joyA huge Raptors fan as well. Gagan asks him for what while he tries to make his way to a stall and the security guard starts pushing him and saying You dont want to start with me! He then calls back-up. Gagan finds himself with 4 to 5 security guards on him trying to kick him out. Police officers get involved during this time and start tackling him.

I sensed something wrong while I was standing outside watching the post-game show. I was hesitant in terms of if I should check on my brother in the washroom but I thought it wouldnt be appropriate for me to do that. I decided to wait for him as I thought that the security guard had let him use the washroom. I wait for about 10 minutes for my brotherI was getting a bit edgy and started looking around for him. I had not seen anything.

Later, the security guard is out of breath and sweaty and attends to the location where I had seen him prior to the whole washroom catastrophe. I ask him Arent you the one who was in the washroom? He said yeah. He knew that I was there waiting for Gagan and after another 10 minutes he tells me, You might want to make your way out as to whoever you were with is being arrested. I race outside to find my brother without his turban on, in pain and suffering. When I saw his faceI dont know how to explain such regret. I keep thinking to myself had I gone into the washroom?! Maybe, just maybe they would not have used such force against him. I love my brother a whole lot and I never want to see him hurt. This whole ordeal that happened in Toronto, Canada out of all places is just sad.

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Turbans and The Home Depot

A Sikh gentleman has been involved in a Ontario Human Rights Tribunal matter relating to alleged discrimination against him for wearing a turban at work.

The case centers around treatment that this gentleman received at the hands of a Home Depot employee while posted by a third party security company to provide security detail for a Home Depot construction site. What is particularly disturbing about the allegations are the allegations of racial bias as the employee is alleged to have refused entry to Mr. Deepinder Singh Loomba but also to have stated that he had been successful in the past in not allowing any turbaned persons to work at his site.

Mr. Loomba is a well educated professional who has worked with international companies in other countries and had recently immigrated to Canada, working in security while he was getting settled here. He has decided to take up this case on account of what he saw as a racial bias and a refusal by a large retailer like Home Depot to recognize and deal with the bias. Mr. Loomba has been supported by the Ontario Gurudwara Committee and now needs your moral support.

After over a year of legal haggling he has his day in court and will be in hearings today and tomorrow at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (located at 655 Bay St., 14th Floor, Toronto). The hearings started on Monday and will continue until Wednesday (three days) from 9.30 to 4:30 each day and are open to the public. Moral support and awareness would be appreciated – all the press we can get would also help to put some pressure on Home Depot to do the right thing.

All along Mr. Loomba has insisted that this outcome include an apology to the community and an acknowledgment by Home Depot that they need to implement more racial awareness and sensitivity training in the company. He has stuck this out for the good of the community and it would be great if people could show support and help him out at this crucial time in his case”

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