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The Great Basanti Hype: Manpreet Badal and the Punjab Peoples Party

ppp_logo.jpgCall me a hater, but I am just not that excited. Despite the exuberance of some of my fellow langa(w)riters, I am not convinced.

Dont get me wrong, one of the worst leeches that have siphoned the blood, resources, and morale of the Panth for far too long is the Family Badal.

While state coffers are in ruins and the once mighty land of five rivers finds itself facing ecological (decreasing water table and poisoned through pesticides) and social disasters (drugs and sex-selective abortion, immediately come to mind), the upcoming 2012 elections will be the most expensive show-down in the states history. With the anti-incumbency trend so powerful (nobody ever explores this phenomenon, but it is the travesty of Punjab, where you kick the ruling party out, not too support the opposition, but merely hoping for a slight improvement), most are predicting a Congress victory.

In no small part this will be due to in-fighting within the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal. As Parkash Badal has turned the once Panthic Shiromani Akali Dal into a Punjabi party that is really nothing more than his own fiefdom for his patronage networks, public disapproval is on the rise. The people in Punjab are asking if their situation has improved over the past 5 years. Increasingly, they are saying no.

The greatest hope (or hype) about the upcoming elections is seen in Manpreet Badals Punjab Peoples Party. Manpreet (Parkash Badals nephew) was thrown out of the party due to taking openly critical positions. Many youth are energized, as they see the PPP as a step towards a new future. Even in the diaspora, people (including my own father!) are excited, as I havent seen in years.


The Death of Bin Laden & the Soul of the USA

It’s been over a week now. I’ve been wanting to write, but have been on the road, my head spinning with newspa240076_868074799191_21011576_45621412_1578982_o.jpgper headlines and the voices of cable news pundits. Navdeep posted some thoughtful reflections and questions here, and in the meantime, we’ve had the opportunity to see the response to bin Laden’s death throughout the country and world. By now, we are all probably well aware of the spontaneous celebrations of thousands at Ground Zero and Time Square in New York City and at the White House, with victorious chants of “USA! USA!”, the night President Obama made the announcement of bin Laden’s death.

I was traveling in New Orleans when the news hit, and the mood there was similar. God Bless Americas were being yelled in bars of the touristy French Quarter, people running down the streets (drunkly) yelling “We killed him! We killed him!” with a disturbingly rage-filled glee.

I happened to be exploring the city on my own that night, and was immediately nervous when I heard the news. Within a few minutes, several strangers made snide and/or aggressive comments about bin Laden’s death directly to me, as if to imply that I was related to him. Throughout my week of time in New Orleans and Texas thereafter, strangers heckled me with taunts of “Osama” almost every day. One day, a young kid leaving school (maybe 10 years old) asked me, seemingly earnestly, if I was a terrorist. And I was even pulled out of a night club in Houston by security because I was carrying a bag (which had an instrument in it).

Indeed, the death of bin Laden does not appear to mean the death of bigotry. Colorlines reports:

A mosque in Maine was vandalized with the messages Osama today, Islam tomorrow and Go Home. In Houston, a schoolteacher was disciplined for racially profiling a Muslim ninth-grader by asking if she was grieving her uncles death on Monday.Also this week, Mohamed Kotbi, an Arab waiter who is suing his employer, the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, for religious and racial discrimination following the 9/11 attacks, has reported more taunts from co-workers following bin Ladens death.

I am curious if other Sikhs have experienced a similar rise in harassment. What does it mean that when the US claims victory over Enemy #1, the general public vilifies Muslims and turban-wearing Sikhs even more? Sometimes it seems we’ve made little progress since the hateful aftermath of 9/11, and perhaps are even moving backwards.


Canadian Election 2011 Analysis: On Context, Comments, and Critiques

Sikh_Canadians.jpgAnd I was worried that no one was going to read my postJ.

Over the past week, Ive read through all the comments in detail and have had many conversations with people in person. The dialogue has been supportive as well as critical, eye opening, challenging but most importantly always respectful. Its reaffirmed my belief that we Sikhs can openly articulate our differences in a productive way. Heres some additional perspectives that Ill put out there for debate:


Of course, Michael Ignatieffs failure to connect with Canadians was a major reason for the collapse of the Liberals. But there are much deeper, systemic issues with the party and for the party to survive, it needs a transformation from top to bottom. This will require a redefinition of what it means to be a Liberal in todays Canada. This also includes reaching out to all those stakeholders to whom they had grown complacent, Sikh-Canadians included.

The Liberal party has done great things for our community over the years, a lot of which falls on deaf ears because it is ancient history to the under-30 generation. These youth only remember sponsorship scandals, Chretien vs Martin and Ignatieffs reluctance to support the 1984 petition. Having said that, the party and its Sikh representatives need to produce much better answers for the questions of what have you done for us lately? and what are you going to do for us going forward?


UPDATE: Canadian Election 2011 Analysis – Sikhs: Kingmakers in Our Own Mind


UPDATED: Picture added on bottom.
UPDATED 5/11 – Maple Leaf Sikhs responds! View here!

My fellow Sikh-Canadians, its the morning after the big party. How does it feel? You must be a little hung over? Why wouldnt you be? Youve been drunk on power over the last 5 weeks. Youve had every leader in the country wining and dining you in style. Telling you how great you are, how important you are to him and how he cant live without you. Theyve trotted you out to every event like a prized possession, your dastaar (turban) became the ultimate fashion accessory of the election. No political stage was complete without a token Sardar in his requisite blue, red or orange turban.

You took the leaders everywhere with you. They met your family and friends – heck you even introduced them to your Father Guru and foolishly praised their false kingdoms in the presence of the King of Kings. You invited them to your Khalsas birthday celebrations and if they were able to say the Gurus Fateh, your heart melted because you believed they really loved you. It felt great to be in the spotlight.

After so many years of being insulted and neglected, being seen as an outsider and the Other, you were finally part of the cool kids crowd. You felt like a somebody – recognized on the national stage as a king-maker. Now its the morning after and what do you have to show for it?

The numbers are clear. Not a single Amritdhari left in Parliament. In fact youre down to only one Sardar. 1984 petition supporters Sukh Dhaliwal and Andrew Kania both gone. Gurbax Malhi gone too. ALL defeated largely by Sikhs supporting their opponents. But, boy did it feel good to get rid of Ujjal and Ruby. Except at the end of the day theyre Sikhs too. Sure youve added a few Sikh faces but it remains a question of where their loyalties really lie and if they will fight for our rights.

Congratulations Sikh-Canadians. Youve cut off your nose to spite your face.


Canadian Election 2011 Results – State of the Sikhs

canada_and_sikhs.jpgAlthough this election season had seen the largest Punjabi field of candidates in Canada’s history, the number of MPs of Sikh background did decline.

The winners: The Tory party had a field night and can now claim an all-out majority in the Canadian parliament. The NDP had a very strong showing becoming the official opposition party.

The losers: The Liberal party suffered a crushing defeat and the individual election results largely followed this trend.

On the way out/On their way in – Navdeep Singh Bains, previously covered and once seen as a rising star, lost to Eve Adams. Gurbax Malhi, who had been an MP since 1993, lost to Bal Gosal. Ruby Dhalla, a friend of murderers and thugs, was kicked out and replaced by Parm Gill. Sukh Dhaliwal, who gained special acclaim for raising the banner the Sikh cause, lost against Jinny Sims. Ujjal Dosanjh, long criticized for his divisive role in the Sikh community, was finally defeated (and hopefully ends his career) by Wai Young. Also, Jasbir Sandhu of the NDP successfully defeated incumbent Dona Cadman (pagh salute to Jagpal Tiwana for making me aware of my omission!)

Stayed safe – Conservative candidates Tim Uppal and Nina Grewal retained their seats.

Of note – Andrew Kania was defeated by Kyle Seeback.

Of interest – Jagmeet Singh of the NDP energized the youth and lost by a mere 500 votes in an election that only a month ago he was thought to be a non-factor. Also one of the most interesting pre-election article I ever saw was on the growing maturity of a Sikh electorate as described by the Toronto Sun’s Raveena Aulakh.

So this is the view from south of Canada’s border. Hoping to have a full-analysis later in the day and hope to hear from our Canadian brothers and sisters about the results and their meanings.

French Niqab Ban in Action

The controversial new French law that bans Muslim women from wearing the niqab, or full-face veil, went into effect today and was met with resistance in Paris. The New York Times reports:

The police detained two fully veiled women at a small protest outside the Notre Dame cathedral in central Paris, where demonstrators were easily outnumbered by police officers and journalists. But it was not clear whether the women had been held under laws forbidding unauthorized demonstrations.

French authorities estimate that less than 2,000 women in the entire country even wear the niqab, in a country of nearly 63 million. The NYT article continues:

The ban also applies to foreigners visiting France… Violators may be punished with a fine of 150 euros, equivalent to $215. But people forcing others to cover their faces are subject to much stiffer punishments, including a maximum 12 months in prison and a fine of 30,000 euros, equivalent to more than $42,000, or twice that amount if the person forced to cover their face is a minor.

I’ve argued before that France’s so-called attempts at “liberating” Muslim women in reality perpetuates racist and assimilationist notions of national identity. Some Muslims in France are organizing to challenge the law. One wealthy property developer has set aside some $2.8 million to help women fight the ban and is encouraging women to wear the niqab in the streets as a form of civil disobedience. (Check out this video of a French Muslim woman taking a train to Paris today wearing her niqab)


Gay Marriage, Sikhi, and the Repeal of DOMA

Advocates of gay rights celebrated after the Obama administration in late February said that it would no longer support the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that bans the recognition of same-sex marriage. The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.

The Obama administration, however, believes DOMA is unconstitutional.

President Barack Obama has concluded that the administration cannot defend the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. He noted that the congressional debate during passage of the Defense of Marriage Act “contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution’s) Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.” (link)

Although I take issue with the state having a role in defining what is and isn’t a legitimate relationship in general (and one’s romantic relationship defining whether or not they get access to certain benefits and privileges), I applaud the administration taking this strong stance against homophobic bigotry. So, I was disappointed (though not terribly surprised) to hear that the World Sikh Council, a “representative and elected body of Sikh Gurdwaras and institutions in the US,” has been lobbying the Obama administration to uphold DOMA and went so far as to co-sign a letter of protest to President Obama denouncing his decision to reverse DOMA. The letter states:


People’s Party of Punjab

198207_155574971169597_155524257841335_330499_7913901_n.jpgAs we follow news onpro-democracy uprisings across the globe, Panjab has joined this conversation in it’s own way. On Sunday March 27th 2011, Manpreet Badal announced a brand new political party in preparation for February 2012 elections in Punjab. Thousands gathered atKhatkar Kalan village, the village of Shaheed Bhagat Singh,to hear the former Finance Minister of Punjab launch the agenda for The People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), promising a “better, progressive Punjab”. He asked supporters for their backing for the next 11 months as the party’s agenda reaches fruition. The party will be founded on the ideology of the martyrs.

Aspects of the PPP’s agenda include: police reform, stopping the domination by an individual or clan, an assembly to evaluate ministers’ performance, government expenditure to be cut down drastically, only one security officer provided and extensive security to be paid for individually, only necessary foreign trips for leaders, free electricity provision will not be provided to wealthy farmers, revenue will be hiked by checking tax evasion, a desire to restore Punjab’s primacy in agriculture, investments in new industries, an increase in investments that create jobs, promotion of religious tolerance, scholarships provided for excellence in sports, speciality hospitals in each district and zero tolerance for crime and corruption. [via gpunjab news]

In an interview, Manpreet Badal spoke about the need for leaders to be role models and for the government to be transparent and accountable. In addition, he stated that 50% of seats will be reserved for women and youth. For those Panjabis living in Panjab or in the diaspora, who are acutely aware of the issues impacting Punjab’s growth and prosperity, the idea of a new party that is committed to change is a promising thought. What do you think? Will this be the change we have been looking for in Punjab?

For more information, see PPP’sFacebook page. After the jump you can view videos of Manpreet Badal’s announcement.


Class Tyranny in Wisconsin

By now you’ve probably heard about Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s attack on working class people and labor unions in Wisconsin. This week, Walker’s bill, which undermines public sector workers’ right to collectively bargain and slashes their benefits, among other things, passed through the state Senate, without a single Democratic Senator present for the vote, and the Assembly, in the face of three weeks of massive protests, the largest demonstrations in Wisconsin since the Vietnam War.

The Washington Post reports:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker won his drive to strip the state’s government workers of nearly all of their collective-bargaining rights Thursday, after a three-week standoff that brought tens of thousands of protesters to the Capitol.

The new legislation represents a major setback for organized labor, but the political battle over public employees and their rights to bargain is likely to continue – not only in Madison.

The state Assembly passed Walker’s proposal a day after Republican senators outmaneuvered the 14 Democratic senators who had fled Wisconsin to deny a quorum needed for passing a budget measure. By stripping the bill of its spending language, they were able to pass it with only Republicans present.

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SikhLEAD: An Initiative to Increase Community Engagement and Leadership

FB_large.jpgThe Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) has announced the Congressional Internship Program (CIP) as part oftheir new initiative called SikhLEAD. The objective of SikhLEAD is to inspire, train, and support motivated and enterprising young Sikh American leaders as they prepare for a lifetime of community engagement and community leadership. The CIP is the first effort under this new and dynamic initiative.

SALDEFs CIP partners with congressional offices to place Sikh American college students in internship positions on Capitol Hill with members of Congress. Through this program, students will be afforded first-hand perspective into the functioning of the federal government, as a way of providing experience-based training to individuals interested in civic engagement and government affairs.

Through the experience of interning in a congressional office, interns will:

  • explore a potential career track
  • create a network of professional and personal contacts
  • develop real-world skills
  • build confidence and professional work habits

The application deadline for summer 2011 internships is March 27th, 2011!
Visit for more details and to apply.Spread the word and tell your friends about this exciting opportunity.

Canadas House Sikhs on the front lines defending colonization and promoting ethnic cleansing.

Malcom X once designated the term house negro to describe the African American slaves that were unwilling to leave their marginally comfortable lives subjugated by their white slave owners and very likely to support the oppressive system of slavery. These house negros continued to exist throughout history helping perpetuate atrocities against their fellow African Americans, conspiring to no end to keep oppressive systems in place. Nowadays, we have a house Negro as a president, and in Canada, we have house Sikhs.

The last few years have been vital for the right wing in Canada. Canada has taken an unprecedented role in the international stage in upholding oppressive regimes and systems and continuing its role in the war on terror and the war in Afghanistan. Two wars which have produced over a million dead bodies, tens of millions more displaced and dispossessed, and countless lives traumatized. But we all know this; we all have been witness to the horrors of these wars and theres no need to continue on exploring their horrors, but what is important is to see where our own Sikh leaders have been while millions of innocent lives were destroyed. What we find, surprisingly, is a lack of concern or at the extreme, complicity and support.

Being a Canadian and being sensitive to our communities suffering and that of other communities, I find myself pitted against a majority that is suffering from apathy. I see a Panjabi, Sikh community consistently disenfranchised from Canadian polity yet being consistently utilized as a major voting bank by exploitative politicians who invest in our communities apathetic and introverted nature. They see a community willing to throw support to any tom, dick and harry that greets them with a sat-sri-akal and a half assed smile and we all too willingly welcome them in our homes and institutions. This is a narrative we find almost universally everywhere and though it does not necessarily imply a problem relative to only our community, it is a systemic problem that has to be recognized and corrected. But even with these corrective measures, we, in Canada, have begun to see these house Sikhs prop up and this is going to be a struggle onto itself.


NYPD diversity training with a sinister twist

Since 9/11, Sikh advocates and community members have been proactive about providing training for law enforcement officers to educate them about our religion and articles of faith and to foster positive relations between local police and Sikhs. My feelings about the role of the police in our communities aside, the Village Voice is reporting that New York City cops have been doing some learning about the Muslim community lately. But not the kind of learning that SALDEF and other Sikh organizations have been facilitating across the country.

At a recent counter-terrorism training, NYPD officers were shown a full-length, Muslim-bashing film called The Third Jihad. According to the Village Voice, the film “is 72 minutes of gruesome footage of bombing carnage, frenzied crowds, burning American flags, flaming churches, and seething mullahs. All of this is sandwiched between a collection of somber talking heads informing us that, while we were sleeping, the international Islamist Jihad that wrought these horrors has set up shop here and is quietly going about its deadly business.”

During the film, the narrator says, “Americans are being told that most of the mainstream Muslim groups are moderate when in fact, if you look a little closer, youll see a very different reality. One of their primary tactics is deception.”


Will Obama give into bigotry?

By now, most of you have likely heard about the controversy surrounding Obama’s potential visit to Darbar Sahib (aka the Golden Temple) in Amritsar. The Sikh Coalition reported this week that the President’s travel plans in India are still not finalized and is encouraging community members to write to the White House to urge President Obama to include Darbar Sahib in his schedule. You can send a message by clicking here.

SALDEF and United Sikhs representatives were quoted in yesterday’s New York Times article about Sikhs’ frustration with Obama for canceling the visit out of fear of being perceived as Muslim (which according to the Times, one in five Americans perceive him as such).

Theres a xenophobic trend in this country, where some people are calling him Muslim, said Jasjit Singh, associate director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a Washington-based civil rights group. If he gives in to this trend then effectively hes emboldening them.

Apparently, the White House fears the right wing’s ever-increasing Islamophobic backlash. Indeed, pundits on Fox News would likely have a field day with photographs of President Barack Hussein Obama with his head covered surrounded by brown, bearded men in turbans. While this concern is understandable, Jasjit from SALDEF’s point gets to the heart of the matter: canceling the trip to Darbar Sahib only emboldens the Anti-Muslim bigots and in fact perpetuates anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh bigotry.

Let’s hope that Sikh and Muslim Americans alike can work together, along with our supporters, to convince the President to not back down to bigotry. Tell the White House what you think.

No one is illegal

I just came across this great campaign to urge the American public to stop calling immigrants “illegals.” Brought to us by the racial justice media organization Colorlines, the “Drop the I-Word” Campaign website states, “The I-Word creates an environment of hate by exploiting racial fear and economic anxiety, creating an easy scapegoat for complex issues, and OK-ing violence against those labeled with the word.”

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Stupid or Evil?

As the debate over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” wages on in the media with plenty of misinformation and a whole lot of fear-mongering, we finally get some worthwhile news from The Daily Show on the subject.

The Parent Company Trap


Liberation or Racism?

The French government is at it again. France’s lower house just passed a law that would make it illegal for women to wear the full Islamic veil (burqa or niqab) in public. It would fine women 150 euros for not complying. Sundari posted on this issue back in February, and now this attack on religious freedom has come one step closer to being the law of the land as the bill passed 335 to 1 in the National Assembly this week. The bill would have to be ratified in September by the Senate to become law.

Proponents of the law say the National Assembly vote is a victory for democracy and French Values. Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie stated it was a victory for, “Values of freedom against all the oppressions which try to humiliate individuals; values of equality between men and women, against those who push for inequality and injustice.”

What about the value to practice your religion freely and express your identity (religious or otherwise) through what you wear? Madeline Bunting, in a great column in the UK’s Guardian today, stated: “Women wearing the skimpiest of mini-skirts sit down on buses next to other women in saris, business suits, salwar kameez. None of these cultural codes expressed in dress are regarded as the business of the state. Nor should they be.”


Letter from Kashmir

Guest Blogged by Amritpan


Earlier this week I received an email letter from Kashmir. This was not the first such letter from Kashmir, nor I fear, will it be the last. Ive read this letter once, twice, again and again and still cannot begin to explain the helplessness, anger, and despair that I feel each time. Helplessness for the lives of my people lost. Anger for the status quo of violence and periods of strained silence that soon erupt into violence and for this brutal cycle. And despair for seemingly no end in sight, the lack of a process that could bring peace to my homeland.

Below I share this letter with you. Some of it was also published here.


Post-9/11 hatred rages on near Ground Zero

Guestblogged by Brooklynwala

Yesterday morning I was reading the ubiquitous, free AM New York newspaper on the subway on the way to a cordoba_house.jpgmeeting and was disturbed and saddened to learn about a protest of 1,000 people in lower Manhattan against an Islamic Center being built near Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 attacks. Holding signs with slogans like, No 9/11 Mega Mosque and Dont dishonor my sons grave, these protestors represent the growing backlash against the 13-story community center and mosque being built by the Cordoba Initiative.

According to their website, Cordoba aims to achieve a tipping point in Muslim-West relations within the next decade, bringing back the atmosphere of interfaith tolerance and respect that we have longed for since Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in harmony and prosperity eight hundred years ago. The Cordoba Initiatives proposed Cordoba House located two blocks from Ground Zero is about promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture. Cordoba House will provide a place where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, will find a center of learning, art and culture; and most importantly, a center guided by universal values in their truest form – compassion, generosity, and respect for all.

A few weeks ago, Tea Party leader Mark Williams, a frequent guest on CNN, stated that the monument would consist of a Mosque for the worship of the terrorists’ monkey-god.


The Base Disgrace that is Jake Knotts – Jon Stewart and Ragheads

The issue was discussed last week, with many of our readers unable to differentiate the difference between private conversation and public discourse. On Sepiamutiny, my brother Ennis Singh Mutinywale also had some great analysis, here, here, here, and here.

On a sidenote, a pagh salute to our brothers and sisters at SALDEF for hearing the calls and giving a statement.

Here you can see Jon Stewart’s take on South Carolina’s politics – The Race to Replace Disgrace (starts 3:23) For those faint of heart, do not go below the fold to watch the video link due to its ‘adult’ humor and language. This may be the first time Jon Stewart mentioned the word ‘Sikh’ (4:35)on his show, unfortunately not under the best circumstance.


Men charged for last year’s Vienna violence

About this time last year, in July, an attack on a dera in Austria sparked violence in Punjab. Six men have now been vienna_riot.jpgcharged- one with murder, and five with attempted murder as accomplices – for the initial attack in Vienna.

A 35-year-old man has been charged with murder and two counts of attempted murder, a Vienna court spokesman said. The five others are charged with being accomplices in attempted murder and with attempted severe assault on the worshippers. [link]

The five charged as accomplices are planning on pleading not guilty. [link]

The thirty-five year old charged with murder claims that he suffers from memory loss “after being subdued by worshippers wielding frying pans, a rolling pin and a microphone stand. The defence said it would submit a psychiatric assessment to the court.” He’ll be submitting a psychiatric evaluation to assess any such loss.

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