Surrey activist wants taxman to go after Sikh temples

Indian Overseas Congress Canada leader Vikram Bajwa. Submitted photo

VANCOUVER DESI

After creating a firestorm with unsubstantiated claims that two B.C. politicians are aiding Sikh separatists, Indian Overseas Congress (IOC) Canada leader, Vikram Bajwa, now wants Revenue Canada to go after Sikh temples that he claims are supporting the Khalistan movement.

Bajwa, from Surrey, B.C, whose organization is aligned with India’s ruling coalition, wants the Canadian taxman to investigate Sikh Gurdwaras, or temples, that allow Khalistan interests to operate from their religious grounds.

In a press release, the IOC alleges that the Canadian Sikh Coalition had defended the use of the insignias that symbolize Sikhs trying to establish a sovereign territorial state in India, called “Khalistan”.

“None of the Political parties in Canada, namely Liberal, NDP, GREEN or Conservatives, can have Offices in any church in Canada, so why would a Khalistan office be allowed to operate from any Gurudwara in Canada,” argues Bajwa.

“Some of the Gurudwaras will definitely lose their status, upon investigation,” he says.

Bajwa has taken aim at a number of gurdwaras in the U.S. and Canada that have kept Khalistan seals in their temples.

He cited repeated examples of the Dashmesh Darbar gurdwara in Surrey flying pro-Khalistan banners and displaying pro-Khalistan seals. He also said he would be meeting Akal Takht head priest Joginder Singh (temporal head) to make an appeal to him to issue a “hukamnaama” (edict) banning use of Khalistan seals in Sikh shrines.

Bajwa also made the bold claim that Pakistani agents had infiltrated the Indian media in Canada, thus disseminating distorted information about the Sikhs in Punjab.

“The second generation are being misguided by these gurdwaras. It is wrongly influencing young minds.”

Last week, Indian media said Bajwa, a former Surrey mayoral candidate, made allegations that MP Nina Grewal and Liberal politician Sukh Dhaliwal have travelled frequently to Pakistan to collect funds that were diverted to keep the Khalistan militant campaign, which seeks to create a separate Punjab state, alive.

Grewal, the Conservative MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells, and Dhaliwal, who was Liberal MP for Newton-North Delta from 2006 to 2011, both denied the report.

“[Bajwa] has made slanderous, false allegations against me that have not a shred of truth to them. He claims that I frequently visit Pakistan – although I’ve never been there. He claims I collected money while there for a Khalistan campaign – totally false and impossible since I’ve never even visited the country,” said Grewal said in a statement.

“[He] has fabricated a story that has absolutely no basis in reality. His claims are without fact or merit.”

Dhaliwal issued a statement through his lawyer Leslie Mackoff, also refuting the claims made by Bajwa.

“Mr. Dhaliwal has been to Pakistan once in his life in conjunction with a trip to India in 2011. He has never provided support of any type to the Khalistan movement. It is abundantly clear to us that Mr. Bajwa is committed to making mischief without any factual foundation for doing so.”

Both Grewal and Dhaliwal’s lawyer demanded an immediately apology and retraction by Bajwa, and said that any publication of his claims would be slander.

The claim came on the heels of Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird assuring Indian reporters that Canada was committed to curbing extremist groups amidst reports of stepped-up activities of Khalistani militants.

“We are committed to doing whatever we can within the limits of the constitution to curb activities of such extremist groups in Canada,” Baird told reporters in New Delhi during a joint press conference with Indian external affairs minister SM Krishna.

Khalistan activists have been campaigning for a separate homeland for Sikhs in India and their supporters are active in Greater Vancouver and Toronto.

“Once the activities of these groups are brought to our notice, we take action,” Baird said at a joint press interaction with Indian external affairs minister SM Krishna after their talks.

The World Sikh Organisation (WSO) and political parties in Punjab rubbished Bajwa’s claims.

In a letter to Minister Baird, WSO President Prem Singh Vinning said, “as a national human rights organization that has been deeply engaged with the Canadian Sikh community for nearly three decades, we have yet to see any signs or evidence of this alleged rise in extremism. The World Sikh Organization of Canada has repeatedly called for proof of such claims but none has been forthcoming … There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there is any threat of violence or radical extremism in the Sikh community today.”

Despite the Canadian Sikh community being more tightly woven into the Canadian fabric than ever, the continued baseless allegations of “rising Sikh extremism” have proven extremely damaging. The WSO has earlier linked allegations of extremism in the Sikh community with a rise in racism and discrimination against Canadian Sikhs, including hate speech and racist graffiti equating Sikhs with terrorists.

Vinning said, “we fear that this hostility could escalate, particularly if it appears that the rhetoric about Sikh extremism is endorsed by our own government.”
What appears to be the motivation behind these allegations of “rising Sikh extremism” is a desire to quash legitimate discussion of ongoing human rights abuses in India.



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