Surrey’s Sikhs flock to see film about Khalistan movement that is banned in India

Published: April 25, 2013

Sadda Haq poster

The Punjabi film, ‘Sadda Haq,’ written by Kuljinder Sidhu, delivers an account of the Khalistan movement in India in the 1990s. Submitted photo

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

Sikhs in Surrey and across the globe have been streaming into local theatres to support a new film currently banned in Punjab.

The Punjabi film, “Sadda Haq,” written by Kuljinder Sidhu, delivers an account of the Khalistan movement in India in the 1990s. The plot follows a Canadian researcher who travels to the country to interview imprisoned Khalistan militants. Through her interviews their tragic lives are revealed, detailing their hardships, the violence and rape that plagued their families.

“(There is) an enormous amount of misrepresentation on the Sikh militant movement … which has been a taboo subject,” said Langara College’s department of sociology chair Indira Prahst. “This is a very courageous film.”

“(It portrays how the) law was suspended, how the police actually engaged in torture and imprisonment without lawyers, with absolute violation of human rights.”

While the film’s Punjabi ban will go before India’s Supreme Court Friday, Surrey’s Sikh community has flooded the Cineplex Odeon Strawberry Hills Cinemas on 72nd Avenue since the movie’s Canadian release.

“It’s been extremely well attended,” said Cineplex spokesman Mike Langdon. “We’ve had a number of our evening shows sell out.”

According to Prahst, the film finally gives non-resident Indians the chance to “connect with their history freely.”

“This subject resonates very strongly with our diaspora Sikhs,” she said.

Living as a minority in India following the 1984 attack on the Golden Temple, Sikhs were often faced with oppression that lasted well into the late 1990s. As a result, many fled to Canada as refugees or joined the militant movement.

“That part of history has not been represented much in the mainstream — especially outside of the label ‘terrorism,’” said Prahst. “(And the movie) is about the social conditions that militants lived in and why some of them took arms and the sacrifices that some of them made for their Sikh faith.”

For Burnaby’s Indy Panchi, the film was “very moving” and like nothing he’s seen before.

“Innocent families got involved in something that they shouldn’t have got involved in and the state police was out of control,” he said. “Within that a lot of innocent youngsters, students, families got wiped out as well.”

“That could have been my brother, that could have been my sister.”

According to Prahst, the movie captures real life stories and accurately depicts history — without propaganda.

“Their lives and sacrifices and stories are coming to life,” she said. “This is a really good tool to teach youth about some of these martyrs or prisoners.”

And the Punjabi ban only demonstrates India won’t “own up to its own atrocities,” she said.

“India was lawless in that time — it’s an embarrassment for India,” she said. “It has not learned about reconciliation.”

Prahst believes the country needs to reconcile with Sikhs like Germany’s attempt to reconcile with the Jewish community.

“There are some Sikhs that are so hurt by this,” she said. “The support we’re seeing (outside of India) is a global movement right now.”

“To send a message that violence with impunity and human rights violations and freedom of speech will no longer be tolerated.”

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute

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