About Me

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Delta, British Columbia, Canada
I took very early retirement from teaching in '06 and did some traveling in Europe and the UK before settling down to do some private tutoring. As a voracious reader, I have many books waiting in line for me to read. Tell me I shouldn't read something, and I will. I'm a happy, optimistic person and I love to travel and through that believe that life can be a continuous learning experience. I'm looking forward to traveling more some day. I enjoy walking, cycling, water aerobics & and sports like tennis, volleyball, and fastpitch/baseball. I'm just getting into photography as a hobby and I'm enjoying learning all the bits and bobs of my digital camera. My family is everything to me and I'm delighted to be the mother of two girls and the Gramma of a boy and a girl. I may be a Gramma, but I'm at heart just a girl who wants to have fun.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Vaisakhi - Cultural Celebration or Political Event?

The mayor of Surrey (which borders on Delta where I live), won't be participating in the Vaisakhi parade on Saturday, April 12th because she is very disappointed that the committee from the Dasmesh Darbar Sikh temple continues to put images of so-called martyrs linked to terrorist activities or acts of violence on parade floats and at the stage events.

Vaisakhi is a dual event for Sikhs worldwide: a harvest festival along with the commemoration of 17th-century events that gave shape to the birth of the Sikh identity. This year, the event is expected to attract over 100,000 people and is supposed to be a cultural celebration.

However, the temple trustee, Satinderpal Singh Gill states that the temple would pay tribute to "shaheeds," or "martyrs." Some of those they intend to honour are the assassins of Indira Gandhi and two other killers dubbed Jinda and Sukha, who gunned down a retired Indian army general. Photos of these killers have already been on display at the stage put up in the temple parking lot in readiness for Vaisakhi.

Also, a tent has been erected containing photos of mutilated bodies said to be victims of Indian government "Sikh genocide."

The temple's president, Sudager Singh Sandhu has openly defended portraying Air India bombing mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar as a marty with the excuse that it's no different from Christians putting up a picture of Jesus Christ in a church.

At last year's event, some in the crowd wore clothing bearing the logo of the terrorist group ISYF (The International Sikh Youth Federation), which has been listed by the US State Dept's annual Patterns of Global Terrorism, in 1999, as an active terrorist organization that aspires to carve out of Indian territory an independent Sikh state called Khalistan.

MLA Dave Hayer stated that "we should not be showing any support for any criminal, any terrorist, any person that promotes hate or violence."...We can celebrate peace, harmony, respect and democracy in our culture and our religion without showing killers as heroes." (Vancouver Sun, Apr.11, pgA7)

Other parades being held in Abbotsford (April 13) and Vancouver (April 19) will not include these controversial images. I wonder why the organizers in Surrey insist on making this cultural event a political statement.


the walking man said...

"MLA Dave Hayer stated that "we should not be showing any support for any criminal, any terrorist, any person that promotes hate or violence."...We can celebrate peace, harmony, respect and democracy in our culture and our religion without showing killers as heroes." (Vancouver Sun, Apr.11, pgA7)"

Got that right Dave, let them in their caves of mentality scheme murder and death and reap the same as the wheel of thier mortality turns.

Of course this will turn to a political event Leslie because a 100 thousand people make a fairly large steak, pun intended.



Russell said...

Hmmm.... Not sure what to say. I will just say that parade certainly sounds a whole lot more interesting than the ones we have out here in Iowa!!

Our town parades consist of a lot of fire trucks (complete with sirens, thank you very much!), lots and lots of farm tractors, restored cars and trucks, the Shriners on their motorcycles or little cars doing figure eights, a few high school bands, the boy scouts and, well, some more fire trucks (and more sirens!).

Seriously, I know in the cities there is always some sort of controversy brewing over this group or that. My philosophy has always been if they don't hurt people, well, what the heck. Often they look and act so silly it is good for people to see them!

Take care and, by all means, go to the parade!! They are fun and often the people who watch the parades are much more fun to look at than the parade!

Josie said...

Leslie, well, you know what I think about it. And now the Mayor of Surrey has to be protected by a security guard because of threats on her life. That says it all.

I cannot see how a man who killed over 300 innocent people, including woman and children (babies!!!) can possibly by a martyr.

Enough is enough is enough is enough!!!

Crunchy Carpets said...

I agree Josie.....we in Canada should NOT even allow such a thing in public..it is a slap in the face to those who died and this country.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Very interesting but a sign of the times, I fear, Leslie.

leslie said...


The mayor did not attend at all because of death threats. Unbelieveable!!! And this is CANADA!

I am so proud of Dianne Watt for standing up for what was right. It seems everyone is so afraid of being called a racist or not being politically correct. Most of us "whites" wouldn't know who these guys were on those huge posters but now that we do know, we will avoid so-called "celebrations" like these.

I must add, though, that the temple did capitulate, sending out a press statement that: banned organizations will not be allowed to participate in any shape or form; pictures depicting violence or the outcome of violence will not be permitted; no acts to promote hate and violence against any person or group will permitted; and anyone wearing anything depicting a banned organization will be responsible for their own actions.

kpsingh said...

Hi Leslie,

Firstly, Mayor Dianne Watts DID in fact attend the Vaisakhi celebrations. The only thing she did not do is speak from the main stage. Nobody in the Sikh community would harm a public official for exercising their human right and constitutional right to freedom of speech and expressing their opinion. The Mayor has the right to her decision, however misinformed and ignorant.

Please allow me to address some of the issues about which people are jumping to conclusions.

1) There are no pictures in the Vaisakhi parade of any of the people alleged to have been involved in the Air India bombing. That said, those people who originally put up the picture of Talwinder Singh Parmar, believe that he was not involved in the Air India bombings and was killed in a "false encounter" by the Indian government in order to silence his activism for a free Khalistan. However "far-fetched" anyone thinks that point of view is, it remains a fact that the Vaisakhi parade organizers have respected the concerns of the RCMP, Air India victims, and Parmar's family, and removed the pictures.

2) The Sikh community never celebrated or felt vindication or revenge or "blood lust" (as one of your listeners said on air, so ignorantly) about the Air India bombings. Sikhs are one of the most "anti-violence" communities on the face of the earth. Historically, Sikhs have conducted some of the largest non-violent protests, peace keeping missions, and humanitarian projects in South Asia if not the world. Furthermore, it was Sikh non-violent activists that inspired Mohandas K. Gandhi to take on his mission of non-violent protest to British rule in India. Sikhs strongly believe in interfaith and intercultural peace, and never condone attacks on innocent people. The Sikh community mourns the deaths of the innocent victims of the Air India crash, as any community would mourn other innocent victims of any other senseless terrorist crime.

3) When Sadam Hussein was tried in a court of law in Iraq and was sentenced to death, and was hung, and his execution was available all over the internet - nobody complained. You didn't complain on your blog, did you? Most people saw this as an implementation of the state's well-established laws in a democratic society. However, had Saddam been left in power, and had the US not invaded Iraq, would he have been executed at all? It is very possible that his atrocities against innocent civilians would have continued for many more years. This is the drawback of a society where there is no democracy. A society like India. India, especially the Indian of 1984, was a false democracy. On the front, you see people voting and elections being conducted. However, if you look closer you see the seperations in caste, the mass corruption, the oppression of minorities, and outright state-sponsored terrorism. From the 1970's to the late 80's, Indian police was regularly conducting unwarranted raids on Sikh homes, raping the women, arresting and later killing the men, and looting the homes. There are recordings and written accounts of Indira Gandhi's direct instructions and involvement in the genocide of Sikhs in India. This time period was a war zone. Indira Gandhi was assassinated not in a democracy, but in a war zone. Please look more thoroughly in the history of the Sikh genocide in India, Leslie, and you will see the gross inhumaine tortures that Indira Gandhi's army and police officials conducted on Sikhs. You will see the mass burials, unwarranted arrests, false encounters, and false propaganda campaigns that were conducted in this false democracy. If you understand the context, you will understand that the assassins of Indira Gandhi actually saved thousands of Indian citizens from potential torture, rape or murder at the hands of the state. This is why they are celebrated as heroes.

4) The display of pictures of martyrs is to bring attention to the current political situation confronted by Sikhs in India. A caller on your show said "a religion that uses politics is not a religion, it is a cult" and you agreed with him. First of all, the Sikh way of a life is not a religion in the conventional sense -- it does not have dogmas, a heirarchy of "access to God" (like a pope and pastors), or the notions of "non-believer" or "infidels." Secondly, the Sikh community is an active society of people who earn an honest living, share with those in need, meditate on and practice the truth, sing the praises of the Creator, and work for the betterment of all humanity. The latter duty, working for the betterment of everyone, includes using politics. Is the Dalai Lama not using politics right now by encouraging China to retreat from Tibet? Did Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. not use politics, despite being a devout Christian preacher, to fight against discrimination? There is a difference between petty politics, and real activist politics (struggle for power) for the benefit of humanity. Sikhs use politics for the benefit of humanity, for justice and defence of innocent people, not for profit or personal gain.

5) These displays (which are entirely justified) take up hardly 5% of the Vaisakhi parade, and most of the parade consists of spiritual hymn singing, martial arts demonstrations, meditation, and community celebrations. There are speeches, songs, hymns, free food, free handouts, and all of the other elements of a joyous celebratatory parade. The Sikh community is a movement of truth, righteousness and love and it is such a shame that such a unique community,despite having been part and parcel of Canadian society for over 100 years, is being mischaracterized as terrorists and troublemakers.

Thank you very much for your patience.

kpsingh said...

Just to clarify, the above was a message I sent to a radio host and it applies to your blog as well so I tried to adapt it for your blog but please disregard the mention of radio listeners. Thanks :)

leslie said...

kpsingh Thank you SO much for your input here. My post was informing people what I'd read in the paper, which of course I know one should not always believe everything one reads, hears, or even sees. I just wanted to see if people had any more information or comments about the situation.

That said, I do appreciate your comments very very much. This is exactly the way to do it - explain your "side" (if I might use that word). I've read a lot of novels that take place in India and although have never been there, would like to some day experience the Indian culture first-hand. The history of India is intriguing, fascinating, with a lot of British influence - whether that be good or bad.

So, Ms Watt DID attend - great! The last I'd heard was that she would not be attending. Thank you for clarifying that detail.

Perhaps it is the media that exaggerates situations to the point where those not involved become up in arms without knowing the details.

With regard to Sadam Hussein's execution - I was absolutely horrified and could not look at those photos. No matter how evil, a person's execution should be a private thing, something for no one else to witness but those who need to be there.

Your point re Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, and Martin Luther King are valid. However, I'd like to point out that they were/are demonstrating IN their own countries against atrocities IN their own countries against people IN their own countries. This is Canada, a multicultural society. It is only right and fair to celebrate one's culture. It is not right or fair to drag your former home country's politics into that celebration.

I hope you had a wonderful time at the Vaisakhi parade and all the festivities. I wasn't able to attend and know that I missed some great fun and, especially, food.

kpsingh said...

Hi Leslie,

"It is not right or fair to drag your former home country's politics into that celebration. "

Firstly, I was born and raised in Canada, so my "home country" is Canada. I think many non-Sikh, non-South Asian individuals fail to recognize that a large number of Sikhs who are creating Sikh holocaust awareness in Canada are Canadian Citizens.

In any case, your argument is understandable, but incorrect, because there are thousands of organizations in North America creating awareness of humanitarian issues in other places around the world. For example, Students for a Free Tibet, Save Darfur Coalition, and other organizations. If Sikhs are raising awareness of a genocide of their community in another place, it is very relevant and very important to inform the public of this so that they can help to create more awareness, help in getting justice, help in restoring human rights, and alleviating the problems of the oppressed people. This same argument would be valid for any other issue. If there was, God forbid, a genocide of a certain religious community in Canada, the members of that religious community in another foreign country like England should have every right to create awareness of it. So what is the difference between dead Palestinians, or dead Tibetans, or dead Israelis, or dead Iraqis, or dead Congolese, or dead Sudanese, or dead Sikhs?


leslie said...

You make a very valid point here.

But I still say that the Sikhs can stand up against the genocide and other issues at another time. Just don't bring it to a cultural celebration.

At Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of Christ. They don't bring up things like his death at the hands of politicians and religious leaders who were afraid of him and his power; they don't bring up the Spanish Inquisition; they don't bring up the Crusades; they don't bring up anything related to all the suffering and cruelty as a result of his birth, life, and death. That is for another place, another time.

Respectfully, Leslie

Josie said...

Leslie, when you mention Christmas, you make a good point. Christmas as a religious and a cultural celebration has become politically incorrect in Canada. If there should happen to be a "Christmas parade" in Vancouver, it is not allowed to be called that. And yet other cultures are permitted to hold parades in their name of the cultural and religious believes, including the Vaisakhi celebrations.

KPSingh says, "If there was, God forbid, a genocide of a certain religious community in Canada, the members of that religious community in another foreign country like England should have every right to create awareness of it." But there is a cultural genocide of my culture in Canada. It is being wiped out, and no one says anything against it, because it is not politically correct to do so.

What am I missing here?

kpsingh said...

Hi Leslie & Josie,

I welcome and encourage a Christmas parade in Canada. And, if somewhere in the world, Christians were being persecuted for their faith, I believe a Christmas parade would be an acceptable venue to create awareness of the issue.

Vaisakhi is not exclusively a cultural event. It is the new year celebration of dozens of societies, but it is also the anniversary of the revelation of the Khalsa - which is the complete form a Sikh. When Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Enlightener of the Sikh community, initiated the first five Sikhs into the Khalsa, all five of them were from different geographical reasons, of different ages, and from different social classes. The Khalsa was created to bring forth a spiritual revolution, but it was also a political statement of universal equality and the Khalsa's responsibility to fight against oppression.

Politics is the struggle for power. Sikh politics are about the struggle for the preservation of rights, equality, righteousness, and truth. Sikh politics are about freedom, prosperity, universal love, and ensuring that everyone has access to living wages, environmental and physical safety, and personal health. Politics in the Sikh faith is not about regional power, or ownership of specific land. Khalistan activism or Sikh genocide awareness is only done to promote the preservation of human rights. Since when was human rights a political thing?

Anyway, coming back to Josie's comment - Josie, if it is right according to humanitarian principles, according to the laws of Canada, then you should definitely work on a Christmas parade and preserving Canadian culture. Don't worry about political correctness in that regard. However, if it infringes on the rights of another Canadian community, and if you believe that only your version of Canadian is Canadian, then there are some faults in that approach.

thank you for reading my comments. :)

stay in high spirits,


Anonymous said...

Politics and religion are inseparable in Sikh teachings.

I recommend you read the Gallant Defender written by AR Darshi, a Hindu who was a magistrate and Joint Secretary to the Punjab.
Darshi lays the blame for the events of 1984 squarely at the feet of the Indian Government. The same government that even now refuses to acknowledge or give remedy for its human rights abuses.

I see nothing wrong with pictures at a parade or students wearing t-shirts to promote awareness of the human rights abuses and injustices Sikhs suffer while living in India. However, the pictures should have some sort of explanation accompanying them so people know what's going on.

This issue will not go away until the Indian government tries to honestly deal with it instead of sweep it under the carpet. Seeing as how the corrupt government simply will not be honest where atrocities against Sikhs are concerned, the issue will clearly not go away.
-Sundeep Gill

Anonymous said...

I think that almost all communities would support Christians in their rights to celebrate their faith, definitely all faith communities would.

The unfortunate truth is, arrogant religion-hating atheists are taking over many institutions and attempting to push religion as far from society as possible. They are mostly white and from a Christian background and seem to have the most enmity towards Christianity, which is what they attack. I have no doubt that other religions will be next.

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