Douglas Todd: Canadian Hindus struggling with Sikh activism

Douglas Todd: Canadian Hindus struggling with Sikh activism

Suresh Kurl, a Hindu and former UBC professor, feels regret for the way in 1984 that the government of India, which is a predominantly Hindu country, launched a military attack on Sikhs’ main temple in Amritsar. But he doesn’t appreciate NDP leader Jagmeet Singh constantly “poking his nose” into Indian politics. PNG

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s problem-prone trip with Sikh MPs to the world’s second most populous country, combined with revelations about federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s links to activists who want a separate Sikh homeland in India, have been front-and-centre in the news for almost two months.

Canada’s mainstream media, as well as social media, are alive with the testy and diverse views of the country’s almost 500,000 Sikhs. A popular Twitter hashtag, #AskCanadianSikhs, urges the world to find out more about the real attitudes of orthodox and unbaptized Sikhs.

But few are asking what Canada’s Hindus think.

That’s despite how Hindus have been intimately affected by the painful political, historical and religious strains that are being exposed, which date back more than three decades, to when peaceful relations in India were suddenly broken by bloody violence among Hindus, Sikhs and others. Certain tensions from the 1980s, which had been dying down, are returning.

Vancouver Hindu Suresh Kurl, a former member of the Canadian parole board and a professor at the University of B.C., said Sikh militants “assassinated” his wife’s fruit-selling relatives in the streets of India in the early 1980s.

It was a terrible time for all concerned, with thousands losing their lives in armed battles, as well as in frenzied riots. So Kurl calls on Singh, the new NDP leader, to draw more non-Sikhs into his tent, adding that many Canadians have been “one-sided” in their portrayal of past conflicts in India.

Singh has emphasized repeatedly that he feels called to heal the collective “pain and trauma” that Sikhs suffered in India during the 1980s and since. But, as leader of a national centre-left party, many say he risks being seen as overly concerned about decades-old affairs in faraway India.

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