Canadian Sikh Leader Faces Backlash Over Bid to Term 1984 Riots As ‘Genocide’

Jagmeet Singh had tried to pass a similar motion in 2016 when he was a member of the Ontario provincial parliament.


Soon after he was embroiled in a controversy over his “dubious loyalties” for appearing in events that supported Sikh separatism, Canada’s New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh found himself mired in another one when he asked the Canada parliament to recognize the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India as “genocide,” the Hindustan Times reported.

Singh is reported to have said that there is clear evidence that the violence that erupted following the killing of the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was not spontaneous, and was rather organized by the government. His stance led to backlash from several Indo-Canadians.

The president of the National Alliance of Indo-Canadians (NAIC), Azad Kaushik, disagreed with Singh in strong terms, releasing a statement saying: “Canadians, Indo-Canadians in particular, do not accept Jagmeet Singh’s politics of hate and bigotry that has done more harm than good.

“Hindus and Sikhs in Canada, like India, are bound with brotherhood and family ties that Indo-Canadians cherish and take pride in. The NAIC supports harmony in the Indo-Canadian community and expects Canadian leaders like Jagmeet Singh to focus on matters that concern Canadians and not to hurt relations between Canada and India.”

He added: “The Indo-Canadian community rejects the demand of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to have the 1984 Sikh riots declared as ‘genocide’ and ‘state organised violence’…Any attempts to consider these as genocide would be contrary to the evidence-based and well-respected judicial decisions. Not only that, such attempts will hurt Canada’s relations with a friendly country like India with which great potential for business and trade exists, apart from those in international arena.”

Singh had earlier said: “I think it’s the right thing to do. It would be a proper thing to take, not only nationally but I think it’s something that is appropriate at the international level as well to make sure this is clarified, that it was not communal violence but was state-organised violence.”

This is not the first time he raised the issue. In 2016, while he was a member of the Ontario provincial parliament, Singh moved a motion regarding the demand. The motion didn’t get passed due to opposition from the ruling Liberal Party.

Singh was also in the center of controversy last week when videos of him, dating back 2015, condoning Sikh “sovereignty” emerged.

Last year, Liberal Party member Harinder Malhi, invoking Singh on the house floor, moved a similar motion at Queen’s Park and it was passed. Malhi was elevated to the provincial Cabinet by premier Kathleen Wynne.

The passing of the motion was considered a “body blow” to India while the Indian government called it “misguided.” The tension between India and Canada once again emerged during Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the country in February, which was said to have received a cold response  from the Indian government.

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