11 November 2023
Dear Prime Ministers Modi and Trudeau,
Jai Shri Ram.
The rift between our two countries forces one to analyse the underlying reasons.
The common denominator, to me, is Hinduphobia and the apathy of India and Canada towards the Hindu Samaj.
To start with India, the aversion to Hindu texts, traditions and our way of life began with colonization. Both the Islamic and Christian colonizers actively pursued this agenda, albeit in different manners. While the Islamic invaders were upfront in their agenda, and destroyed ancient temples, burnt Dharmic texts, renamed holy cities with Islamic names (Pillalamarri, 2016); the Church pursued the same goal, but in a different manner. Temples were brought under Christian control, sacred texts were re-written with a view of creating factions, and so on (Shullai, 2017). This bigotry was propagated in many other forms, but for the sake of brevity, I will not elaborate.
Even after 76 years of Independence, the situation is no different. Hindus feel unsafe in India, and the State has done little to alleviate this. The case of Nupur Sharma is a prominent example, where this lady has been forced to live in hiding for speaking facts. While Tasleem Rahmani, the person she was debating with and one who made derogatory comments about Hindu Gods is a free man and actively appears on television, still spreading hatred for the Hindu Samaj. What about Kanhaiya Lal, the poor tailor in Udaipur who was killed by religious fanatics allegedly for “blasphemy”. (Anwar, 2022)
On 22 September 2023, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesman, Arindam Bagchi was asked repeatedly by journalists, if India will issue a statement condemning the attacks on Hindus and their places of worship in Canada. His reply was – no because India does not wish to single out a community. When it is one faith specifically that is being targeted i.e., the Hindus – why can’t the Indian Government take a stand? Silence is the same as condoning an act.
In the 50s when the Hindus of Indonesia were made stateless due to Islamization of that country’s government, India had come to their aid (primarily the Balinese) and after years of international lobbying, the Hindus (who were the original inhabitants of that country) were granted citizenship. (McDaniel, 2010)
The Bharatiya Subcontinent gave to the world – Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and countess other Pagan faiths. In many ways, countries, especially in the West, look at Bharat to calibrate their own policy compasses regarding Indic faiths.
Therefore, Prime Minister Modi, what is preventing Bharat Sarkar from taking a stand against the Hinduphobia in Canada?
The issue of Hinduphobia in Canada is deep seeded. When temples get vandalized, these incidents are not covered by the local media. Not even the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), a state owned, and taxpayer funded organization. If an incident does get published, it is usually barebones, and portrays the matter as stemming from “anti India sentiment”, “anti Hindutva” or “pro Khalistan”. For context, the average Canadian believes every word published by the CBC publishes, and according to them, Khalistan is a grassroots movement driven by Indian Sikhs who have been forced into silence (and exile) by the Indian Government. (CBC News, 2022). People who have travelled to India know that this isn’t the case.
Still on the topic of Hinduphobia in Canada, on 22 August 2023, Dilip Kumar Dholani, a 68-year-old man was stabbed 17 times in Oshawa, Ontaria. Dholani is a resident of Ahmadabad, India and was visiting his family. Canadian law enforcement agencies were quick to downplay this act, saying it was “random”. (Krishnasai, 2023). No Canadian politician has made a statement or offered sympathies to the Dholani family.
This apathy of the Canadian state apparatus towards Dharmic lives is not new. Prabhjot Khatri (23) was stabbed to death in 2021. The murderer, Cameron James Prosper of the Pictou Landing First Nation was sentenced to nine years for the lesser charge of “manslaughter”. After subtracting remission, Prosper will be required to serve six years in prison for a wilful and unprovoked murder. (Cooke, 2023)
By contrast, in 2021, four members of a Muslim family were killed in a traffic accident in London, Ontario. In less than 24 hours, law enforcement agencies issued statements that this was driven by hatred. The accused has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and “murder-terrorist activity”. Political leaders at all levels, condemned the act. The City of London has constructed a memorial to immortalize this family. (BBC News, 2021). All of this when the matter is sub judis as of today, and none of the allegations have been proven in a court of law.
Despite not proven as a hate crime, this incident was used by the Government of Canada to justify special protection to Canadian Islamics. They have even created a position called Canada’s Special Representative for Combating Islamophobia, and hired Amira Elghawaby, a former CBC media person for the role. (Government of Canada, 2022). Elghawaby is a Hijab wearing lady, so this initiative will certainly silence the misogynists in repressive cultures. But was this step backed by evidence? Was it justified to spend taxpayer dollars on her salary, pension, and other benefits?
Prime Minister Trudeau, your Government has claimed to be the bastion for minorities. When the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum, your government issued an apology to the descendants of No. 2 Construction Battalion. This military unit doesn’t even exist today but was awarded a Battle Honour in 2022. This, for undoing a century old wrong. (Government of Canada, 2023) An outstanding initiative.
Mr. Trudeau, why doesn’t your government acknowledge the Bengali Hindu Genocide of 1971, where 2 million Hindus were killed by the Pakistani Army under the banner of Operation Searchlight (including the rape of over 200,000 Hindu ladies)? (Lee, 2021) Or the Kashmiri Hindu Genocide? A genocide officially recognized in 2022 by the International Commission for Human Rights and Religious Freedoms. (ICHRRF, 2022). Why are you silent about the hate crimes against Hindus on Canadian soil? When Mr. Chandra Arya, a Liberal MP, issued a statement in Parliament condemning Hinduphobia, that statement was published by Indian media. There is no mention of it in on the CBC.
Prime Ministers, why the selective deafness to the wrongs done to the Hindu Community in both countries? Why the selective silencing of voices speaking up against Hinduphobia? Is it required to belong to a certain religion or community to be assured of safety and justice?
- Akhilesh Pillalmarri. (2016). ‘India’s Hindu Right Is Correct About One Thing: India’s Muslim Rulers Did Destroy Hindu Temples’. The Diplomat. Available at: https://thediplomat.com/2016/08/indias-hindu-right-is-correct-about-one-thing-indias-muslim-rulers-did-destroy-hindu-temples/#:~:text=The%20case%20of%20the%20holy,the%20Muslim%20governor%20of%20Gujarat. (Accessed: 3 October 2023)
- Pynhunlang NM Shullai, (2017), ‘Colonialism, Christianity and Mission Activities in India: A Postcolonial Perspectives’, Article, Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences. Available at: https://oaji.net/articles/2017/1115-1491480456.pdf (Accessed: 3 October 2023)
- Taheer Anwar. (2022). ‘As Nupur lives under threat to her life, Rehmani appears on TV debates and Zubair gets liberal support’. Firstpost. Available at: https://www.firstpost.com/opinion/as-nupur-lives-under-threat-to-her-life-rehmani-appears-on-tv-debates-and-zubair-gets-liberal-support-10870091.html (Accessed: 3 October 2023)
- June McDaniel. (2010). ‘Agama Hindu Dharma Indonesia as a New Religious Movement: Hinduism Recreated in the Image of Islam’, Article, College of Charleston. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249981987_Agama_Hindu_Dharma_Indonesia_as_a_New_Religious_Movement_Hinduism_Recreated_in_the_Image_of_Islam (Accessed: 3 October 2023)
- Staff writer. (2022). ‘Toronto police investigating reports of vandalism at Hindu temple’. CBC. Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/hindu-temple-toronto-khalistan-graffiti-anti-india-1.6584478 (Accessed: 3 October 2023)
- Krishnasai. (2023). ‘68-year-old Indian man stabbed 17 times in broad daylight in Canada’. WION. Available at: https://www.wionews.com/india-news/68-year-old-indian-man-stabbed-17-in-broad-daylight-in-canada-629196 (Accessed: 3 October 2023)
- Alex Cooke. (2023). ‘N.S. man gets 9 years in prison for ‘senseless’ killing of Prabhjot Singh Katri’. Global News. Available at: https://globalnews.ca/news/9693482/prabhjot-singh-katri-cameron-prosper-sentencing/ (Accessed: 3 October 2023)
- Staff writer. (2023). ‘Canada truck-attack suspect charged with terrorism’. BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-57474745 (Accessed: 3 October 2023)
- Government of Canada. (2022). Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/combatting-islamophobia-canada/canada-special-representative-combatting-islamophobia.html (Accessed: 3 October 2023)
- Government of Canada. (2023). Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/news/2023/07/canadian-armed-forces-honour-the-no-2-construction-battalion.html (Accessed: 3 October 2023)
- Congresswoman Shiela Jackson Lee. (2021). Address to the US House of Representatives. ‘In Remembrance of the 50th Anniversary of the Bengali Hindu Genocide’. Available at: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CREC-2021-03-23/html/CREC-2021-03-23-pt1-PgE290.htm (Accessed: 3 October 2023)
- International Commission for Human Rights and Religious Freedoms. (2022). ‘Report on the Hearings on Kashmiri Hindu Genocide, 1989-91’ Availailable at: https://www.ichrrf.org/home/publications-media/pr_08-28-2022 (Accessed: 3 October 2023)