-By Baljit Balli
Neither any hardliner nor militant group moved the Canada’s Ontario Assembly resolution terming 1984 Dehi massacre as genocide.
This was done by a constitutionally elected legislature of a developed, democratically mature country.The mover of the resolution Harinder Kaur Malhi or her party may have political considerations in mind but it is their fundamental right and as such nobody should have any objection to it.
Canada is, in fact, a country which is practically governed by a political system based on multi-national and multi-cultural aspirations. It stands by the notion of equality of all communities including its Sikh citizens.
But the kind of reactions this resolution has evoked from Modi government and senior Akali leaders are surprising and disturbing also. And, at the same time, these smack of crass political opportunism and disdainful doublespeak.
Let’s first talk about Modi government and the BJP. This party has been exploiting the issue of 1984 anti-Sikh riots for the three decades. Its leaders spared no effort to convert anger and anguish persisting in the hearts and minds of the Sikhs into votes. None of its governments could get justice to the victim Sikhs and their families. No move was initiated to adopt any kind of resolution condemning the massacre in the Indian Parliament during the tenure of former PM Vajpayee or of PM Modi so far.
Now since a Canadian provincial assembly has passed the resolution, the external affairs ministry of Modi government lost no time in rejecting this and issuing a counter-statement.
It’s a pity that union home minister Rajnath Singh had himself termed this massacre as ‘genocide’ on December 26, 2014. The Punjabi-origin Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP), Ontario, Harinder Kaur Malhi, who moved this resolution, had particularly, referred to this statement of Rajnath Singh. It looks as if Modi government either does not accept the Sikh massacre as genocide or deliberately skirting the issue for the embarrassment it may bring upon it.
The first time MPP Malhi will sure be remembered in the Sikh history and the parliamentary history of Canada for having moved this resolution and its adoption by a foreign legislature. She is daughter of the western world’s first turbaned Sikh MP Gurbaksh Singh Malhi who remained an elected member of the Canadian federal parliament for 18 years.
Akali leaders: deceptive or double-faced?
The Akalis have reacted in two ways. Some have welcomed it whereas others indulged in ‘advising’ Amarinder and Modi governments to recognize 1984 massacre as genocide. While Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal wants Modi government to declare the massacre as genocide, his wife and a minister in Modi government, Harsimrat Kaur Badal has gone a step ahead. She has asked Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to convene a special session of Punjab assembly to adopt a resolution on the lines of Ontario provincial assembly. Surprisingly, she herself failed to oppose in clear terms Modi government’s rejection of the resolution.
A question therefore arises as to what stopped Harsimrat Kaur Badal from taking a clear stand and herself moving a resolution in the Modi’s cabinet. Why is she not exerting pressure on Modi government to get resolution of such significance passed in the Parliament? And above all, it should also be asked why no such move was made during the decade-long tenure of her party’s government in Punjab even as resolutions condemning the 1984 massacre and demanding punishment for its perpetrators were passed in Punjab assembly.
It’s not that such a resolution was discussed in Canada for the first time. In June 2016, Jagmeet Singh, the deputy leader of National Democratic Party had introduced this resolution on the floor of the same Ontario assembly. The same was the opposed by the members of Liberal Party of which Harinder Malhi is the member.
Also long before this, Member of Parliament Sukh Dhaliwal representing this very Liberal Party had introduced similar resolution in the federal parliament as a private member’s bill during the rule of Conservative Party in 2011 led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Though supported by the incumbent federal finance minister Navdeep Bains, majority of the members had rejected the resolution then.
It may be recalled that Sukh Dhaliwal had to pay a political price for this. The Indian government had stopped issuing visa to him. This was a natural reaction of the then Congress government led by former PM Dr Manmohan Singh due to alleged involvement of Congress leaders in the massacre. The issue hogged media limelight then as well as at the time when Ontario assembly rejected the resolution in 2016.
Back home, a Punjab-based NGO Sikh Heritage, through several articles that appeared in, continuously pleaded that this massacre should be termed as genocide. It is learnt that the same NGO had prepared a detailed note and sent it to the then CM Parkash Singh Badal, through a very senior Akali leader to move the ‘genocide’ resolution in the state assembly. But CM Badal did not respond at all !!!
Again the question arises why the Akali leadership and Badal government failed to table the resolution in Punjab assembly. Why the Akali Members of Parliament did not introduce such resolution? It should be very honest on part of the Akali leaders to first admit their mistake and then advise others.
Definition of Genocide?
Unfortunately, it has become a sort of tradition in our country that political leaders go by whatever is politically convenient to them. They have got habitual of deriving interpretations and meanings of the words and terms which suit them when in or out of power. They are damn bothered about the reality of the meanings as it exists in dictionaries. Similar is the present case.
Word ‘genocide’ too has become a casualty at the altar of the Indian idea of political convenience. In Oxford dictionary it means: The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group.
It has been reported that the 1948 Genocide Convention, to which India is a party, defines the crime of genocide in the following terms:
Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The findings of all the enquiry commissions/committees and the proofs repeatedly reported in the media have established an incontrovertible fact that 1984 massacre was a most heinous crime committed against the people of a particular religious community and executed in a planned manner with revengeful motive. One may debate it but it perfectly fits into the above said definition of genocide.