Operation Bluestar: Canadian Sikhs say they have moved on

June 6th, 2009 - 1:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, June 6 (IANS) Though they still carry the emotional trauma of the Indian Army’s Operation Bluestar at the Golden Temple in Amrtisar, the Sikh community in Canada says it has moved on since the tragic events of 1984.

Canada was the worst affected by the militancy in Punjab, with radicals targeting moderate Sikhs, including former British Columbia premier Ujjal Dosanjh.

The anti-India campaign resulted in the bombing of the Air India Kanishka flight from Toronto to Delhi in June 1985, killing all 329 people on board.

“Though the wound has not healed, we have moved on. The government should have found other ways to deal with the situation at the Golden Temple,” said Vancouver-based Jarnail Singh Bhandal, who once headed Canada’s oldest gurdwara called Ross Street Sikh Temple.

“The lesson for the Indian government is: respect and protect all religious minorities. The lesson for the Sikhs is: violence never achieves anything.

“The history of Sikhs after Maharaja Ranjit Singh shows that whenever they protested peacefully, they always succeeded - be it the Panja Sahib protests or the Jaiton Morcha. Violence should have no place in any kind of protests,” Bhandal added.

Richmond-based school psychiatrist and Punjabi language activist Balwant Sanghera told IANS: “It is time to move on. There should have been some sort of closure on this tragedy by now. Commissions of inquiry have come and gone, but the guilty of the 1984 riots have not been punished.”

“The closure lies in punishing the guilty and rehabilitating the widows of the riot victims,” he added.

Birinder Singh Ahluwalia, owner of the Diagnostic Imaging Centre in Toronto, said: “It was a tragedy for the Sikhs, but we cannot remain trapped in the past. There should be open, honest dialogue and a fair process to understand why this thing happened so that we can move forward.”

“Principles of secularism defined by Nehru and Gandhi are the core of India. The more we adhere to these principles, the more India will progress. India is the greatest civilization on the face of this earth and the principles of Nehru and Gandhi are the way to build a great country of our dreams,” said Ahluwalia, who got married in Amritsar the day Operation Bluestar took place.

Mississauga-based Nachhattar Singh Chohan said: “We have moved on, but the events of 1984 will remain a dark page in our history. Thousands of innocent people were killed, but nobody was punished.”

“Bhagat Singh was my relative. We made more sacrifices for the country than others. We lost our homes, family members in Pakistan and moved to India. Dialogue rather than violence leads to solutions. The Indian government should safeguard all religious minorities.”

There are reportedly over 600,000 Sikhs in Canada, with most of them concentrated in the Vancouver and Toronto areas.

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