New Delhi: A group of Indo-Canadian organisations hit back at the former Indian ambassadors who in an open letter had slammed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for expressing support to ongoing farmers’ protests in India.
Describing themselves as “organisations representing Canadians with strong ties to India”, the statement issued by them has expressed alarm over former diplomats “sabre-rattling and tendentious response” to Trudeau’s “mild statement” in favour of farmers opposing new farm laws.
The statement has been issued collectively by the Centre for Study and Research in South Asia (CERAS); Democracy Equality and Secularism in South Asia, Winnipeg; Indian Civil Watch-Canada; South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD); The Punjabi Literary and Cultural Association, Winnipeg; and South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network (SADAN).
The collective has said that it is opposed to the views of 22 ex-ambassadors view who in their open letter said that Trudeau’s words “served merely to fan the flames” and accused his government of indulging in vote bank politics. The former diplomats were reacting to November 30 statement by Trudeau, where he said, “Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest.”
As expected, the statement had generated strong criticism from both the Narendra Modi government and its supporters.
Reacting to an accusation levelled by former diplomats against Trudeau that his had a political colour as he wants to indulge in vote bank politics, the statement by the Indo-Canadian organisations has said, “Prime Minister Trudeau may well have been motivated by his desire to keep the support of Indo-Canadians, but this is normal in the operation of democracy.”
The statement has said that not only is the letter by former ambassadors “undiplomatic”, but also causes “unnecessary controversy” and could prove “dangerous to India”.
It has also objected to discrediting of protesting farmers as those harbouring sympathies for the cause of Khalistan or Sikh separatism as uncalled for.
Reiterating their support to the protesting farmers, the Indo-Canadian organisations have suggested the former ambassadors to take cognisance of growing presence of Hindu supremacist organisations in Canada and whose only aim is to spread an extremist, upper-caste, anti-minority, and patriarchal religious ideology. “These organisations are bent on destroying Indian democracy,” reads the statement.
Reproduced below is the full statement.
As organisations representing Canadians with strong ties to India, we read with dismay and alarm the Indian Ambassadors’ group’s sabre-rattling and tendentious response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mild statement of support for Indian farmers opposing the new laws affecting agriculture.
Not only is the response undiplomatic, seeking as it does to cause unnecessary controversy, it is also dangerous for India. The response seeks to tar an entirely legitimate and strong demonstration of farmers’ opposition to the government’s bills with the brush of extremism and terrorism. The Ambassadors falsely accuse the protestors of harbouring sympathies for the cause of Khalistan or Sikh separatism. In doing so, they are employing the standard tactic of the present Indian government to attempt to discredit every genuine democratic mobilisation, based on genuine grievances, with labels such as “anti-national,” “separatist,” “Urban Naxal,” etc. Needless to say, the organised violence, including lynchings, carried out by Hindu supremacist groups allied to the ruling party are never characterised as such.
The simple fact is that the protesting farmers are from diverse faiths and from the length and breadth of India, including Haryana, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra. In fact a week ago there was an India-wide strike in support of the farmers. The new farm laws threaten their livelihoods and promise to deepen the corporatization of agriculture, already in deep crisis, as evidenced by the growing numbers of farmer suicides every year (over 10,000 just last year alone).
The farmers are within their rights to protest and the Canadian prime minister has sought to support these rights. To say, however, that “encouraged by the Canadian support, the protestors have hardened their stance,” is an insult to the millions of farmers across India who have put their lives on the line to protest. Surely it is the depth of their opposition to the laws, the strength they gather from their numbers, and the growing support from ordinary people across India that is giving them the courage to hold firm.
Many Indo-Canadians come from farming families, and are concerned by the impact the new farm laws will have on their families’ livelihoods. Equally, they are concerned by the government’s use of water cannons on the protestors, and the refusal of the political leadership to hear their demands. Prime Minister Trudeau may well have been motivated by his desire to keep the support of Indo-Canadians, but this is normal in the operation of democracy.
The Ambassadors opportunistically target the Canadian government for its forceful quashing of Indigenous protests over the gas pipelines and land rights and its abysmal neglect of basic needs provision on Indigenous territories. We have consistently supported Indigenous demands, and call on leaders elsewhere to speak up for the Indigenous nations of Canada in their claims against the Canadian government at all times, not just when it is opportune.
Finally, given the Ambassadors’ concern over fundamentalism and extremism, we would like to draw their attention to the growing presence in Canada of Hindu supremacist organisations that propagate an extremist, upper-caste, anti-minority, and patriarchal religious ideology. Individuals affiliated with these organisations operate with impunity in mainstream institutions, inviting elected officials in Canada to events hosting speakers from India who are known to have fomented and even organised violence against minority communities, democratic rights activists, and critics of the current Indian government. These organisations are bent on destroying Indian democracy. Will the Ambassadors take cognisance of the activities of these organisations and individuals and identify their financial and organisational contribution to the growing scourge of Hindu supremacist terror in India?
Centre for Study and Research in South Asia (CERAS)
Democracy Equality and Secularism in South Asia, Winnipeg
Indian Civil Watch-Canada
South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD)
The Punjabi Literary and Cultural Association, Winnipeg.
South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network (SADAN)