Once Falsely Hounded As A ‘Terrorist’, SUHASINI HAIDAR
India Now Kowtows To Sikh-Canadian Cabinet Minister
Amarjeet Singh Sohi
Once falsely and mischievously branded a Khalistan ‘terrorist’ with alleged links to Naxals and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, former Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) detenu Amarjeet Singh Sohi will be welcomed officially in India now as a privileged guest next week to attend an Indian event as Canada’s Infrastructure and Communities Minister.
Event organizers said Amarjeet will lead a delegation to the bi-annual investors summit in Gandhinagar, Gujarat..
In 1988, as a 24-year-old youth activist, Amarjeet, who belonged to a family in Sangrur, Punjab, and had emigrated to Canada, returned to take part in a theatre programme in Bihar on land rights, when he was arrested under the oppressive TADA.
Indian Police in Azadbhiga falsely labelled him a Khalistan supporter who had purportedly come to recruit Naxal fighters for the cause.
Eventually, Amarjeet’s release was helped by the Amnesty International and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), who intervened on his behalf and forced India's hand. However, Amarjeet, who has been back to India several times since his release and still has family in Punjab, has said he bears no “ill will” towards the authorities in India.
Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs said there would be no problem with Amarjeet’s victimization by the Indian authorities in the past for his first official visit either. “There are no cases against Amarjeet
and no issue regarding his visit,” an official said.
He arrived in Delhi on January 9, and is on his way to Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar where Canada is one of the partners in the locally advertised event. Officials said he will visit Mumbai and possibly travel to Punjab to meet family members as well.
Amarjeet’s visit will be one of a series of ministerial trips ahead of an expected visit by Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sometime in March. Another Sikh-Canadian cabinet minister, Harjit Singh Sajjan, who is the Defence Minister, is also expected to visit in the next few weeks. Mr. Trudeau’s Cabinet includes four Sikh-Sikh-Canadians, leading him to quip once that he had “more Sikhs in his Cabinet than [PM] Modi does.”
As an immigrant, Amarjeet’s story is of particular interest in Canada, as he drove a municipal bus for years before he was elected as a City Councillor. He has also spent much of his time on “promoting socially inclusive communities”.
He also kept his theatre activism going and staged a play about the Komagata Maru incident where 350 people, mostly Sikhs, were persecuted aboard a ship of refugees that was refused permission to enter by Canada in 1914.
In May 2016, Mr. Trudeau apologised in Parliament for the incident.
In a 2015 interview, Amarjeet Singh said: “Once I was mistaken for a terrorist because I was a Sikh. If we start marginalising people here because of their faith, who does that help? It doesn’t help us. It probably helps the ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria].”
[Courtesy: The Hindu newspaper. With input from Mahesh Langa. Edited for sikhchic.com]
January 10, 2017