'Bhai Bhag Singh deserves the honour and not Sarabjit' | india | Hindustan Times
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'Bhai Bhag Singh deserves the honour and not Sarabjit'

india Updated: May 08, 2013 10:47 IST
Gurpreet Singh

The decision to declare Sarabjit Singh 'a martyr' by Indian authorities has not gone well with many Indo-Canadians living here.

Sarabjit Singh, who was attacked in Lahore's Kot Lokhpat jail and later succumbed to his injuries, was declared a martyr by Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.

He was convicted by the Pakistani courts for 1990 bombings that left fourteen people dead. Though Singh had claimed innocence and there were efforts for his release on humanitarian grounds, he could not be brought back to his homeland alive.

Even few of his Canadian supporters spearheaded campaign for his release until recently, however, they now believe that the honour given to Sarabjit should have been given to his fellow villager Bhai Bhag Singh, a towering leader of the East Indian community in Vancouver. He was associated with the Ghadar Party, a group that believed in an armed rebeliion against the British Empire that occupied India in early 19th century.

Bhai Bhag Singh was assassinated by a spy of the British Empire in 1914. He was in the forefront of the struggle for right to vote to the Indian immigrants and also challenged the racist immigration laws of the Canadian government.

The Indo-Canadian leaders feel that the Indian establishment has completely forgotten Bhag Singh and his contributions with no significant effort to raise a fitting memorial for him at his native village Bhikhiwind, whereas a controversial figure like Sarabjit Singh has received extra ordinary attention.

The development comes when Ghadar Party centenary is being celebrated in India and other parts of the world.

The Indo Canadian Workers' Association leader, Surinder Sangha - who traveled to village Bhikhiwind said that he was greatly disappointed upon finding that there is no fitting memorial for a man, who stood for the community.

Sangha, whose organisation organizes annual fete in memory Ghadar Heroes questioned the wisdom of the Indian authorities behind such move.

"How come they took a quick decision to declare Sarabjit a national hero by simply overlooking the sacrifices of people like Bhag Singh?'', said Sangha.

Sohan Singh Deo, the president of the Khalsa Diwan Society, the oldest Sikh body of Vancouver that was once headed by Bhag Singh agrees.

"The present day government remains indifferent towards the sacrifices made by real heroes and prefer to glorify fake ones," he said adding that the Indian government has still not responded to their communication for a fitting memorial for the Ghadar heroes.

The majority of callers during an open line show at Radio India also asked how the government of India and Punjab can be so ignorant.

Ranjeet Singh Khalsa of the Banda Singh Bahadur Society said that instead of honouring "controversial and debatable" characters, like Sarabjit Singh, the authorities should do something in memory of Bhag Singh and other Ghadar activists from Vancouver who had returned to India to face gallows.