Braving cold weather and drizzle, more than 1,000 people showed up at candlelight vigil organised in this British Columbia province city of Canada on Sunday evening in protest against the desecration of Sikh scriptures and alleged police repression in Punjab.
Organised by different groups at Guru Nanak gurdwara in Surrey, the vigil was attended by candidates belonging to various political parties running for Monday’s federal elections. With an eye on the South Asian votes, federal minister Rob Nicholson issued a statement condemning the violence in Punjab. His brief statement issued to the media described these incidents as “appalling”.
“Very disturbing to hear reports about a media blackout and the appalling actions against peaceful protesters in Punjab. Those responsible for the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib should be held to account. We call for calm towards the peaceful protests demanding justice,” he said. Those present at the vigil included ruling Conservative Party’s Surrey Newton candidate Harpreet Singh, sitting MP Jinny Sims, and former Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal. All three are locked in a tough fight in a riding that has a sizable Sikh population. Such was the impact of the event that candidates from some other seats were also seen in the gathering.
Earlier in the day, more than half a dozen gurdwaras held a public meeting at Bell Performing Arts Center, where not a seat was vacant and many people were forced to sit in the lobby. Posters and emblems in support of Khalistan were seen on the dais. However, not all the gurdwaras support the Sikh separatist movement in India.
Baljinder Singh Khaira, one of the key organizers, told HT that the community was not only upset over the desecration of it holy book but also outraged over the deaths of two peaceful protesters in police firing. “Most members of the Sikh sangat want peace in Punjab and protection of gurdwaras and the holy Guru Granth Sahib,” he said.
The resolutions passed at the meeting included a demand for the resignation of Sikh high priests who had earlier pardoned Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, head of Sirsa’s Dera Sacha Sauda, in a blasphemy case. One of the resolutions compared the police action to the 1919 action in Jallianwala Bagh under the command of General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer.