Farmers during their ongoing protest against the three farm laws at Tikri border, in Delhi on February 7. (ANI)
Farmers during their ongoing protest against the three farm laws at Tikri border, in Delhi on February 7. (ANI)

Farm protests: Indo-Canadians get ‘threat calls’ for supporting India’s stance

One of the victims claimed to have received nearly 70 threatening calls over the period of one week, after he commented on a Facebook post
By Anirudh Bhattacharyya I Edited by Vinod Janardhanan
UPDATED ON FEB 08, 2021 12:36 PM IST

From the Greater Toronto Area to Metro Vancouver and Calgary and across Canada, members of the Indo-Canadian community are being targeted with intimidating calls including threats of sexual violence against family members. Their crime? Questioning the rationale behind the ongoing farmers’ protests in India and opposing the Khalistani involvement in the movement.

Among the victims are two persons living in Brampton, a suburb of Toronto. Mohan, who did not want his full name to be revealed because of fears of personal security, said he received nearly 70 threatening calls over the period of one week, after he commented on a Facebook post. “These are abusive, threatening, full of religious hate. They include threats to my family, they say,’We know your address’. They are as filthy as it can get.”

Another person who commented on that social media thread was Jay, who also didn’t want his full name or personal details disclosed. He shared a recording of one among several calls he had received, during the course of which, the unidentified caller described himself as a “warrior” and threatened to rape Jay’s wife and daughters. Jay filed a complaint with local law enforcement, while Mohan is still waiting for his complaint to be registered. “They abused me, said, ‘We have seen your house.’ This cannot be tolerated. I told the police to take action and show something,” Jay told the Hindustan Times.

A spokesperson for Peel Police, which is responsible for the region Jay and Mohan reside in, confirmed the complaints have been filed and they will investigate the matter.

Fear is so palpable that not a single person the HT spoke to wanted their full names or other details to be revealed. One of those impacted said part of the blame for the rising Hinduphobia lay with some local Punjabi-language media for featuring incendiary rhetoric. The majority of these threats commenced after events in New Delhi on Republic Day, when a tractor rally led to violence in the capital.

This phenomenon is not limited to the GTA alone. Vinay, a resident of Calgary in the province of Alberta, faced much worse. He received nearly a 100 calls a day over the past 10 days. Not only that, miscreants arrived at his residence early one morning and threw eggs and tomatoes at it, and another person drove up to the home, rang the bell and asked where Vinay was. A hate crime complaint has also been filed in this regard with local police.

These are not isolated instances but part of a larger pattern. The Hindustan Times has learnt of similar reports from Edmonton (also in Alberta), and Vancouver (in British Columbia). A resident of Metro Vancouver, who did not want to be named, said, “Those who support India are being targeted.” Mona, who is active within the Indo-Canadian community in Calgary said that a 90-year-old astrologer was verbally attacked for his views and as he was in India at the time, he had been too fearful to return to Canada till date.

While police investigate these complaints, there is no confirmation these calls were actually from Sikhs or pro-Khalistan elements, but concerns have certainly risen within the larger Indo-Canadian community, which is worried about the inflamed passions due to the farmers’ protests over the three contentious laws. They believe the issue has been hijacked by pro-Khalistan elements in Canada and the silence of leaders to condemn that development has only encouraged the barrage of threats.

Azad Kaushik, president of the National Alliance of Indo-Canadians said that “a sense of unease has developed within the Indo-Canadian community. Law-abiding Indo-Canadians are questioning such an emerging situation in their adopted homeland.”

In fact, he said, comments like those made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the protests, point to a “surprising tacit support” for the cause, which is proving increasingly divisive in Canada.

In fact, the situation is probably the worst it’s been since the 1980s, with pro-Khalistani groups taking advantage of the difference in opinion over the protests, targeting the larger Indo-Canadian community, particularly Hindus.

Shuvaloy Majumdar, senior fellow with the Ottawa-based think tank, MacDonald-Laurier Institute, tweeted, “I’m increasingly alarmed with the bloodcurdling sectarian invective against India. Particularly against Hindus, for whom empirically the VAST majority support pluralism, progress and peace.” In another tweet, he said, “Canadian families face death threats and violence against their families and businesses. Indian diplomats require RCMP security. Extremists allied with porn stars paint followers of a faith with one brush. Frivolous lawsuits attempt to silence debate.”

In 1985, as Canadian leadership ignored the growing storm, Khalistanis planned and executed the bombing of Air India flight 182, the Kanishka, on June 23, which claimed 329 lives and remains the worst act of terrorism in Canadian history.

As Mohan said, “I wasn’t here then but I feel this is worse than the 1980s. Hinduphobics now have political shelter. Our safety is in jeopardy.”

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