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Indian consulate to conduct camp in Canadian gurdwara

Managements of some gurdwaras in Canada moved controversially to ban Indian officials from their premises.That effort may be losing traction.

world Updated: May 19, 2018 23:34 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
Canada,India Canada ties,Indian consulate Canada
India’s Consul General Dinesh Bhatia (centre, in orange head covering) at the Dashemesh Darbar gurdwara in Brampton last year during a consular camp there in November.(File picture)

Nearly four months after several gurdwara managements in the Canadian province of Ontario banned Indian officials from their premises, that controversial move appears to be losing traction.

In an apparent symbolic gesture, officials of the Indian Consulate in Toronto will be holding a camp at the Nanaksar Gurdwara in the Brampton, a suburb of Toronto, next weekend.

What makes this event more significant is that the location is in a township considered to be the focal point of pro-Khalistan elements in the province, if not the country.

Announcing the camp, India’s Consul General in Toronto Dinesh Bhatia tweeted it is part of “continuous efforts by the Consulate General of India... to reach out to the Indian and Indo-Canadian community and provide best consular services.”

Three or four officials from the Consulate will be present at the gurdwara for “consultation and advice on issues pertaining to various consular matters” like those related to passports, visas and Overseas Citizen of India credentials faced by Indian diaspora, an official release from the Consulate stated.

This isn’t the first time they have been present at a gurdwara in the province in their official capacity since the boycott announcement at the end of last year. Last month, Bhatia also visited the Sikh Heritage Centre Gurdwara, also in Brampton, on the occasion of Baisakhi.

Such camps were held regularly in recent years: In November 2017, for instance, they were organised at the Dashmesh Darbar in Brampton and Gurdwara Sahib in the town of Waterloo.

Next week will mark the first time Indian officials will make their presence felt after the late-December ban decision, an action that began in Ontario and then rapidly spread through other provinces of Canada and to other countries including the US, UK and Australia.

An open house of this nature is held to resolve issues faced by members of the community promptly and helps with the Indian government’s outreach effort. “Many of the gurdwaras are willing to work with us,” an Indian official said.

It also highlights the divide within the managements of gurdwaras with several having objected to the ban decision soon after it was announced, including some in formal letters to the Consul General disavowing the measure.

Proponents of the ban have acknowledged that not everyone is on board with that decision. In a statement sent earlier to the Hindustan Times, Sukhminder Singh Hansra, a major figure behind the move, said, “In a democracy, every members or director of the gurdwara the has RIGHT to draw their own conclusion.”

Hansra, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal – Amritsar’s Canada East unit, described as “undemocratic” measures taken by the Indian consulate against pro-boycott members and their relatives like “stricter visas norms.”

First Published: May 19, 2018 23:34 IST