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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

Hardline Sikh group’s Facebook page taken down

Sikhs For Justice, a hardline Sikh group, has had a Facebook page, which was part of an online campaign, taken down over the weekend.

world Updated: Mar 13, 2018 12:57 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
A poster of Sikhs For Justice, a hardline Sikh activist group active in Canada.
A poster of Sikhs For Justice, a hardline Sikh activist group active in Canada.(Courtesy Sikhs For Justice)

The hardline activist group Sikhs For Justice has protested the taking down of its page on Facebook, alleging that action was taken at the behest of the Indian government.

SFJ’s legal advisor Gurpatwant Pannun said the page, News Punjab 2020, was taken down on Facebook on Saturday but restored on Sunday after an email campaign and messages to the social media giant. While the page was accessible on Sunday evening, it was again apparently barred later in the night.

Pannun said the page had nearly 100,000 followers and was the “prime platform of online referendum 2020 campaign”. That reference is to the vote the SFJ plans to organise that year.

SFJ’s own page was blocked by Facebook in India in 2015, according to Pannun. As the group challenged that action in courts in the US, judges ruled on two occasions that Facebook could not be forced to carry content against its wishes. That page remains available in North America, including in Canada.

Pannun accused the Indian government of being behind the taking down of their media platform. “They have a full social media team there and they force them (Facebook) to remove our pages,” Pannun alleged.

He said the recent actions were presaged by Facebook scrubbing videos off the News Punjab 2020 page during the recent visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India.

Pannun said those videos were aimed at “countering the Indian propaganda of targeting Canadian PM Trudeau during his recent visit to Punjab and for advocating Sikhs' right to self-determination and demanding independence referendum in the state of Punjab”.

Trudeau faced considerable criticism for being seen as soft on hardline Sikh groups based in Canada, including those backing a call for Khalistan or an independent Sikh homeland.

The Canadian government was also embarrassed when convicted Khalistani terrorist Jaspal Atwal received an invitation hosted for Trudeau in New Delhi by the Canadian high commissioner. The invitation was later rescinded but Atwal was photographed with Trudeau’s wife and Canadian lawmakers at another event in Mumbai.