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When “Interference” is right

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on January 14, 2021 with No Comments

On November 30, while addressing Sikh participants from across Canada, on the birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest.” His assertion was in the context of the physical force being used by the Indian police against protesting farmers. A large number of these farmers are from Punjab, and many of them Sikhs.  

These comments by Prime Minister Trudeau were expectedly not liked by the Indian government, calling the comments ill informed and unwarranted. Media in India that owe themselves to the ruling party were prompt, and condemned Prime Minister Trudeau for ‘interfering in the internal matter of India’. From New Delhi’s perspective, these comments poured fuel on a fire. The Indian foreign ministry lodged a protest with the Canadian ambassador. Whereas masses in India, saw it as a shot in the arm. Soon the support poured in from British Parliament too.

Prime Minister Trudeau might have had a compulsion to do so. Sikh political lobbying is a strong force in Canadian politics. The current House of Commons has 18 Sikh MPs out of the total 338, making it a decent 5.32% share, compared to India’s 2.39% (13 Sikh MPs out of 543 in Lok Sabha). This sheer numerical logic makes all the three major federal political parties of Canada sensitive to affairs and sentiments of the Sikh community. Critics of Prime Minister Trudeau should not forget that Canada has supported peaceful demonstrations and has never let any protest go for so long as the present one in India. Days before, Trudeau’s comments, leaders of NDP and Conservatives- had already made public statements in support of the farmers’ protest condemning the use of state machinery to stop the movement of farmers. The timing of making the statement by Prime Minister Trudeau was strategic as he waited till Gurupurab to make use of the wider platform.

Amid pandemic, recession, problems with neighbors the protest by farmers represent a serious challenge to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi since his re-election last year. Almost sixty percent of Indian population get their earnings from agriculture and related activities. Is Modi goverement in a condition to show themselves as hostile to their interest? However, is leaders have used all tricks of the trade to subtle the protest. Calling the protestors are Khalistanis; naxals, “supported by Pakistan” are nothing but an overblown reaction. While Prime Minister Modi criticizes the stance of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he is hardly in a position to complain. Prime Minister Modi has been addressing tallies of overseas Indians. Prime Minister Modi has held rally for President Trump in US, where he rented out a slogan “Ab ki baar, Trump Sarkar”; calling on the Indian diaspora to vote for President Trump. Wasn’t that an attempt to interfere in the internal matter of a country? On the other hand Prime Minister Trudeau has done what a democratically elected leader is supposed to do so.

 

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