The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) condemns the deadly violence between Christians and Hindus in Orissa that has followed the assassination of a Hindu leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. Although police are blaming the assassination on Maoist rebels, local Hindu leaders have blamed the Christian community and called for retaliation. This has led to riots, attacks on Churches as well as homes and businesses owned by Christians, with about a dozen people reportedly killed so far.
“It is sad, but no longer surprising to see the instigation of brutal, mindless violence like this in India,” said Gurpreet Singh Bal, President of the WSO Canada. This is certainly not the first time that India has seen rioting against religious minorities. Muslims, Christians and Sikhs have all faced such attacks, almost always instigated by leaders looking to advance an extremist agenda. In November of 1984, thousands of Sikhs were brutally murdered in cities across India after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards. “These attacks are a painful reminder of what happened to the Sikh community 24 years ago,” continued Bal, adding, “Extremist leaders target a minority group and call on their followers to riot and kill. The police and authorities watch the carnage and do nothing. We’ve seen this pattern in India so many times.”
The WSO’s Senior Policy Advisor, Gian Singh Sandhu, called on everyone involved to end the violence and hoped that the authorities would have the courage to bring to justice those who had instigated and carried out the violence. “The first priority is to end the violence. Leaders on both sides have to come together and end this now. The police needs to act decisively to quell these attacks,” said Sandhu. He added, “It’s imperative that those guilty of carrying out these attacks are brought to justice promptly. Otherwise, the healing process will be much more difficult and it will be almost impossible to bring these communities back together.”
If history is any indicator however, then it seems unlikely that there will be many brought to justice for this week’s violence. 24 years after the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, 4 men have finally been sentenced to life in prison on charges of rioting, murder and conspiracy relating to the deaths of two Sikhs who were burnt alive on November 1, 1984 and their property looted in India’s capital, New Delhi. The deaths of thousands of other Sikhs who were murdered during the first week of November, 1984 remain unaccounted for and the prospect of further convictions, including those of senior leaders of India’s ruling Congress party who lead many of the attacks, is dim.
The World Sikh Organization (WSO) is a non-profit international umbrella organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of the Sikh Diaspora, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.
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Maj (retd.) Jasbeer Singh, Media Relations, Tel. 780-457-3333, Cell. 780-235-6000, Email: [email protected]