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   Opinion
An open letter from Sikh Scholars
  20, September, 2020, 8:55:58:PM

Pakistan takes part in Russian drills ceremony

DAWN, ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday participated in the opening ceremony of multinational military exercises in Russia’s Astrakhan region, the Inter-Services Public Relations said. A contingent of 20 Pakistani commandos took part in the opening ceremony of Kavkaz-2020.

The military drills, which will be held from Sept 21-26 aim to assess ability of troops to react to various challenges and learn from each other’s experiences, the ISPR said.

Troops from six countries are taking part in the Kav­kaz-2020 command and staff exercise. These include military units from Armenia, Belarus, China, Myanmar and Pakistan.

Representatives from Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Sri Lanka are participating as observers.

Earlier this month, Chair­man of Joint Chiefs of Staff Com­mittee, Gen Nadeem Raza, visited Russia to attend a defence and security cooperation conference at the SCO forum. He had a meeting with Chief of General Staff of the Russian Federation, Gen Valery V. Gerasimov, during which bilateral defence ties and regional security situation came under discussion.

 

 

An open letter from Sikh Scholars

 

To the board of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute,

​We are writing to you with regard to a report recently published by your Institute under the title, “Khalistan: a project of Pakistan.” We are asking that you reevaluate your decision to publish such vitriolic content under your institute’s name.

For the full report see here.

As academics who work closely with the Sikh community, we are concerned to read a report that contains a litany of conclusory statements and allegations without any substantiation. We are particularly concerned with the manner in which the report casts wide aspersions on a highly visible, racialized community, engaged in legitimate advocacy. The report maligns all Sikh-Canadians engaging in advocacy as extremist and foreign-influenced actors. This is especially concerning as so many of these advocates and activists are rigorous critics of both India and Pakistan’s record regarding minority rights.

 

The report also damages the credibility of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute as it lacks adequate academic rigour, historical and contextually-based journalistic analysis, and balance. As academics, writers, and professors, we regularly evaluate work for peer review and have our own work assessed for accuracy as well. The report is sparsely referenced and the few claims that are made seem to not have been fact-checked. The “reference” section is one-sided showing a lack of literature review or effort to triangulate claims. While the writing is presented as objective policy analysis, it actually reads as a scattered collection of opinions and vague allegations; it is a simplistic and single worldview. The report is shockingly un-Canadian in every aspect, from a lack of respect for free speech to a parroting of a foreign, Indian government narrative on Khalistani activism. Without any critical analysis, the author completely disregards the valid grievances and grassroots advocacy of the Sikh community.

 

Mr. Milewski misses the opportunity to provide a meaningful policy analysis based on facts that would further the Institute’s aims of making “poor quality public policy in Ottawa unacceptable.” The following are some examples.

The very introduction to the report sets the tone for what is to follow by callously characterizing Sikh advocacy as a “steady and predictable drumbeat of victimization, persecution and genocide commemoration, presented as steps to assist a community in need of healing.” Since when are political grievances of a community, the commemoration of mass atrocities, or the advocacy for human rights and justice, proof of something sinister? That too in a country with unique genocide legislation.

 

The report’s characterization of the Khalistan movement is also surprisingly simplistic and incomplete. The author’s narrative completely erases the political context in which the Khalistani struggle for self-determination took place in the 1980 and 1990s—a struggle no international group, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, cast aside as simply “terrorist.” Instead, like all militant movements and armed conflicts across the world, serious questions under humanitarian law and human rights law were raised. 

 The report neither cites nor explains that simply holding a political opinion for “Khalistan” is not illegal even under India’s own laws that allow demanding separation from the country, as long as the demand does not call for arms or incite violence. (See section 124A on “sedition”). That the Indian government fails to follow its own laws is often the crux of Sikh advocacy in Punjab and outside. Also, holding political opinions is squarely protected under Canadian law. Why then the Institute would allow for this incomplete and unsubstantiated report is puzzling. The erasure of well-documented violence at the hands of the IndianState is telling. The author repeatedly demonstrates a commitment to telling only one side of the story.

 

We hope that you carefully consider our concerns and reevaluate your decision to publish such vitriolic content under your institute’s name, particularly considering the lack of academic integrity and the gravity of the accusations being leveled against a highly visible, racialized community. This report has already been circulated in Sikh studies circles damaging the credibility and reputation of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Your institute lays claim to policy analysis produced with integrity that is evidence-based and without bias. The basic premise of this report, however, undermines your own mission.

 

If you do truly wish to engage in producing reports on Sikh-Canadians in the unbiased spirit of your institute, we are happy to provide peer-review and reference to triangulate and balance such reports. There is a body of extant writing that shows a diversity of Sikh views and debates about Khalistan which documents the abuses by both Pakistan and India that are ignored. Canada, as a non-aligned state in terms of regional geopolitics, is meaningfully positioned to benefit marginalized groups in both countries. For now, we look forward to your response and the timely retraction of this report.

 

Kindest regards,

Dr. Amrita Kaur Sukhi, Lecturer, University of Toronto

Dr. Anne Murphy, Associate Professor, Department of Asian Studies, UBC

Dr. Anneeth Kaur Hundle, Dhan Kaur Sahota Presidential Chair in Sikh Studies at the University of California, Irvine School of Social Sciences

Dr. Arvind-Pal S. Mandair, Associate Professor of Sikh Studies, University of Michigan

Dr. Balbinder Bhogal, The Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Endowed Chair in Sikh Studies and Professor of Religion, HofstraUniversity

Dr. Bhavjinder Kaur Dhillon, Faculty of Science, University of British Columbia

Dipin Kaur, YaleUniversity

Gurbeer Singh, PhD Student, University of California, Riverside

Dr. Gurcharan  Singh, Adjunct Research Professor, CarletonUniversity, Ottawa

Gurinder Singh Mann (UK), DirectorSikhMuseum Initiative, OxfordUniversity Published

Prof Gurnam Singh, University of Warwick, UK

Dr. Gurnam Singh Sanghera, Visiting Professor, ‘Centre for Studies on Sri Guru Granth Sahib,’ at GuruNanakDevUniversity.

Harinder Singh, Senior Fellow, Research & Policy, Sikh Research Institute

Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal, Instructor of Sikh Studies, Department of Classics and Religion, University of Calgary

Dr. Hafsa Kanjwal, Department of History, LafayetteCollege

Harleen Kaur, PhD candidate, UCLA

Dr. Harpreet Singh, Sikhism Scholar, HarvardUniversity

H Bindy Kaur Kang-Dhillon, PhD Candidate, Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program, UBC

Dr, Indira Prahst, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, LangaraCollege

Dr. Inderpal Grewal, Yale university

Dr. Idrisa Pandit, Director of Studies in Islam, University of Waterloo​

Dr. Jagdeep Singh Walia, Department of Pediatrics, Queen’s University

Dr. Jakeet Singh, Department of Politics, YorkUniversity

Dr Jasjit Singh, Associate Professor, University of Leeds (UK)

Ms Jaskiran Kaur, PhD, LSE

Jasleen Singh, PhD (c), University of Michigan

Dr. Jaspreet Bal, Professor, HumberCollege

Dr. Jugdep Singh Chima, HiramCollege

Dr. Kamal Arora, Instructor, University of the FraserValley

Kiranjot Chahal, PhD Humanities, YorkUniversity

Khushdeep Kaur, PhD Candidate, TempleUniversity

Dr. Simran Jeet Singh, Union Seminary

Mallika Kaur, UC Berkeley School of Law

Dr. Manpreet Kaur, MD MS, Associate Professor, StanfordUniversity

Dr. Michael Hawley, Associate Professor of Sikh History, Mount RoyalUniversity

Dr. Michael Nijhawan, Associate Professor, Sociology, YorkUniversity

Narinder Kaur, UniversityCollegeLondon, UK

Dr. Nirvikar Singh, Distinguished Professor of Economics, University of California, Santa Cruz

prabhdeep singh kehal, PhD Candidate, BrownUniversity

Prabhsharanbir Singh, Instructor, Department of Sociology, UBC

Prabhsharandeep Singh Sandhu, DPhil, University of Oxford

Randeep Singh Hothi, PhD Candidate, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Department of Anthropology and Asian Languages & Culture

Rajbir Singh Judge, Assistant Professor, Department of History, CaliforniaStateUniversity

Dr. Sara Grewal, Assistant Professor of Postcolonial Studies, Gender and Race, MacEwanUniversity

Sasha Sabherwal, PhD (c), YaleUniversity

Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra, PhD (c), University of the FraserValley History

Dr. Shruti Devgan, BowdoinCollege

Simran Kaur Saini, PhD (c), YorkUniversity

Simratpal Singh, Ph.D Candidate, University of Manitoba

Sonia Aujla-Bhullar PhD (c), University of Calgary

Tejpaul Bainiwal, PhD. Candidate Sikh Studies, UC Riverside

Dr. Tarnjit Kaur, PhD Physics

Dr. Tavleen Kaur, University of Wolverhampton

Dr. Pashaura Singh, Distinguished Professor and Saini Chair in Sikh Studies, University of California, Riverside

Dr. Preet Kaur Virdi, Adjunct Assistant Professor, CUNY

 

For more information contact SikhScholarsResponse@gmail.com

 



  
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