Ontario government officially recognises 1984 riots as Sikh genocide

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TORONTO – The Government of Ontario province in Canada on Friday passed a motion in the Legislative Assembly to officially recognise the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as “Sikh genocide” while calling upon “all sides to embrace truth and reconciliation.” The motion was passed by a vote of 34 to 5.

The motion was brought forward by Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly Harinder Kaur Malhi (Brampton-Springdale), which received support from all three provincial parties.

Malhi’s motion read, “That, in the opinion of this House, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, should reaffirm our commitment to the values we cherish – justice, human rights and fairness – and condemn all forms of communal violence, hatred, hostility, racism and intolerance in India and anywhere else in the world, including the 1984 Genocide perpetrated against the Sikhs throughout India, and call on all sides to embrace truth, justice and reconciliation.”

The passing of Malhi’s motion follows a similar attempt last year to recognize the Sikh Genocide in the Ontario Legislature.  In June 2016, NDP Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh introduced a Private Members’ Motion recognizing the November 1984 state organized violence perpetrated against the Sikhs throughout India as a genocide.  Jagmeet Singh’s motion was defeated, despite receiving support from both the NDP and Progressive Conservative caucuses.

The 1984 Sikh Genocide, in which thousands of innocent Sikh men, women and children were brutally attacked and murdered across India, was one of the darkest chapters in modern Indian history.  The attacks were not spontaneous but had in fact been systematically orchestrated and carried out under the guidance of members of the ruling Congress Party of India.  State actors like the police either turned a blind eye to the killings or actively assisted in their execution.  The Government of India’s Nanavati Commission Report acknowledges “but for the backing and help of influential and resourceful persons, killing of Sikhs so swiftly and in large numbers could not have happened.”

Although official reports record the killings of nearly 3,000 Sikhs, unofficial estimates are much higher.  Barbara Crossette, a former New York Times bureau chief in New Delhi noted: “Almost as many Sikhs died in a few days in India in 1984 than all the deaths and disappearances in Chile during the 17-year military rule of Gen. Augusto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990.”

Indian Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has recognized the 1984 attacks on Sikhs as a “genocide” and noted that several persons who had a role in the carnage are yet to be punished.

WSO President Mukhbir Singh said: “We welcome the passing of Ms. Malhi’s motion recognizing the 1984 Sikh Genocide and are thankful for the support it received from the Ontario Legislature.  We also recognize the important work of Jagmeet Singh for having first raised this matter in the Ontario Legislature last year. For years, the term ‘1984 anti-Sikh riots’ was used to describe the events of November 1984 which was a distortion and wrongly implied unorganized communal violence.  Recognizing the state-sponsored violence that targeted Sikhs across India in 1984 is an important and historic step towards justice, accountability and reconciliation which we hope will be an example to other governments.”

Canada India Foundation, a pro-business and India group, wrote to the Ontario Premier, seeking assistance and lobbied unsuccessfully to stop the Ontario Parliament from taking up the Genocide resolution.