Remembering the martyrs
Updated : Sunday 08th Sep 2013

A candlelight vigil was held in Surrey in the memory of Jallianwala Bagh massacre

Gurpreet Singh writes from Vancouver

Despite showers, members of the Indo-Canadian community gathered at Surrey’s Holland Park to remember the victims of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre that changed the course of Indian history. A candlelight vigil was organised by the Indo-Canadian Workers’ Association (ICWA) and Fraser Valley Peace Council (FVPC) in the memory of close to 400 supporters of the passive resistance movement, who were killed as a result of the indiscriminate firing by the British troops at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar on the Baisakhi Day on April 13, 1919.

The event that came to be known as Bloody Baisakhi had influenced revolutionaries fighting against the British occupation of India. A moment of silence was held in the memory of the victims. A prominent satirist and a political activist from Punjab, Bhagwant Mann was the guest speaker. There was pin drop silence as he spoke. Mann insisted that the struggle for a true independence has to go on as poor in India have no access to basic requirements. “While India is for the rich, Bharat (Hindi name of India) is still poor,” he said. But Mann, who is a political satirist, did not act funny. Yet people applauded and nodded in agreement when he spoke passionately about issues like corruption and power abuse in India. The fledgling People’s Party of Punjab was launched close to the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru, the three revolutionaries who were hanged in 1931. He pointed out that the revolutionaries had fought to drive the British out of their country, but today the Indian youth is being forced to migrate to English countries due to lack of opportunities and misery in an independent India.

ICWA President Surinder Sangha said that while the local Sikh community is celebrating Baisakhi, a harvest festival of India, in relation to the birth of the Khalsa, people generally forget the martyrs of the Jallianwala Bagh. “If you cannot show up on such an occasion, you should at least light up candles at your homes in the memory of those people.” He also said that the sacrifice made by the people at Jallianwala Bagh symbolized secularism. “They belonged to different communities.”

FVPC leader Shaihzad Khan demanded that like as on other instances, the British government must apologize for the bloody incident.

ICWA secretary Kulwant Dhesi warned that the forces inimical to the unity and integrity of India are still at work in Canada. “They continue to pose challenge to secularism and harmony, something our martyrs stood for,” he said.

Harjap Grewal, a No One is Illegal (international network of antiracist groups and religious asylum initiatives) leader, said that the threat of imperialism is still a reality and Jallianwala Bagh episode should be a guiding light for those who want to free the world from imperialist wars. “We should encourage our youngsters to come to such events instead of letting them waste their time watching hockey on TV.”

Others who spoke on the occasion included FVPC leader Dr Saif Khalid, BC Liberal MLA Dave S Hayer, NDP MLA Harry Bains and former NDP MLA from Alberta, Raj Pannun, and Communist Party of Canada leader Sam Hammond. The Liberal candidate for the federal election from Surrey North, Shinder Purewal, was also in attendance. The Deputy Counsel from the Indian consulate in Vancouver, V.K. Wadhwa, and moderate Sikh scholar Giani Harkirat Singh also spoke on the occasion. Paul Bilga, Gurcharan Talewalia and Devinder Takhar recited poems. Veteran Indian army officer Col Preetam Singh Johal was also present on the occasion.

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