Local Sikhs are calling on Fort St. John residents to join their peaceful protest against human rights violations in India this weekend.
Since March 18th, 2023, internet services have been suspended in Punjab as authorities search for Bhai Amritpal Singh and his associates. According to the CBC, police say he was able to "slip" away Saturday during an attempt to arrest him and a group of his followers. Officers have since made more than 100 "preventative arrests" of people they say were "attempting to disturb law and order."
Amritpal Singh, head of the Waris Punjab De (Heirs of Punjab) organization, has recently been active in Punjab with his campaign to inspire Sikh youth to embrace the Sikh faith. He has also been open about highlighting discrimination against the Sikh community and supports Khalistan, a sovereign Sikh state in India.
Punjab police have accused Singh of creating discord in Punjab, India's only Sikh-majority state.
The recent crackdown on Sikh activists is still unclear under Indian law, as the police have provided no reasonable explanation. There are reports of mass arrests in Punjab as the Indian government conducts an operation targeting Sikh youth.
Harpreet Singh, a member of the Fort St. John Sikh Gurdwara, said the so-called massive operation against Sikh activists in Punjab has no legal grounding.
“It is a clear violation of human rights in Punjab as there is no legal case against Bhai Amritpal Singh and other Sikh activists," said Harpreet Singh
Many social media accounts belonging to Sikh journalists and civil liberty organizations, both within and outside India, have also been withheld in India.
Manveer Singh, a resident of Fort St. John, says Sikhs worldwide are in a state of panic due to the events unfolding in Punjab.
The Sikh community of Fort St. John hopes to create awareness of Punjab's crisis and urge all residents to participate in their peaceful protest this Saturday outside the North Peace Cultural Centre.
Manjot Singh, a Northern Lights College student, said most of the Sikh students he has talked to are disturbed by the events happening in Panjab.
"I have been unable to connect with my family members for the last five days," said Singh.
This is a massive issue for Sikhs living outside Punjab as they are being cut off from family members and cannot support them regarding finances and other essential matters. Nearly 25 per cent of the world's Sikhs live outside of India, including more than 750,000 in Canada, according to the CBC.
Canada's New Democratic Party Leader, Jagmeet Singh, raised concerns about the Punjab situation and urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to intervene.
"I am calling on Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government to immediately contact their Indian counterparts to express concern regarding the suspension of civil liberties and the safety of Canadians in Punjab," said Jagmeet Singh.
In a statement, the World Sikh Organization of Canada condemned the “Indian government’s operation, which has provided no reasons for the arrest of Singh and his companions. Indian colonial-era laws, like the National Security Act, have been deployed to detain individuals without charge for up to 12 months.”
According to Prabhsharanbir Singh, a University of Fraser Valley professor, this "mega crackdown" on Sikh activists has its basis in Sikhs wanting to express their religious practices traditionally.
“Sikhs need to understand that India is constructed on the denial of their identity. This ongoing crackdown is article 25(b) in practice. Sikhs are stopped from doing Amrit Sanchar (nectar ceremony), one of the basic practices of their religion," said Prabhsharanbir Singh
A peaceful protest will be held outside North Peace Cultural Centre in Fort St. John this Saturday at noon.
With files from The Associated Press.
, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Energeticcity.ca