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Protesters call on Burnaby MP Jagmeet Singh to denounce hatred towards Hindu-Canadians

A representative for the protesters was disappointed by Singh’s response to the group’s repeated requests for comment

*Warning: This article contains foul language.

Hindu-Canadians from Burnaby are calling on federal NDP Leader and Burnaby MP Jagmeet Singh to be more vocal in denouncing hatred directed towards them in the wake of the Indian farmers' protests.

So far, they are disappointed by the MP’s response.

On March 11, a group of concerned Hindu-Canadians plastered “missing” signs over Singh’s constituency office in Burnaby. This was the fourth action taken by the group over the last month. They had paid the office three visits before asking each time for the MP to specifically denounce the harassment Hindu-Canadians have faced in recent months. 

Sushil Nagar, one of the group’s members provided examples of the kind of harassment perpetrated against Hindus. These include vandalism, fake negative reviews left on Hindu-owned businesses, physical attacks and death threats made via phone calls and social media.

The farm bills initiated by India’s parliament in September 2020 have been controversial, sparking mass protests across India by farmers who see the bills as a threat to their livelihoods. But Nagar says the attacks go much deeper than the bills.

Nagar and other Indo-Canadian organizations are looking to counter incendiary narratives related to the protests as they allege the agenda has largely been hijacked in Canada.

As Nagar alleges, the farmers' protests present a platform for anti-Indian government sympathizers to spread their views against the current Hindu government in India. Similarly, Nagar says some people are using the position to spread hate against anyone not against the Indian government. Nagar says that, over social media, Canadian-Hindus have been called "Nazis", "cow piss drinkers", "Modi’s dogs", idol worshippers, demons and anti-farmers.

"Whenever this Indian government is trying to do things for people, [pro-farmer supporters] are always framing it as an anti-human rights kind of thing. We are really bothered by it because this is framing Hindus in a bad light," Nagar said. "This leads to a lot of negativity on social media; outside, kids are getting bullied in school, people are getting bullied in the workplace, on social media."

On Feb. 28, confrontations between pro-India protests and counter-protests turned violent during a car rally in Brampton, Ontario. Physical and verbal clashes resulted in Jagmeet Singh’s brother-in-law Jodhveer Dhaliwal being charged with assault causing bodily harm. 

Singh’s response 

The NOW received a statement from Singh’s constituency office the morning of Friday, March 19. 

“Jagmeet Singh and the NDP have been very clear from the beginning: everyone, everywhere should have the right to protest peacefully. No one should be confronted by violence for expressing their point of view. In India, farmers and labourers of all faiths, denominations and backgrounds are protesting to protect their livelihood.

"Human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and others, have reported a dangerous regression of free speech, secular democracy and civil liberties in India, including politically motivated arrest of journalists and farmers. This is wrong; we must and will always stand up for human rights and democracy."

After listening to the statement, Nagar was less than impressed.

"That's it?" Nagar asked. "He did not mention that Hindus were getting attacked and that we stand with our Hindu brothers in Canada. We are Canadian citizens, we pay taxes here, this is our home. We are Canadians, why is he not talking about us?"

A need for peace

Nagar says no Hindu wants to infringe upon any person’s right to free speech. He says all he wants is for Hindu-Canadians is to not fear harassment or assault.

"We just want to live in peace in Canada and we love our brothers and we celebrate at festivals together," he said. “We work together, we do business together, we go to school together and we just wanted a statement from Jagmeet Singh denouncing hatred against Hindus and that we should all live in peace. But we are disappointed that he is more concerned about farmers in India than citizens of Canada."