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Portrayal of Indira's killers: Organizers flayed

April 18, 2008 04:19 IST

Organizers of Baisakhi celebrations in Surrey (British Columbia), who chose to put on stage portraits/posters of the assassins of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and erected a special tent where there were more such posters showing gruesome pictures, have come under severe condemnation.

Asserting that he would never go for such an event, Liberal lawmaker Ujjal Dosanjh termed the assassins 'murderers' and questioned how their pictures could appear on stage and how could people condone such actions.

"What are they trying to achieve by glorifying terrorism," he asked in an interview with rediff.com on April 16.

Indian High Commissioner R L Narayan told rediff.com that there was some work done by RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and others before the actual event and concerns had been expressed. 

Informed sources said those who had put up the pictures/posters had done some home work through their lawyers to ascertain as to what wouldn't be cognizable under the law. 

"Those pictures on the stage and the tent were frankly gruesome, pictures of so-called martyrs and undoubtedly it is glorification of terrorism," Narayan said.

Canada's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Helena Georges was in India for two days (April 15-16) and 'our minister conveyed to her our feelings of shock and dismay that those pictures simply was an attempt to glorify terrorism.'

There are reports from New Delhi also that Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma conveyed to the Canadian minister 'India's anguish and concern over the parade that took place in the city of Surrey and the fact that assassins of the late prime minister were glorified in the posters and were declared martyrs.'

These reports also say that Canadian authorities have expressed regret at the incident and have informed New Delhi that they will look into the matter. 

In an e-mail message, Alykhan Velshi, spokesman of Secretary of State for Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, said they had consulted 'security agencies and provincial officials before the parade. 

"We urged our caucus members not to attend functions with the organizers on the main stage," he said. 

"We were not satisfied with the assurances we were provided that there would not be pictures depicting individuals and organizations whose values contradict our own on display."

In any case the Conservative Party encouraged their members "to join the tens of thousands of Canadians of Sikh faith, who will be in attendance in the crowd," said Velshi.

"We have conveyed our concerns at the high level in the Canadian government," Narayan said repeatedly, adding, "It is a continuing process. We will continue to pursue this issue as it is of a national concern and we will continue to impress upon the Canadian authorities."

"Khalistan is a very emotional issue for us, as it is directed for the break up of India. Khalistan was a violent movement and it claimed the life of one prime minister.  So, it is something we are emotionally involved and so when these types of activities (as in Surrey) take place, it is unacceptable to us and we have conveyed our concerns at high level," he noted.

According to a report in the Vancouver Sun, a day before the parade, Sudager Singh Sandhu, president of the organizing temple Dasmesh Darbar, had stated that 'no banned organizations would be allowed in the parade and that there would be 'no pictures depicting violence or the outcome of violence'.

Despite this, this report claims, some people managed to display portraits of the assassins of Indira Gandhi and dead leaders of the Babbar Khalsa and International Sikh Youth federation, both banned organizations in Canada. 

There were reportedly floats with photos of 'martyrs from terrorist groups banned in India, including the Khalistan Commando Force, the Khalistan Liberation Force, Bhindranwale's Tiger Force and the Babbar Khalsa and several photos of militants with ammunition belts crossing their  chests.

Ajit Jain in Toronto