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Ghosts of 1984 haunt Kamal Nath in Toronto

March 31, 2010 00:38 IST

Only two Indo-Canadian Members of Parliament -- Conservative Deepak Obhrai and Liberal Yasmeen Ratansi, and one senator, Conservative Vim Kochhar, showed up to greet Kamal Nath, Indian minister for roads, transportation and highways, at a reception organised by the Canada-India Parliamentary Association in Ottawa, on March 24.

They were among the 20 MPs and ten senators present at the event.

Canada has nine Indo-Canadian MPs and two senators. Those who were absent were Liberal MPs Ujjal Dosanjh, Navdeep Bains, Ruby Dhalla, Sukh Dhaliwal, and Gurbax Malhi; Conservative MPs Tim Uppal, Neena Grewal and Devinder Shory and Liberal Senator Mobina Jaffer.  

The Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council organised a demonstration outside the Le Meridien King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto, where the Canada-India Business Council had organised a dinner reception for Nath,

About 300 demonstrators -- many of them youngsters -- held placards that read: 'Kamal Nath - Great Violator of Human Rights.'

The demonstrators alleged that Nath was among the political leaders instrumental in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India in general and New Delhi in particular.

They vowed to target in the next federal election the lawmakers who met Nath in Canada, including Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who had a closed door meeting with Nath. 

Dhaliwal reportedly wrote to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney that Nath's human rights record be taken into consideration before granting him a Canada visa.

Obhrai, founder of the Canada-India Parliamentary group, defended the decision to allow Nath in.

"He (Nath) is a senior member of Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's cabinet," Obhrai pointed out. "He has charge of the trade promotion file and has done his best to strengthen trade and investments between the two countries," he added.

Ajit Jain in Toronto