Sikhs protest across Canada

Globe and Mail
June 11, 1984


At demonstrations in three Canadian cities over the weekend, about 25,000 Sikhs vowed to avenge the Indian Army's attack on their Golden Temple in Northern India and predicted that an independent Sikh state is inevitable.

Effigies of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi were stabbed and burned at protests in Van­couver, Toronto and Winnipeg, with placard carrying demonstrators chanting, "Khalistan," the name proposed by Sikh militants for an independent nation.

Sikh spokesmen urged the Canadian Government to send a fact finding committee to Punjab, the Northern Indian state that is predominantly Sikh, to "verify the massacre" that they say has not been reported accurately.

In Toronto yesterday, Gurnam Singh Kundhal told a crowd of about 4,500 Sikhs, who paraded in an orderly fashion down University Avenue and converged on City Hall about 1 p.m., that Canada should also cut off all financial aid to India because the money "is used to buy arms to kill Sikhs."

Meanwhile, about. 8,000 Sikhs, many carrying ceremonial swords and daggers, marched peacefully yesterday afternoon from the downtown Vancouver Art Gallery to the Indian consulate. By the time they reached the consulate, their numbers had grown to 15,000, police said.

Another 300 Sikh demonstrators burned an Indian flag on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg on Saturday.

On Friday, about 2,500 Sikhs, many of them wearing black arm bands, marched through downtown Calgary in the rain.

The Golden Temple "is as holy to us as the Vatican in Rome or Mecca are to the Catholics or Moslems," said Uhanwant Mundae of the Calgary Sikh Society. "We cannot tolerate its desecration."

Sikhs across the country, who have been violently torn apart by internal disagreements in the past, were galvanized into united action when the Indian Army, with tanks and heavy artillery, stormed the Golden Temple in Punjab's capital of Amritsar last Wednesday.

About 1,000 extremist Sikhs, led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, had taken refuge in the temple, which is located on a 70 acre site According to police and army reports, about 800 militants, including Mr. Bhindranwale, were killed in the confrontation.

Many demonstrators carried pictures of Mr. Bhindranwale, who was considered an extremist while alive but has become widely reguarded as a martyr in death.

Several hundred Moslems joined the Toronto demonstration, and speakers — who, with the exception of Mr. Kundhal, spoke only in Punjabi — urged Moslem and Sikh solidarity against "Hindu aggression."

Manjit Singh, former president of, the Sikh Students Federation of India and recently returned from Punjab, told the crowd that Hindus have "insulted holy places all over India and some extremist Hindus, have tried to attack (Sikh) temples in Toronto...

"The people she (Mrs. Gandhi). has killed will remain alive all over Punjab. They can kill the body, but they can't kill us politically... She has used the people against the people and India is not a democratic country any more. . . . We will flow the river of blood." (Mr.  Singh's speech was translated for some reporters.)

Two Sikhs, who did not want to be identified, approached a reporter to say that while the Sikh community abhorred the attack on the temple not everyone agreed that violent separation from India was the answer. "For now, however, we must all be together."

The Toronto demonstration ended shortly after 2 p.m.

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