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Demand for addressing Hinduphobia: Is it a fallout of Indo-Canadian diplomatic thaw?

ANM Bureau

Hinduphobia: Amidst continuing thaw in India-Canada issue over the statement of Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau alleging India over the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, growing demand of recognition of ‘Hinduphobia‘, within the Canadian legal framework is drawing quite an attention. Community organisations in Canada have taken a proactive stance in addressing this concern, with a petition set to be presented in the Canadian Parliament in November.

The e-petition, known as e-4507, garnered remarkable support, with 25,794 signatures – far surpassing the 500 required for a government response. Conservative Party MP Melissa Lantsman, who sponsored the petition, is expected to present it in the House of Commons next month.

Understanding Hinduphobia

Hinduphobia, defined as anti-Hindu sentiment or Hinduphobia, which encompasses the denial, negation, prejudice, or vilification against Hindus, Hinduism, or Hinduness.

The letter addressed to Canadian Members of Parliament (MPs) signed by Ragini Sharma, the president of the Canadian Organization for Hindu Heritage Education (COHHE), and co-signed by 80 organizations, including various temples emphasises that the aim is not to secure special status or consideration but about equal protection and treatment under the Canadian Charter and Human Rights Codes, aligning with anti-discrimination policies.

The petition highlights concern regarding systemic discrimination against Hindus in Canada. Systemic discrimination encompasses both overt and subtle biases that can affect various aspects of life, from employment opportunities to personal interactions. By acknowledging Hinduphobia within the legal framework, the hope is that it will become easier to combat this form of discrimination and protect the rights of Hindus in Canada.

Why the demand for addressing Hinduphobia?

The spotlight on Hinduphobia intensified with the release of a video by the secessionist group Sikhs for Justice, targeting Canadian Hindus of Indian origin. The video’s content was met with widespread criticism for promoting divisive narratives and hate. Furthermore, incidents of temple desecration featuring pro-Khalistan graffiti have raised significant concerns about the safety and security of the Hindu community in Canada. These events have underlined the urgent need for measures to address Hinduphobia.

These tensions stem from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations of potential involvement by Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil in June. India had previously designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020. India had vehemently rejected Trudeau’s allegations as “absurd” and “motivated,” resulting in the expulsion of a senior Canadian diplomat as a tit-for-tat response to Ottawa’s expulsion of an Indian official over the matter.

Indo-Canadian lawmaker Chandra Arya, a member of Prime Minister Trudeau’s party, had expressed concern over the glorification of terrorism and hate crimes targeting Hindus under the guise of freedom of expression in Canada. He noted that some Hindu-Canadians are fearful following targeted attacks and urged them to stay vigilant and report any incidents of Hinduphobia to local law enforcement.

The video and the Khalistani movement leader’s actions are seen as attempts to provoke Hindu Canadians, potentially dividing the Hindu and Sikh communities in Canada. Several Canadian ministers, including the public safety minister and the emergency preparedness minister, have reaffirmed the importance of all Canadians feeling safe in their communities and condemned acts of hate and aggression.

The choice of November for presenting the petition is significant. November is recognized as Hindu Heritage Month in Canada by the House of Commons, making it a suitable time for addressing this critical issue.

A worried Hindu Population in Canada!

Hindus constitute nearly 850,000 of Canada’s population, approximately 2.5%. The Canadian Parliament has acknowledged their contributions by designating November as Hindu Heritage Month in 2021. This recognition allowed the Hindu community to share its rich heritage with fellow Canadians.

However, the Heritage Month doesn’t have the scope to tackle the growing Hinduphobia or anti-Hindu sentiment within Canada. Recent incidents have fueled concerns within the Hindu-Canadian community, including the targeting of Hindu temples with pro-Khalistan graffiti and anti-India posters. Additionally, the secessionist group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) issued a video last month, urging Hindus of Indian origin in Canada to leave the country, adding to the unease.

A survey conducted among the Hindu-Canadian community reveals the extent of their worries, with an overwhelming 89% expressing concerns about their family and community’s safety and security in the face of SFJ’s threat. Furthermore, 98% of respondents rated the Canadian Government’s response as “Poor or Very Poor,” while 96% expected the Government to initiate criminal investigations and proceedings regarding the threat. Notably, 90% expected the Government to support the forthcoming petition, E-4507, in the House of Commons and enact stringent laws against Hinduphobia.

Meanwhile, India’s recent statement accusing Canada of being a “safe haven for terrorists, extremists, and organized crime” has brought terrorism back into the spotlight. This situation highlights four concerning international terrorism trends. Experts suggest that in Canada, a convergence of three concerning elements has occurred: terrorism, Hinduphobia, and separatism. India’s assertion that Canada tolerates “politically condoned hate crimes” carries significant implications for a diverse, pluralistic, and democratic nation like India.

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