Singh’s remarks criticized by Sikh political leaders in India’s Punjab region.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is being criticized for remarks on “self-determination” that mentioned the Punjab region.
Punjab is the centre of Sikhism, and has a small hard-line “Khalistan Independence” movement seeking to make Punjab its own country, rather than a part of India.
Singh has been criticized previously for being unclear as to whether he supported the Khalistani movement or not. Now, his recent comments saying self-determination would be “a basic right” in Punjab have made things worse.
As noted by the Hindustan Times, “Reacting to Jagmeet’s recent remark, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema said that Canadian leaders should not meddle in India’s affairs. “They should mind their own affairs. We respect the sovereignty of our country. Punjab and our party are an unbreakable part of the Indian democratic and political system.”
Concerningly, the Hindustan Times also points out that “In equating the recent separatist movements to the demand for a separate Sikh homeland, Jagmeet is echoing the strategy adopted by hardline groups such as Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), which is spearheading the “Khalistan 2020 Referendum” effort.”
Referring to Singh’s comments, Cheema added, “When we don’t interfere in Canada’s internal issues, why should they?”
Tarlochan Singh – the former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities and a former MP for Rajya Sabha – also criticized Singh, saying “Sikhs living in Punjab and India have never demanded a separate state, which is the brainchild of a few Sikhs living abroad. We believe in the unity of India and want to solve all our problems through constitutional means.”
Concerning naivety by Jagmeet Singh
Jagmeet Singh is showing a concerningly naive attitude about regional independence. The situations in Quebec, Catalonia, and Punjab are all very different, and conflating all of them is a big mistake. Support for separatism is way down in Quebec, Catalonia is on the verge of near-civil war, and there is no prospect of the Punjab region leaving India.
Yet, Singh just ignored all those differences and made an empty and ignorant statement. It’s also concerning that Singh is seen by many people as so involved in the politics of another country, when people want his focus to be solely on Canada.
Additionally, India under the leadership of Narendra Modi (who despite some big mistakes like the demonetization policy) has been strengthening his nation – is a strong and close ally of Canada, and an important counterweight to China. Singh would put Canada’s relationship with India at risk, which would be a massive strategic error.
Worst of all, Singh now tries to evade discussing these concerns by accusing people of racism. It doesn’t bode well for his leadership abilities.
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