Category Archives: Statements/News Releases

Passing of a pillar of progressive South Asian community

DR. HASSAN NAWAZ GARDEZI

(19 February 1933 – 20 April 2017)

Dr. Hassan Nawaz Gardezi, one of the founding members of the Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians, passed on early this morning in Peterborough General Hospital. He truly had remained a lifelong and a tireless activist for justice, peace, secularism, and socialism, a huge inspiration to its members, friends, and associates. Death of a human being is always a sad affair. Somehow death of an individual always creates big craters in the lives of those who survive to see another day. But, when a person of such an intellectual and academic presence and stature, like Professor Gardezi, leaves from our midst the void left is simply impossible to bridge, the sorrow that follows exacts an enormous toll, the scars of the loss become indelible. Although his loss is impossible to even fathom, his contributions shall forever live to produce a universe of possibilities, a pathway to a just and a fair society.

Professor Gardezi had taught sociology to several cohorts in the reputable Canadian, American, and Pakistani universities. A large number of his students went on to become professors, journalists, writers, judges, lawyers, trade unionists. Many developed and maintained a lifelong relationship with him and his thoughtful spouse, Rosalie Gardezi. Whether in Pakistan or in Ontario or any place else that the Gardezis lived, their home was always a meeting place where intellectuals, activists, mandarins, and bohemians congregated. Lively discussions and debates were always welcomed. Hassan and Rosalie’s calming presence and amazing hospitality was a constant at these events.

After his retirement from being the head of the Department of Sociology at Algoma University at Sault Ste. Marie, Dr. Gardezi and Rosalie moved to Peterborough, Ontario. The choice of Peterborough was logical to them as their children were attending at the nearby universities. During his years of retirement, Hassan, maintained an exemplary life of an intellectual. Publishing regularly, attending and presenting papers at international conferences, engaging in activism for justice, peace, secularism, and socialism. He also wrote beautiful poems in his first language, Siraiki. He translated some classic Sufi tracts from the Siraiki language into the English language. His two-volume biography of Dada Amir Haider Khan, a leader of the Communist Party of India, presents a remarkable account of the emancipatory movements in the colonized South Asia and their nexus with the workers and peasant movements throughout the world.

As a visionary, Hassan always encouraged younger comrades and friends to organize. He indeed played a big part in organization of numerous organisations and associations struggling for just, fair, and peaceful society. Indeed, Hassan was instrumental in the organization of the CPPC. His vision is reflected in the mission of the CPPC. While we are still struggling to cope with the loss of this remarkable person, we continue to bask in the light of his vision, his compassionate and thoughtful fellowship and friendship, his unfathomable wisdom and generosity. Our hearts are with Rosalie and their beautiful children. May we all and may the Gardezis find peace.

False charges as instrument of terror

SANSAD News-release, November 12, 2016

Dismiss false charges against human rights defenders

South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), an organization of the South Asian Diaspora in Canada, utterly deplores the shocking charges of “criminal conspiracy” and “murder” laid against Nandini Sundar, professor of sociology at Delhi University, professor Archana Prasad of Jawaharlal Nehru University, several political rights and adivasi rights activists and others by Chattisgarh police on October 5.

These charges were laid in regard to the killing of adivasi villager, Shamnath Baghel by Maoists in Nama village in Bastar on the night of October 4. According to the police they were laid in response to the naming of the accused by Shamnath’s wife, Vimala Baghel. However, Vimala  Baghel has said in an interview with NDTV that she did not recognize any of the armed attackers and had been instructed by the police to not talk to outsiders and the media.

These absurd charges against professors Sundar and Prasad and others engaged in bringing to light the atrocities of the police and the adivasis militia armed by the police against other adivais suspected of sympathizing with Maoists is only the latest episode in a long campaign to “pacify” the tribals who are resisting the destruction of their land and forest habitat by mining companies. Nandini Sundar has been exposing the fake encounters, rapes, custodial torture and deaths for more than ten years. In 2007 she, Ramchandra Guha, and E. A. S. Sharma had filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court against Salwa Judum, an armed militia set up by the police, leading to the Supreme Court’s banning of  this organization as unconstitutional. In May 2016 Sundar and others had visited Nama village on a fact finding  mission to investigate atrocities and published a report that was critical of both the police and Maoists.

It is standard procedure for states to impose information blackout in areas where state terror is used against the people, whether it be to crush the resistance to resource extraction or the demand for autonomy. The absence of information is then filled with propaganda that justifies the repression. This is amply illustrated by developments in India, nowhere more clearly than in the tribal belt and Kashmir. These practices were pioneered by colonial powers, who also developed the tactic of arming and empowering one section of the oppressed group against the other.

There has been an escalation of attacks against human rights defenders, journalists, and academics reporting on atrocities in Chattisgarh in the past year: adivasi human rights activist Soni Sori had acid thrown on her face following intense hararssment on February 20, and at the same time the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group faced a campaign of intimidation and eviction that forced them to leave the area. Journalist Malini Subramanian and social scientist Bela Bhatia too faced similar harassment compelling them to leave the area where they had been investigating atrocities. As in the events of February the false charges against Nandini Sundar and others flow  from the recent  Central Bureau of Investigation charge sheet against special police officers in Chattisgarh finding them responsible for burning down three villages in 2011 for which initially Maoists had been blamed. The charge sheets had been immediately followed by the burning of effigies of Nandini Sundar and other human rights activists by armed auxiliary forces personnel across Bastar range under the direction of the police.

As civil society groups in India have recognized in a series of statements and meetings the intense attack on all efforts to bring to light the atrocities committed by the police against adivasis is taking place today within a general assault on civil society. Freedom of information, enquiry, and expression is severely under stress in India today.

We demand that the false charges against Nandini Sundar, Archana Prasad and others be immediately withdrawn.

We further demand that an independent fact finding mission be established to investigate the atrocities in Chattisgarh.

—Thirty—

South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), www.sansad.org

SANSAD News-release Sept 16, 2016

Deplore the silencing of journalists

SANSAD strongly deplores the ongoing effort to censor journalists critical of the policies of the Indian government and to manipulate the media addressing the South Asian diaspora in Vancouver, BC.

On September 6, 2016 Shiv Inder Singh, an independent journalist working out of Punjab and reporting on several radio stations across Canada, published an open letter protesting his arbitrary suspension as a daily reporter on Radio Red-FM in Vancouver, BC for his criticism of Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

Mr. Shiv Inder Singh had been working on Radio Red-FM since 2014, providing daily reports and commentary on political developments in India. He has been critical of the rise of religious intolerance under Mr. Modi and the poor human rights record of his ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

Lately Mr. Singh had found himself in on-air altercation with the host of an evening show and had brought this to the attention of the CEO of the radio station without finding any redress. The conflict had come to a crisis on July 27, when Mr. Singh criticized the politics behind the Government of India’s celebration of the anniversary of a minor military incident between India and Pakistan. Following this Mr. Singh found himself suspended without explanation and received no satisfaction when he sought one from the CEO. Some Vancouver-based individuals who approached the CEO regarding the matter were told that Mr. Singh had been taken off air because of complaints regarding his criticism of Narendra Modi and the Indian Army.

This is not the first incident of such silencing. In 2014 Gurpreet Singh, a respected journalist who had been working in Radio India as a host since 2001 had to resign when he was reprimanded for interviewing the organizers of a Sikh group planning a protest against the visit of Narendra Modi to the US to address the UN following his election as Prime Minister of India. Mr. Modi previously had been banned from visiting the US after the pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 when he was the Chief Minister of the state. Gurpreet Singh was ordered to praise Modi instead of allowing airtime to his critics, compelling his resignation.

SANSAD believes that journalistic independence and freedom of the press are essential foundations of democracy and utterly deplores all attacks on journalists and press freedom. The silencing of Shiv Inder Singh and Gurpreet Singh is deplorable as an attempt to remove any critical perspective from the media serving the South Asian diaspora.

-Thirty-

South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), www.sansad.org

Condemning the murder of Berta Caseras

SANSAD News-release March 8, 2016

Grief and condemnation for the murder of Berta Caseras

On this International Women’s Day, 2016 South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD) grieves for and condemns the murder on March 4 of Berta Caseras, a great human being and champion of environmental and indigenous rights in Honduras, in her sleep in her hometown, La Esperanza. She was shot in her bed in a house where she had gone for the night as a safety measure against the death threats that she had been receiving as a part of her practice of not sleeping in the same place. We condemn the police for their attempt to cover up this assassination by claiming that it was a result of a robbery.

As a leading human rights activist and a founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (Copinh), Berta Caseras had been opposing mining and hydroelectric projects that were destroying the lands of her Lenca people. In particular her organization was opposing the construction of the Agua Zanca dam in the community of Rio Blanco that would have flooded large areas of indigenous land and cut off water for hundreds of people. For this opposition people from her organization were being harassed and threatened by the energy company DESA that was operating the hydroelectric project, the mayor, the police, and the military. She and her family of five children had been receiving threats of sexual violence and murder for several years, about which the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and the UN special rapporteur for indigenous rights had notified president Hernandez of Honduras last year in their appeal for her protection.

Berta Caseras’s work had pitted her against local landlords and international corporations that were engaged in mining and the Agua Zanca project, including Siemens, Voith-Hydro, Dutch FMO, and Fin Fund. The Honduran government, which enabled these projects was brought into power by a military coup in 2009 with the covert support of the United States under the guidance of then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The US since then has been training and funding the police and the military in Honduras while the country has become the most dangerous place on earth for human rights defenders and environmental activists.

Berta Caseras was awarded the Goldman Environment Prize, the highest prize for grassroots environmental activism in the world, in 2015. Mindful of the atmosphere of threat she lived under, she had said in her acceptance speech, “giving our lives in various ways for the protection of rivers is giving our lives for the well being of humanity and of this planet.” We, members of the South Asian diaspora in British Columbia, Canada, where strong resistance is taking place against pipelines, fracking, and the construction of the Site C dam on indigenous lands, stand in solidarity with the people who have protested her assassination, the students at the University of Honduras who have clashed with the police in anger, and the thousands who have marched in her

funeral to celebrate the life of Berta Caseras, condemn the forces that brought it to its untimely end, and demand an end to the destruction of the environment, genocidal displacement of indigenous people, and the regime of terror against human rights and environmental activists in Honduras.

Board of Directors

SANSAD: www.sansad.com