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India rejects Ontario Assembly's move to declare 1984 anti-Sikh riots as genocide

News Agencies | Updated on: 7 April 2017, 18:11 IST
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The Indian Government on 7 April, 2017 rejected the Ontario Legislative Assembly's passing of a Private Members' Motion that described the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as "genocide".

The Ontario Assembly became the first legislature in Canada to carry such a motion, thereby putting a question mark on bilateral relations between India and Canada.

Responding to the passage of the motion in the Ontario Assembly, the Official Spokesperson, Mr. Gopal Baglay, said, "We have noted the passage of a Private Members' Motion in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on 6 April, 2017. We reject this misguided motion which is based on a limited understanding of India, its constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and the judicial process. Our views have been conveyed to the government and political leadership in Canada."

The motion was moved by Liberal Party Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Harinder Malhi, who represents the MPP from the Brampton-Springdale Riding near Toronto (Riding refers to a constituency in Canada). The ruling Liberal Party of Ontario had voted down a similar motion last summer.

After a debate, the motion was carried with 34 MPPs (the equivalent of MLAs) voting in favour and just five against. Those present at a vote numbered just about a third of the assembly's total strength of 107.

The Prime Minister's Office here is aware of the gravity of this development, and the Indian Government is understood to have communicated its concern n advance of the motion's passage to Canada's Liberal Party government, including Ministers in Justin Trudeau-led Cabinet.

India's Consul General in Toronto, Dinesh Bhatia, under whose jurisdiction Ontario falls, has also conveyed New Delhi's concerns over the issue and had tried to prevent its passage through diplomatic channels.

In introducing the motion, Malhi said the Legislative Assembly of Ontario should "condemn all forms of communal violence, hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance in India and anywhere else in the world, including the 1984 Genocide perpetrated against the Sikhs throughout India, and call on all sides to embrace truth, justice and reconciliation."

While speaking on the matter, she said events following the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi could "only be described as genocide".

Among those supporting the motion was Jagmeet Singh, MPP of the New Democratic Party or NDP, who had unsuccessfully moved a similar motion in June 2016. Singh, who is considered a serious contender to be the next leader of the national NDP, also criticised the Narendra Modi Government.

The NDP politician who was refused a visa to travel to India at the end of 2013, also said, "This is a country that continues to use visa denial as a form of silencing its critics."

Sikhs gathered in the Assembly gallery to view the proceedings greeted the outcome with cheers and slogans.

Several prominent Indo-Canadian organisations, including the Canada-India Foundation, Panorama India and India Canada Chamber of Commerce had written to Premier Kathleen Wynne and their representatives asking them to oppose the motion. However, this concerted lobbying effort failed when it came to the final count.


First published: 7 April 2017, 18:11 IST