Sometimes I think Sikhs are a little like ink blots. What people see when they spot a bearded man in a turban says more about them than it does about members of my faith, which probably explains the number of media commentators anxious to revive the myth that Sikhs are extremists, after a recent rally in Ottawa.
They’re missing the story. Sikhs from Toronto to Paris, London, Brussels and New York are all protesting the state-sanctioned murder of Balwant Singh Rajoana precisely because they are not terrorist-sympathizers. They are trying to prevent the sort of injustice that led to violence in India two decades ago.
As a Sikh, and as a member of a human-rights group called the World Sikh Organization of Canada, I don’t condone violence of any sort, let alone the sort that targets civilians — and that includes capital punishment. Our supreme religious authority, the Akal Takhat, specifically opposes capital punishment, which is one of the reasons protests against Rajoana’s hanging brought the Punjab to a halt March 28.
But to understand why so many Sikhs around the world are lobbying to spare this man’s life, you have to know the tale of the horror that led to Rajoana becoming involved in a plot to assassinate Beant Singh, then chief minister of Punjab.