Move The Movement

In my previous post, Truth To Power, I stated:

We must read such reports and present them … anywhere and everywhere … to anyone who will listen: our gurdwaras, our local Amnesty International chapters, student groups, talk radio, public television, newspaper op-eds, etc. We must also create awareness of these findings in whatever format we can – through music, art, theatre and poetry.

I was impressed to see the Sikh Student Association here at the University of Maryland acting on this principle. The SSA, in conjunction with other student groups, is sponsoring a free concert on April 3rd, 2009 to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1984 Sikh genocide.

The featured performer for the concert is Immortal Technique, an up-and-coming rapper who attracts a large and diverse audience, especially amongst college students. His intense style, controversial lyrics, and willingness to approach political subjects, such as the mid-east conflict, have made him a fan favorite amongst the politically aware.

It is refreshing to see students think “out-of-the-box” in remembering 1984, by attracting a mainstream artist and joining forces with other student activist groups under the tagline “Move the Movement.” The SSA plans to distribute background material on the 1984 atrocities and subsequent human rights violations, as well as feature short video clips and interviews with victims in between acts.

I hope other groups will take from this example and implement similar creative ideas as opposed to gathering in front of embassies and consulates, shouting at empty buildings. I never really understood that concept. Why would we stand outside of the Indian consulate demanding our rights? If the Indian government orchestrated these crimes, why would they be interested in our demands or empathizing with us?

I’m equally uncomfortable with candlelight vigils. This was popular as I was a student, as such vigils would pop up every June and November at gurdwaras and university campuses all throughout North America. I understand the need to reflect and commiserate on the atrocities of 1984, but there is something very passive about a vigil, as though we are community in mourning. Our history teaches us to be in Chardi Kalaa under such struggle, so why mourn? Besides, it is not as though 500 years have passed, it’s only been 25. Survivors are still suffering (see Widow Colony), and many of the architects of the Darbar Sahib attack and anti-Sikh pogroms are active politicians. Forget the candles! We need to expose the truth, educate our communities, and put the architectects behind the State violence and human rights violations behind bars, as per the law.

At vigils, I’ve seen the tagline “Let our silence be heard.” But I ask, “Why not let our voices be heard?”

I realize I’m being critical, and even a little self-critical as I’ve participated and organized such protests and vigils, but as 25 years have passed – we need to pause, reflect, re-strategize, and find more effective and productive ways to present our case. What if one of the presenters at this past Sunday’s Academy Awards wore a “Free Punjab” T-Shirt? Even if it was a medium-famous star, there would be a buzz throughout the internet the next day on what exactly that T-Shirt was about. I’m a strong believer that if this movement gains even a hint of popularity from Non-Sikhs, Sikh supporters will come out of the woodworks.

I commend the SSA on this endeavour, and hope to see a great turnout on Friday!

Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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About RP Singh

Writer. Reader. Runner. Thinker. Seeker View all posts by RP Singh

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