| Opinion | Malaysia | 24 Nov 2015 | Asia Samachar |
By Ranjit Singh
When cornered, you hear calls for a ban. When threatened by new ideas, they burn the books. Lose an argument and they blast the other side with noise. When all else fails, they call for boycott or they let fly the blast of a more deadly nature.
This is sad story of many communities around the world. Looks like some quarters want to make it the story of the bhais (brothers, in the wider sense, which is gender neutral) in Malaysia.
In the aftermath of the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calls for ban and boycott are making their rounds.
Modi has come and gone. His maiden trip to Malaysia is a huge success, judging from the media coverage. He even joined his Malaysian counterpart to unveil some gate in Brickfields, home to some pretty nice Indian restaurants, big and small.
As he departed to Singapore yesterday (23 Nov 2015), he has left a deep divide within the local Sikh community.
Some Sikhs, invidivuals and leaders of some local Sikh non-government organisations (NGOs), took part in some functions where Modi was feted.
In this world of selfie and wefie, some did not let slip the opportunity to snap photos with the Indian leader. As these photos began making its rounds, calls to boycott these leaders began making its rounds.
Ban, burn, blast and boycott. Are these proper and valid responses?
Some background. Some weeks ago, various Sikhs organisations had lent their signature to a memorandum addressed to Modi on the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in Punjab. They held a demonstration at the building where the Indian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur is located. Apparently, they received no response from any quarters.
You can imagine their dissapointment. The simmering anger went up a notch or two.
In the meantime, Punjab was the focus of Sikhs globally when a gathering, badged as the Sarbat Khalsa, was held in Amritsar. It was a politically contentious affair. For the lay Sikh, they would need a who’s who guide to understand what was happening there. Nothing is straight forward when it comes to Indian politics.
Along comes Modi to Malaysia for the Asean Summit, an annual gathering of an important regional block for India and China. He stayed on for an official visit to Malaysia. Next stop: Singapore.
Now, Sikhs in Malaysia were confronted on how to deal with the Modi visit. Do we meet him? Do we attend his functions? Do we shun him? Do we hold demonstrations to show our anger and disgust? The larger Sikh communities in US and Canada were also confronted with similar questions. But their dynamics is different from Malaysia and Singapore.
Local Sikh NGOs were graplling with these issues. The loosely cobbled group called the Task Force decided to ‘advise’ Sikhs to shun Modi. Fair enough. It’s a legitimate call.
As expcted, some showed up at the Modi functions. As you can see from the comments to the story ran by Asia Samachar, some are clamouring for boycott.
Should we boycott those who chose to go? Boycott, as mentioned earlier, is a valid form of response, but should never be an immedaite response. Maybe you want first to sit and talk. Find out why they went. Enquire what were their motivations.
Instead of bans and boycotts, it may be better to engage them in table talks. Build consensus. Don’t let Modi leave you guys divided.
Ranjit Singh is a reader of Asia Samachar. This is the personal view of the author and not necessarily of the Asia Samachar or any organisation. We welcome feedback. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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