Fifty Sikh academics and scholars from universities of US, Canada and UK have written to the board of Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Canada, to revaluate its report recently published under the title, “Khalistan: a project of Pakistan.” They have termed the report “vitriolic” which “maligns all Sikh-Canadians engaging in advocacy as extremist and foreign-influenced actors”.
The report has been authored by Canadian journalist Terry Milewski with foreword by former British Columbia premier Ujjal Dosanjh and MLA programme director Shuvaloy Majumdar.
“The report also damages the credibility of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute as it lacks adequate academic rigour, historical and contextually-based journalistic analysis, and balance,” the academics from diverse disciplines have said in their open letter to the board of the Institute.
Holding that the report contains a litany of conclusory statements and allegations without any substantiation, the academics have said, “We are particularly concerned with the manner in which the report casts wide aspersions on a highly visible, racialized community, engaged in legitimate advocacy”.
“The report maligns all Sikh-Canadians engaging in advocacy as extremist and foreign-influenced actors. This is especially concerning as so many of these advocates and activists are rigorous critics of both India and Pakistan’s record regarding minority rights,” the letter reads.
“As academics, writers, and professors, we regularly evaluate work for peer review and have our own work assessed for accuracy as well. The report is sparsely referenced and the few claims that are made seem to not have been fact-checked,” they have said.
Arguing that the “reference” section is one-sided showing a lack of literature review or effort to triangulate claims, they have said, it actually reads as a scattered collection of opinions and vague allegations; it is a simplistic and single worldview. They have argued that the very introduction to the report sets the tone for what is to follow by callously characterizing Sikh advocacy as a “steady and predictable drumbeat of victimization, persecution and genocide commemoration, presented as steps to assist a community in need of healing.” “Since when are political grievances of a community, the commemoration of mass atrocities, or the advocacy for human rights and justice, proof of something sinister? That too in a country with unique genocide legislation,” the academics have asked while also offering to provide peer-review and reference to triangulate and balance such reports in case the Institute wishes to engage in producing reports on Sikh-Canadians in the unbiased spirit.
They have also added that there is a body of extant writing that shows a diversity of Sikh views and debates about Khalistan which documents the abuses by both Pakistan and India that are ignored. Calling the report “un-Canadian in every aspect”, from a lack of respect for free speech to parroting Indian government narrative on Khalistani activism, the academics have said, “Without any critical analysis, the author completely disregards the valid grievances and grassroots advocacy of the Sikh community”.