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Jaskaran Sandhu: Happy First Birthday Baaz
Thank you to all our subscribers, especially paid subscribers, as your contributions to our outlet make it possible to keep bringing new and interesting original reporting and investigations
January 18, 2022 | 5 min. read | From the Editors
It is hard to believe it has been a year since we launched Baaz.
We knew what we were setting out to do when we started, but we did not know how it would actually connect or grow, to be quite frank.
Will anyone read this? Is it sustainable? Will the things we publish actually matter?
Regardless, our foundation was clear, the voices we wished to platform were obvious, and the narrative we looked to shape had been neglected for far too long.
We wanted to be the home for original reporting, ideas, and opinions for the Sikh and Punjabi diaspora. To give a voice to the two and half million or so of us living outside of India, but to also engage with those in Punjab as well.
Now, with over over 200 articles (touching communities in India, Canada, America, the UK, Australia, Finland, Denmark, and the Netherlands), millions upon millions of social media impressions (getting verified by Twitter along the way), hundreds of thousands of article views (plus thousands of subscriptions on Substack), and thousands of podcast listens, I think we have succeeded in our mission over the last 12 months.
In fact, most folks that speak to me about Baaz, both within and outside the community, are surprised to hear we are only a year old. They think we have been around forever. Although to be fair, we have all lived multiple lifetimes in 2021.
Most people find it hard to believe we are a small team with few resources bootstrapping our way to relevance with the support of loyal subscribers. Even godi media took shots at us, after our scoop got pro-India Canadian MP, Ramesh Sangha, removed from the governing Liberal Party caucus. They accused us, in part, of being well funded. The audacity.
Our story begins with the Farmers’ Protest, and our coverage of it was a critical source of trusted information for Sikhs both inside and outside Punjab. The historic agitation will always be a critical part of our origin story, without the global energy that it brought we probably would never have launched.
We are immensely grateful to journalists like Sandeep Singh and columnists like Amaan Bali that chose Baaz to tell the story of the world’s largest protest. This will continue as the movement still has unfinished business and evolves during and after the Punjab assembly elections.
We also really wanted to tell the stories of Sikhs in India but outside Punjab, an often underrepresented group in terms of news coverage. We provided on the ground reporting and missing insights from Nanded, Shillong, Kashmir, and Uttar Pradesh. Local communities were grateful, reminding us of how important it is for people to feel that they are being heard and noticed.
While what is happening in South Asia is incredibly important, we have noticed what moves our readers the most is local original reporting in the diaspora of stories often neglected by our mainstream media.
It is stories like Canadian-based Monika Sidhu’s original reports on the international student mental health crisis and workplace exploitation that have now eventually found their way into national coverage. Jaspreet Oberoi’s investigations into the growing presence of Hindutva forces in Canada, including those behind mysterious billboards that popped up around Toronto and were misrepresented by India’s national media as some organic groundswell of support for Modi, have gone viral as well.
In the UK, original reporting by Minreet Kaur on Sikh and Punjabi issues intersecting with local politics was widely shared, as was her report on Wembley Stadium barring entry to an Amritdhari Sikh due to his Kirpan. Jasveer Singh’s writing on the West Midlands Three’s battle against extradition to India, Arjan Singh Bhullar fighting his way to becoming an MMA champion, and Rishmeet Singh’s tragic murder in Southhall, is a good example of the kind of diversity of topics that were covered.
In America, Joti Kaur Rekhi’s original reporting helped shed light on the White House’s position on the Farmers’ Protest, connect Sikhs around the world to the victims of the senseless shooting in Indianapolis, and explore a historic and competitive council race in New York City. She also, by the way, did some great reporting on the censorship of Sikh accounts online, as well as how the Pegasus Project bombshell impacted Sikh journalists.
Finally, in Australia Sukhmeet Grewal wrote original reports impacting a growing community. From the increasing threat of Hindutva in the country to the arrest of Vishal Jood to the Kirpan ban in NSW schools, he helped bring to global attention stories that would otherwise go unnoticed.
On multiple occasions, for better or worse depending on who you ask, Baaz’s op-eds generated and ignited conversations across social media and Punjabi media. Staying true to my hope, as I said in our opening piece, of Baaz shaping “our narrative as a community and [having] interesting debates internally”.
One question we asked when we began was is there enough happening in the diaspora to write about? The truth is there is too much, and what bothers me are the many stories we did not write or could not finish.
We really need more writers from our communities.
It is not easy putting your thoughts to paper and making them public to critique and scrutiny. But it is very important that we do leave a record of our place in time. We are happy to be a platform for that, as we expand to more video and audio as well.
We have learned a lot since we began, and we continue to grow. However, we can only keep doing this with your support.
Thank you to all our subscribers, especially paid subscribers, as your contributions to our outlet make it possible to keep bringing new and interesting original reporting and investigations that matter to Sikhs and Punjabis in the diaspora.
We hope that you have found Baaz a useful addition to your life and a trusted source of news and opinions. That it has provided a better understanding of the world around you, and some new things to think about.
Looking forward to many more anniversaries.
Jaskaran Sandhu hails from Brampton, Canada, and is the co-founder of Baaz. He is a Strategist at the public affairs and relations agency State Strategy. Jaskaran also previously served as Executive Director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada and as a Senior Advisor to Brampton’s Office of the Mayor. You can find Jaskaran on Twitter at @JaskaranSandhu_
Baaz is home to opinions, ideas, and original reporting for the Sikh and Punjabi diaspora. Support us by subscribing. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @BaazNewsOrg. If you would like to submit a written piece for consideration please email us at email@example.com.