Jaskaran Sandhu: A Launch Week Worth Dissecting

High growth and wide reach, but more importantly a conversation on patriarchy

Jaskaran Sandhu
January 25, 2021 | 5 min. read

There is a lot to unpack from the week that was.

We at the Baaz team did not expect the organic speed of growth, the width of reach, and the volume of conversations to come this quickly.

Honestly. 

We are grateful to have had the likes of Sandeep Singh write our first original report directly from Delhi, Ravi Singh share his personal experience during #IamWithKhalsaAid, American Sikhs open us up to their thoughts on Inauguration Day, Harsha Walia provide an insightful piece on the security state, Harman Kandola hit the radio circuit to speak about his op-ed on Sikh politicians, Jasveer Singh discuss the UK extradition matter, Dr. Amanpreet Brar provide her expertise on the ongoing impact of COVID-19 in our community, Nanki Kaur speak about her experience helping with the organizing of the first major farmers protest rally in the Greater Toronto Area, Sukhraj Singh launch a new SikhArchive series on Baaz, and finally, four Sikh women in Sikh studies reflect on their experience with patriarchy in Sikh discourse (a lot more on this in a bit). 

Oh, I almost forgot - there was also that whole weekend breaking news thing around one Sikh Member of Parliament in the Canadian Liberal Party calling a fellow Sikh MP an “extremist” on Punjabi television. The opposition parties picked up on the Baaz story

We also had the honour of receiving endorsements from Rupi Kaur, Parmjeet Singh from Sikh Siyasat, Harinder Singh from SikhRI and the Punjab Digital Library, and many more  - which is actually really nice. 

Baaz picked up thousands of followers across social media platforms, but mostly Instagram and Twitter, garnering, for example, half a million impressions on tweets alone. Again, we were not expecting numbers like these after just a week. 

The website itself is going strong, with almost 10,000 views so far. Paying subscribers have provided us a foundation to push forward with more original reporting, which we are excited to get moving on. If you have not already - consider becoming one yourself, the emails in your inbox are convenient. It is free to become a subscriber, but if you can pitch in a few dollars it goes a long way. 

All of this is to say thank you for your early support. You are taking a chance on us, we know that. And, we appreciate it. 

There is another topic of discussion outstanding.

When we started Baaz, we were adamant as a team to ensure we provided a platform for voices that are often missing in our current media landscape. We also wanted to ensure that Baaz would be an open space, for dialogue and debate. While we may not agree on everything all the time, we are a proud and united people - contrary to what a lot may think.

It is in this spirit that we personally, as a team, spent the month leading up to launch reaching out to folks across the political spectrum and different stages of their Sikh journey to write for us.

As part of that process, we spoke to Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra, Asha Sawhney, Dr. Kamal Arora, and Manvinder Gill - the authors of the Baaz four part series “It Is Time For Change, Reflections From Sikh Women In Sikh Studies”.

Full disclosure, I actually know these four women from my time in the advocacy trenches

I met Kamal during the #AskCanadianSikhs campaign, where she helped with combating false mainstream media narratives about Sikh Canadians. 

I got to know Asha through the #SaveAfghanSikhs campaign, where her intel and work on the ground with Afghan Sikh families was critical in providing support to our brothers and sisters under attack from ISIS and the Taliban. 

Sharanjit is someone I got to know more closely when she and 50 plus Sikh scholars from around the world put together an unprecedented response to the Terry Meliwsky Macdonald-Laurier Institute report which attempted to slander not just the Sikh community but also strip our people of any agency around self-determination. 

I first learned of Manvinder through her research on alcohol and Sikhs - in fact just yesterday Jakara Movement launched Aas, a Punjabi support group for those battling alcohol addiction, an initiative which Manvinder assisted with and puts her research to action. 

These are women that not only do important scholarship but also put that expertise to direct community benefit and use with Sikh organizations and initiatives across the world. They are not, as some accused, the “dil saf” crowd, I can assure you of that. They do seva for a community they love, and when they wish to share their experiences dealing with patriarchy in Sikh spaces, we should listen. 

We do not have to agree on everything, and there are real differences worth real debates - our space is home for that. But lived experiences cannot just be dismissed with insults and personal attacks, which is what all four of them experienced from some as a result of their writings for Baaz.

Bullying is not a form of debate. Mockery is not a form of debate. And, as the Baaz team, we will not tolerate it either. 

It is not easy to put yourself out there. To put your thoughts into words, publish them in a public forum, and defend your position from a challenge. It is not easy, but it is necessary. No one is signing up for abuse though. 

Alienating those you disagree with, especially those coming from a space of good faith and experience in the community, is not constructive. We need more folks to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts or seeking understanding, not less. I looked back at Manvinder’s tweets replying to some critiques as I prepared this From The Editor piece, and she was respectful and patient with those engaging her - even as some others began to personally insult her. 

There is a clear double standard. That is obvious to me. 

As a mona man, I have never faced this kind of abuse even though I have said my share of debatable things. I acted as the Executive Director for a large Sikh advocacy organization, an organization I have actually held leadership roles in for almost 10 years now, without ever really being questioned why or how that is possible as a mona. I have been asked to speak on behalf of Sikhs in media, at events, on panels, and more. I often receive a lot of love on Twitter when challenging false narratives from the Indian state or western media. Not once was I told I am not a Sikh. Or questioned why I identify as a Sikh. Or been told that my opinions matter less as a mona. Everyone accepts and understands that I am on the path, that I love my community and Sikhi. 

These four women, their opinions, their research, their community work, deserve that same level of respect. The experience they shared in “It Is Time For Change, Reflections From Sikh Women In Sikh Studies” is one commonly experienced by many Sikh women in community spaces. I have personally heard them over and over again from a decade worth of grassroots engagement. Do not ignore or dismiss the larger message. 

We will make mistakes as individuals, and as a team and outlet. If you see something you do not agree with at parts or completely, this space is open to hearing your rebuttal or critique. We are happy to publish it. In fact, we have had multiple people reach out to us with an interest in adding their opinion to the conversation. That is what we want Baaz to be. A place for the community to come together in the diaspora. We do not want people retreating to their corners of the internet, we do not want echo chambers, we do not want alienation. 

This week will see some more great content and writing from folks around the world. I hope that you not only continue to give us the kind of support you have but that you also consider writing for us and sharing your opinion on matters that impact our community today.

In chardi kala.

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Jaskaran Sandhu hails from Brampton, Canada, and is the co-founder of Baaz. He is a Senior Consultant at the public affairs agency Crestview 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 TwitterInstagram, and Facebook at @BaazNewsOrg.  If you would like to submit a written piece for consideration please email us at editor@baaznews.org