Sukhraj Singh: Indian State And Media Nexus Dubiously Targets Danish-Sikh Community
Mrutyuanjai Mishra's “The rise of radical Sikhism in Europe and Canada” resembles a badly concocted conspiracy theory that hides behind the veil of a Times of India opinion piece
February 22, 2021 | 5 min. read
On January 27, 2021, an article was published in The Times of India by Mrutyuanjai Mishra titled “The rise of radical Sikhism in Europe and Canada” in which he wrote a plethora of absurd claims against the Sikhs of Denmark.
These claims have no real factual or historical basis and the article largely resembles a badly concocted conspiracy theory that hides behind the veil of an opinion piece.
After having spent the last three years recording and documenting the 50 plus years of rich diverse history of the community, I plan to not only rebut the claims the author has made but also to illustrate how the article in itself is a symptom of a much wider Indian state machinery that drives media campaigns to defame the character of the Sikh diaspora in this time of great agitation.
Mishra begins by presenting the current state of affairs regarding the strict COVID-19 related lockdown measures as a moral arbiter to falsely discredit the incredibly small, perfectly legal, and state-sanctioned pro-farmers’ protest car rally that was held in Copenhagen on January 16 by the Danish-Sikh community.
His issue was that some Sikhs in Denmark are outrageously breaking the “no more than 5” COVID-19 crowd restrictions by driving through the Danish capital, which I am assuming he thinks were held in 7-seater vehicles?
He also opines that “they were paradoxically protesting in their fancy cars for the so-called poor farmers of Punjab”. Other than this strawman, the real paradox here is that he is the same author that praised Sweden in the summer for their lack of lockdown measures and contentious herd-immunity approach - which Sweden later admitted to having misjudged.
The article is rife with such contradictions, strawmen, and biases solely aimed at targeting the Danish Sikh community.
Another clear example of this, in relation to the affront of COVID restriction measures, is the absence of mentioning the violent demonstrations of local Danes that were organized by the “Men in Black” in the very same week. But of course, he is not offended by this and makes no mention since this narrative does not serve the aim or intention of the original written piece, namely to tarnish the character of the Danish Sikh community against the backdrop of the farmer protests.
Mishra then quite strangely and instantly directs the conversation towards ISIS and radicalization where he attempts to explore wider themes of integration. In the next sentence, he subsequently extends his trail of thought (if any at all) to that of Indian Muslims such that they do not fall into this fold of extremism due to their patriotism for India. The reasoning for this is to suggest that this is not the same for Sikhs due to the claim by Mishra that “some mosques and some gurudwaras have become recruitment centers for radical Islamists and are nothing but radicalization centers.”
Remaining on the theme of integration, he then attempts to explain that the Sikh community is similarly divided on Sikh radicalism and that one Gurdwara is comprised of those that “hold anti-Indian sentiments” and the other Gurdwara is “run by the moderate Sikh community, who believe that Sikhs belong to India and have always been an integral part of the Indian society.” What he fails to realize, in his attempt to identify and isolate the “radical culprits”, is that the organizers and participants of the rally were from both Gurdwaras.
As an anthropology graduate, he cannot acknowledge that the impact of homeland politics on the diaspora can of course transcend religious identity discourses and can include those who are sincerely concerned as stakeholders with the three farmer laws. The way in which the community responded, both in the homeland and beyond, exemplifies that expression entirely.
He goes on to malign and conflate the community that expresses dissent towards the Modi administration to those that are anti-Indian or Khalistani sympathizers when in actual fact they can simply be either supporters from opposition political parties or genuine stakeholders in the protest as owners of farmland or advocates of market regulation or concerns for the safety for their loved ones back in Punjab.
The second conspiracy in the article is so absurd that it does not need much exploring or dispelling however it does reveal another prejudice that the author clearly projects, namely the resent towards Pakistani Muslims. He claims that Pakistani taxi drivers in Denmark conspire to groom young Sikhs by offering employment in exchange for agitating Indian politics. He writes, “Here youths of the Sikh community are seen as a source of investment, especially by Pakistani mosques.” This is complete nonsense.
There are similar sentiments and tendencies in his work to regularly refer to the Pakistani community in some way or another, which is again evident in the Swedish article he wrote that he defends the herd-immunity approach whilst apportioning most blame for the high death count on what he describes as the unintegrated, uneducated immigrant population that is led by Gurus, God-fathers and Mullahs.
In sum, who is Mrutyuanjai Mishra and why does he publish such a nonsensical opinion piece full of fallacies aimed at targeting such a small minority in Denmark with hyperbole and prejudices?
Mishra is a provokator and an Indian state apologist who wrote an article to defend the Modi administration and scapegoat any government shortfalls on religious minorities and other similar tropes on diasporic dissidents with no sense of rationality or integrity.
There is no journalistic standard being upheld by his article and no real substantial discussion on any mention of the three farmer laws that are being protested, hence the article had nothing to do with any such division in the Sikh community here in Denmark nor did it have anything to do with the COVID-19 restrictions. It was simply an attempt to vilify the Danish Sikh community through the use of wild conspiratorial claims that are dangerous and can have dire consequences.
Most importantly, Mishra is one of many that the Sikh diaspora has had to deal with in the past and we can anticipate countless more like him in the future. He is a symptom of the Indian state media that is set out on upholding the nationalist hegemony of the Modi administration through the means of disparaging dissidents.
We must resist this rhetoric because the timing of the article is not to be taken lightly. If large-scale state violence erupts in Punjab in the coming weeks or months, articles such as this will only contribute further to the dehumanization of the Sikh community on the global scale and undermine any attempts by the diaspora to seek international solidarity.
Sukhraj Singh is a full-time teacher based in Denmark as well as the administrator of the SikhArchive online blog which produces podcasts on Sikh and Panjabi history. In addition to that, he takes an interest in producing resources that help to share the history of the Sikh diaspora and is currently recording and documenting the migration and settlement of the Sikhs of Denmark. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram at @sikharchive.
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