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ballets to bullets
Posted by: mandeep (IP Logged)
Date: April 27, 2008 01:46AM

From ballots to bullets in the Indo-Canadian community
Thu, July 11 2002
So now they have buried Robbie Kandola, another statistic in the on-going cycle of violence in Vancouver's Indo-Canadian community.


He has become another classic case of a young life stopped on the streets of Vancouver by a hail of bullets.


The police, who appear powerless to stop this killing spree came out last month to hold a forum in a very public attempt to involve the community in their investigation. If anything has come out of Kandola's murder in June, it is that those blaming the youth for the violence don't have the complete picture.

Police have now documented more than 50 murders involving Vancouver area's large Indo-Canadian community. These assassinations in night clubs, drive-by shootings and attacks at family gatherings has created a climate of fear, with witnesses unwilling to come forward and families forced to hire extra security guards for normally joyous events such as weddings.


The words "gangs" and "drugs" time and again tumble out of the stories by the media and the police, both of whom are seeking to explain the motives for the killings. Neither, however, has publicly accounted for the undertow of violence and factionalism stirring deeper through the troubled heart of the Indo-Canadian community.


It may be shocking and some may say racist, but when you dissect these murders you will eventually find many of the problems in the Lower Mainland's Sikh community are tributaries flowing out of their temples. It is here that the so-called rival 'drug' or 'gang' factions first came to life.

Police point to the two separate 1994 killings of brothers Ron and Jimmy Dosanjh, reputed drug kingpins, as the start of the current cycle of violence. The brothers, both leading members of the International Sikh Youth Federation, made no bones about their devotion to the cause for an independent Sikh state in India, and moreover in their involvement with the Ross Street Temple and the fight for its control.


Throughout most of the 90's, the temple, like Guru Nanak Temple on Surrey's Scott Road, was under the strain of conflict between rival community groups seeking to control its cash flow and power base. These camps mainstream media would dub 'moderates' and 'fundamentalists', according to misperceived allegiances to the struggle for an independent state, Khalistan, in India.

Street thugs like Bindy Johal, who was eventually killed in Vancouver's Paladium night club in December 1998, were recruited by these camps to show muscle, and provide intimidation, a la third world banana republics. It wasn't uncommon for renowned toughs to receive the accolades and blessings of temple priests and senior community leaders by day and then their blind eye by night as the same young men peddled drugs as petty dealers.


Ultimately, 'moderate' parties would take control of the Ross Street Temple, and Surrey's Guru Nanak, thanks no doubt in part to the violent fervour of their youth recruits.

As moderate leaders have settled nicely on their thrones atop temple committees, and the conflict for control of temples has waned with rival camps setting up their own edifices, the death and destruction wrought by the next generation of Indo-Canadians has not waned, but escalated tragically. In fact, many of the men who have died or been involved in the street violence come directly from the various 'moderate' families controlling Lower Mainland's temples.


Listless, and glutted by the endless financial support of their parents, these young men continue the gun play and violence, only now over issues as trivial as cheating girlfriends, or even caste differences.


The fact that many of the young men who have died in the recent past are known to police as petty dealers, and felons, is often incidental to their premature deaths. Though many had risky dealings and links with disreputable people, the young men on the most part were not career criminals, or members of established gangs. Some were even professionals with university accreditation and posts as public school teachers.


They were kids, who easily hypnotised by the glory of violence, believed in its efficacy as tacitly supported by their parents and religious leaders. Now with their parents no longer able to control them, and not knowing what or whom to believe, they have cloaked their struggle with boredom beneath vicious masks of bravado and turned on one another, and no doubt will continue to do so.


What began as a fight between their parents and religious leaders over money has become a cancer slowly taking one young man at a time to his grave. The community leaders who show up to public forums and lament the violence are as much to blame as the boys packing their guns, and they must be held accountable.


A share of the blame also belongs to municipal and provincial politicians who toady up to 'moderate' and 'fundamentalist' slates for votes come election time but then conveniently avoid casting blame on Indo-Canadian leaders for their own role in perpetuating the violence of their children.


The current pack of 'so-called' religious and community leaders must admit their culpability, and correct their own divisive ways. Until they do so, a coming generation of boys will continue biting the bullet for a fight they did not start

 





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