Bharat Club

An open letter to India (Bharat) and Bharat Club

My name is Devanshu Narang. I am a Canadian citizen of Indian origin and this is a narration of true events which have transpired in the last few months after I decided to stand up to the hate and division being spread by one section of the Canadian society- the Khalistani miscreants.

Since August 2022, the Khalistani fringe which had been emboldened by the success they had achieved in stroking anti-India sentiments post farmers’ agitation amongst the Sikh fraternity in Canada especially youth, had carried out two farce referendums in Greater Toronto area.The first one on 18th September 2022 at Brampton and the second one on 6th November 2022 at Mississauga. I have already chronicled the details of both in my previous columns in Times of India in a first-hand account as I was the lone protester against the referendum in the first one and was actively involved in working towards a protest in the second one wherein close to two hundred people participated over the course of the day.

An important observation which comes to light is that in the first farce referendum, the Khalistanis’ entire hate was directed towards India and in eulogising the Khalistani terrorists of the past. On the contrary, while leading up to the second farce referendum, they specifically targeted Hindu community of Canada with billboards, flyers and mobile vans carrying raw images of a child crying who as per them was targeted and brutalized by “Hindu” mobs. This led to a greater display of anger from the local residents and also at the same time, this gimmick boomeranged on the organizers as the Sikhs who had participated in numbers in the first referendum, shied away from the second one and made it a disaster. Perhaps that is why in the third event thereafter where Khalistanis marked their presence, outside the site of India’s republic day celebration on 29th January 2023, the Khalistanis changed track again and this time used the issue of the nine Sikh prisoners behind bars for a long period of time, the “Bandi Singhs” to stir raw emotions. It is clearly evident that they are well organized, generously funded and backed strongly by the various Sikh religious establishments in spreading their propaganda of anti-India hate.

But this story starts thereafter.

I had contacted various political leaders of Canada and the Mayors of the respective cities to stop these farces from happening but had failed. Earlier I was not much active in the Indo-Canadian community of GTA and had only come to know of a few leaders while running a campaign for a city council election in the last few months. I contacted anyone and everyone that I came to know to ask for support in standing up to Khalistanis during these referendums. While at the first time in September, no one responded primarily due to fear of the Khalistanis, the second time people did come forward to support the cause especially on seeing the Hindu community being targeted.

To  enable us to connect with each other prior to the second referendum, we created a Whats app group which was named Bharat Club with a clear mandate to unite Indo-Canadians of all religious, cultural, regional and social backgrounds and to stand up to divisive forces.

The second referendum was on 6th November and just 3-4 days prior to that, there were less than fifty members in that group, mainly contacts that I had developed in the past few months including that of a few leaders. Over the next few days, as the news of the protest was widely spread in various other groups by leaders who were active in the community, the numbers swelled to close to five hundred a day prior to the event. On the day of the protest while we were protesting on ground, the numbers in the What’s app group swelled to the upper limit of one thousand as people were excited to see real men, women and children standing up to Khalistanis in their own event.

We all were thrilled by the response that we had received. More so by seeing the shock and awe in the eyes of Khalistanis organizers who in their wildest dream could not imagine that people could stand up to them. We decided to organize and build the resistance into a movement in days and weeks to come.

During the next week, I spent my day and night talking to various people and organizations in trying to build a small base from where an organization could be formed and it was decided that on 13th November 2022, we would  have a meeting to discuss and chart a future plan of action.

This is when the real story starts. Full disclosures first!

I have been an activist writing and standing up for common people whenever they have been targeted by the power mongers. I have been a contributor to Times of India since 2011 and for various Canadian media agencies since 2010.  I have also taken part in ground level action to protest various actions of the Indian and Canadian government which I felt were anti-people and originated from hate or hunger for power and money. I also write on various social issues especially the ills which have developed in our society like racism, caste system, superstitions or religious believes.

This has made me a regular critic of Mr. Modi and the way BJP/RSS and the neo-Hindutava forces have brewed hate and divisiveness in the society for political gains and isolated various communities which have come in their way. In various articles which have appeared in the above media agencies from time to time and in various posts that I have shared in social media for almost a decade, I have been forthright with my views.

None of these articles or social media comments were ever hidden or deleted when I came into public light in May 2022 or thereafter when I tried to develop a resistance to Khalistanis.

For me, even though I am not an Indian citizen any more yet standing up for India is like a basic duty. At the same time, not agreeing to the majority view and standing up for people and communities who are suffering is also my choice. While one may disagree with me, doing the same does not in any way make me anti-India or anti-national. Unfortunately as I have learnt through comments on my articles in media, the common perception is that speaking up against Mr. Modi or neo-Hindutava forces means speaking up against India or against Hindus.

Coming back to Bharat Club, I wanted the Club to be secular, inclusive, where everyone can come forward and discuss concerns related to Indo-Canadians in Canada. I also knew that if we allow Indian politics to seep in, then unity was not possible. Also the long term solution to removing the Khalistani ideology from Canada lies in equal and complete participation of the Sikh community and hence the group had to be inclusive and not a Hindu centric organization.

That was not acceptable to the leaders who had joined the campaign. Within days fissures started to appear with a strong pressure put on me to convert this into a Hindu centric organization especially since most members were Hindus. However as explained above, I was clear in my mind that the movement must stay inclusive, must not discuss Indian politics and should have a sole mandate of uniting all Indo-Canadian communities and stand up to Khalistanis for now.

A few started to throw tantrums and on the night of November 12th, just a day prior to when we were going to have a meeting to discuss on our plans ahead, all hell broke loose.  A few people “discovered” that I am anti-India and anti-Hindu because of my posts and articles wherein I had written against Mr. Modi/RSS or the neo-Hindutava forces.

Within minutes the abuse that I used to face earlier from social media trolls now started coming from real faces and names on What’s app. I was abused, isolated, called names during the course of the night in the group as well as in a zoom meeting which was being held simultaneously to plan for the day ahead.

I was expected to sit back, preferably leave and let the rest manage the organization and give it the shape of a Hindu centric organization that was desired. One co-admin of the group tried to remove me from the group while I was in discussions in the zoom meeting and posted about his inability to do the same as I was the one who had formed the group. A few people had contributed a small sum for the event next day for food and people said that I will run away with their money. Sickular, Hindu-hater, thief, anti-India, Leftist- Any and all labels which could come to the minds of the haters were thrown at me.

Upon seeing all this and since I strongly believe that standing up for an idea of an INCLUSIVE INDIA is as important as standing up for India, I stayed put and informed the other people clearly that the group will remain as is and that we will work towards the common mandate and that my view on Indian politics does not make me less of a passionate India lover. When it was clear that my words were falling on deaf ears, I stopped further messaging by participants in the group and informed everyone that I am returning every cent of what was received from people. Also I informed that Bharat Club would remain inclusive for all and if the ideologies do not match, people can part ways.

Over the next few days, weeks, nay months now, I have had to go through a very difficult time where my character assassination seems to be the “in” thing in many social media groups. Where most of my most posts/comments are critically analyzed and even a simple colloquial term being used by me is exaggerated as Hindu hate. Where I am immediately labelled as anti-India the moment any of my comment against Mr. Modi or the policies of his government appears in social media. 

Meanwhile many who broke out started various Hindu centric organizations and I wish them the very best and hope that they can unite the communities. I still feel that rooting out Khalistani ideology from Canada can only happen when the silent Sikh community joins us and together we face the Khalistani fringe.

I have had my own bouts of depression in this period but have maintained calm and composure in trying to moderate the group, deleting constant messages targeted towards a specific religious group or messages of political hate while trying to build the movement with planning for actionable ahead.

But I was shaken to the core last week when in his deep hateful state, a person commented in another group that “his sources confirm that I get money from neighbouring countries to brew hate and to divide Hindu community”. And the other groups are allowing such comments to stay unmoderated, unfiltered. Guess what I live in Canada now and my neighbouring country is USA and not Pakistan. But it is now the “believed truth” in India is that any anti-Modi activist is a Pakistani agent.

This when even at the latest event where I took part outside the Panorama event in Brampton, I stood alone with India flag in temperatures below minus five degrees Centigrade for more than four hours in front of Khalistanis, two of which were alone while the rest two were with another 2-3 passionate India lovers. My fingers and feet went numb with cold and yet I stayed put till the last Khalistani left the venue. Oh yes, a few of these Hindu leaders came in between for five minutes for taking photographs to be shared with their followers.

On hindsight, for me it was easy to stand up to Khalistanis as it required a boldness of a moment or a day. And even if I got abusive messages, threats and the ever common- threatening call/message from Pakistan, yet all that was on expected lines and I was and am prepared for that.

It is the hate from amongst the neo-Hindutva fringe and the Bhakhts that is difficult to handle.

Oh yes, if the standard abuses were not enough, this time, I got another one. Someone in his deep anger towards me and to ridicule me called me “Gandhi 2.0”!! The amount of hate these people have towards Mahatma Gandhi too besides almost all freedom fighters and especially Pandit Nehru is pathetic and disgusting to view. To that person reading, while I can never ever be even a minute stature of what Mahatma Gandhi was, I take even a reference like this is as a huge compliment and not abuse and this provides  motivation for future.

Where have we come? What have we become?

Is it not OK to criticize political parties or figures? Is it not Ok anymore to criticize the evils in our society that have seeped in? I shudder to think what would have happened to the reformers and preachers of the past if they would have been living in today’s world. The Dayanands, Raja Ram Mohan Roys, Kabirs, Oshos, Nanaks- all would have been forced to go into deep hiding or silenced.

Mind you, before we forget, these people are CANADIANS. Not Indians. While they root for developing India as a Hindu nation and use all efforts to enable that, they are HERE in Canada only because Canada has been welcoming to all, irrespective of our religion, race or color.

Like most writers and thinkers in India who are facing either a direct or an indirect ban on freedom of expression and thought, despite living in Canada, I too have faced and am facing a similar ban on expression. It is the fear of isolation, of me being marked as a targeted specimen and an example to others as how to silence a dissident. In the words of one of the leaders who informed me that if I do not do course correction and leave my secular ways, then I am “disowned” by their community. But guess what, I have decided that I will continue with my work.

Why am I writing all this? Not in an attempt to unload the burden that sits on my head every minute but to let fellow activists know that this is a difficult path and very lonely if you wish to hold on to the values that are sacred to you.

And yes, the biggest surprise is that despite all this, till date, more than six hundred and fifty people are still there in the Bharat Club What’s app group. This despite my umpteen requests for people to leave if they do not believe in the clear mandate of inclusiveness! Perhaps some are there to just read the new gossip that emerges out of such group and how people like me who do not believe in the current Indian regime are trolled.

But I am a believer of positive human values and I feel that despite pressure to leave, many are still there because they actually believe in the cause of Bharat Club, in standing up to divisive forces and for a Bharat where everyone is treated equally, fairly and in Tagore’s words- “Where the mind is without fear…….”

I am writing this as a message for the future too.

The Khalistanis are united, have tremendous political and social reach and unlimited supply of funds. We are just starting and can ride only on our passion.

However that passion can only exist when we truly believe in the cause.

I cannot in all fairness to my inner soul stand for an Aryavratt- a Hindu nation, if that is what people desire as a future for India. Instead I will fight that ideology tooth and nail.

My Bharat and “The Bharat Club” loves all her children- Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, other religions or even the non-religious ones like me, EQUALLY and with same love.  It is time to sit back and regain that mojo and then walk together. Again! Amen.


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