WITH CHIEF Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde seated on the dais, former Attorney General of British Columbia and former Canada Federal Minister Ujjal Dosanjh on Saturday spoke of the Auschwitz concentration camp and about the “silence” surrounding detention centres in Assam.
He was speaking at an international conference organised by the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
Beginning his speech with a reference to the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz camp, Dosanjh said “hold the thought” and went on to describe the relevance of Nanak’s teachings in today’s world.
Saying that Nanak was not only a scholar and thinker but also an activist and a critic, Dosanjh said the Guru cannot be reduced to scriptures. “I cannot imagine Nanak sitting day in and day out reading poetry…My Nanak would ask me…you have read it, understood it… what will you do to change the world? Nanak’s verse is pavan guru pani pita mata dharat mahat (Air is our teacher, water our father, and Earth, the great mother)’. He did not say Punjab was mahat. He did not say India was mahat. He said dharat mahat. He would have never…said Punjab is for Punjabis and Assam is for Assamese… Nanak would have never stood silent in face of all that is happening in this world.”
Saying there are detention camps in China, Assam and the US, he said, “You think Nanak would be silent in face of all that …Nanak would have spoken out… Nanak would have been on frontlines. He was a preacher, debater, challenger, he was irreverent”.
Coming back to the Holocaust, Dosanjh said he has been to the Auschwitz camp, where over a million Jews were exterminated. “They were in detention camps. If you have detention camps today, be there in China, be there in Assam, be there in Trump’s United States of America… imprisoning children who are trying to run from poverty and injustice to freedom…He (Guru Nanak) would have said raaje seeh mukadham kute (The kings have become lions, and their subordinates are no better than dogs)… Nanak would ask me are you speaking up?… did you just read… did you just make a speech or did you go fight on the frontlines and find change…?”
Dosanjh also made mention of the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller’s confession speech and spoke about crimes committed by Hitler against Jews, Romas and Gypsies.
“He said first they came for communists; and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then they came for the socialists; and I did not speak because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists; and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews; and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me…”
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