By Promod Puri
Prime minister Justin Trudeau’s recent week-long India trip has been dubbed by most of the Canadian media as a disaster for no reasons on his part.
It began the moment he landed in a country known for its traditional warm hospitality. But for Trudeau and his family, it was the most cold-shouldered welcome at the Delhi airport being received by a junior cabinet minister instead of prime minister Modi who seems to be selective in the choice of whom to personally welcome at the airport.
This lukewarm reception might have produced some resentment among those in the Trudeau entourage. But the issue was overshadowed by the Punjab Chief Minister’s continued bickering that Canada was and still is the hub of pro-Khalistan outfits and that the Trudeau government was supportive of their activities in the name of freedom of speech.
However, the moment Khalistan controversy receded after Trudeau meeting the Punjab CM, the sudden explosion of the news that a pro-Khalistan and convicted attempted murder individual by the name of Jaspal Atwal was among the invited Canadian citizen to a reception hosted by the Canadain High Commissioner in India.
And that was the most damaging part of the Trudeau trip.
The story had his origin way back over 30 years ago at the height of the Khalistan movement in Punjab as well as abroad where most of the Sikh diaspora is settled. Atwal was a young firebrand Khalistan activist in Vancouver, Canada, who got involved in an attempt to kill a moderate visiting Punjab politician. But the attack failed. However, Atwal was charged with attempted murder and sentenced to few years in jail as well as he was blacklisted by the Vancouver Indian consulate office in getting a visa for India.
The visa restriction stayed till recently when it was removed by the Indian government thru the advice of its intelligence services. And he made his controversial entry into India coinciding with the Trudeau visit.
The news is being circulated here in Canada that Atwal got his Indian visa thru the help of a local member of Parliament who had some friendly relationship with the Consulate officials in Vancouver. Was there bribery involved too to clear Atwal’s India visit? The suspicion is there.
Over the years Atwal, in order to clear himself off from the blacklist, started developing ties with the local political leaders as well. And that included Liberal Member of Parliament young Randeep Singh Sarai in his 30s, who was naively behind the invitation to the High Commionser reception.
The sudden eruption of the news of Atwal being invited to the party along with several widely-circulated photographs of him posing with Trudeau’s wife and other Indian members of the entourage, has been taken by the Indo-Canadian press in Vancouver as some sort of conspiracy to discredit the Canadian Sikh community by the Trudeau’s political foes with the help of “corrupt” Indian officials responsible for issuing the visa .
Was that whole episode planned? Well, that is the question which is being talked about within the Indo-Canadian community with the expectation that the Canadian Intelligence would investigate the matter so that both the Trudeau government and the Sikh population are not marred for being their alleged support to the non-existing movement of Khalistan.
While the Khalistan conspirational controversy took center stage of Trudeau official holidays in India, on the sidelines, the Indian media also generated the issue the way he and his family dressed in outlandish ethnic Indian outfits. And this is where we get a glimpse of his personality which does not reflect the typical image of most seasoned politicians.
When he said, the word “mankind” should be changed to “peoplekind,” there was something which seemed eccentric to many folks in Justin Trudeau.
But his idiosyncrasy reflects his style which is not normal for most world politicians or public figures. Otherwise, which prime minister or president visiting a foreign country on an official visit would act, dance, and dress the way Trudeau did along with his adorable family during their India visits.
It was most informal or casual style which defied the existing standards or protocols expected from a visiting head of state.
In his Indian ethnic attire which looked like as he was either attending a marriage party or he himself a “Gora” bridegroom, Trudeau freely and comfortably attended and actively participated in most of the events in India.
He did bhangra performances, and with the dedicated spirit of langar “seva,” rolled rotis at the Golden Temple kitchen. Has any invited world political dignitary dared or humble enough to do these deeds publicly while visiting India?
Trudeau belongs to a new generation of politicians for whom the world is smaller, closer, and sharing the contemporary thinking of oneness.
With his roots of growing in a multicultural Canadian society, which his late father officially declared as the country’s composite culture, the young Trudeau must have felt that he was going to a land to which he was most familiar with in its culture.
In his gaudy kurta-pajama outfits, he felt comfortable during his India trip, but that caused discomfort to those who would remain embedded in precedents expected from a visiting dignitary.
Trudeau has established new political etiquettes which perhaps will take time for people to accept and adjust to, while the critical Indian media find some fodder to chew on till its ability to learn the changing norms.
(Promod Puri is a Vancouver-based journalist, and author of “Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions.” He is also a frequent writer on topics related to Hinduism, politics, and human interest. Websites: promodpuri.com, </a>progressivehindudialogue.com, promodpuri.blogspot.com)
By Promod Puri