First Published: People’s Canada Daily News, Vol 6, No. 27, February 18, 1976
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The First Annual National Convention of the East Indian Defence Committee was held on November 23, 1975 at John Oliver School in Vancouver. Over 600 Indian people attended the function. The President of EIDC, Sardar Bela Singh Thandi welcomed the delegates and the observer delegates to the convention. After the welcoming speech, the actual programme of the convention started. The General Secretary of EIDC presented the report on its activities. The financial report was also read out. Both the reports were unanimously approved by the people present at the convention.
Then a few resolutions were presented and all were approved unanimously. Afterwards, the General Council was elected which in turn elected the EIDC Executive.
After an hour’s break for refreshments, meeting again resumed. Comrade Akbar Singh from EIDC then addressed the meeting and people applauded his speech time and time again. Akbar Singh spoke against the “National Emergency” and provided a detailed report on the activities of the East Indian Defence Committee.
A revolutionary cultural programme was performed towards the end of the convention and revolutionary songs and poems were also recited. The cultural team organised by EIDC went up to the rostrum and performed the revolutionary Bhangra dance. In the Bhangra dance, revolutionary peasants were depicted dancing a joyous mood after annihilating a despotic landlord, and the audience really appreciated this. Towards the end of the convention, films of tournaments organised by EIDC in Vancouver and Toronto were shown.
The entire programme lasted for over 8 hours. The one-day convention was successful in creating revolutionary vigour and enthusiasm among the Indian people who attended the convention.
Comrades and Friends,
Today we are gathered here to hold the First Annual National Convention of East Indian Defence Committee. This is a historic day. The East Indian Defence Committee was founded in a public meeting of 125 East Indians in Vancouver on November 24, 1973. These two years have been years of great trials for EIDC. Today. we are also celebrating the Second Anniversary of the Founding of the Defence Committee.
In these two years the Defence Committee has emerged as a militant organisation of our community. At present it has a membership of over two thousand and has branches in Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton. In B.C. itself the Defence Committee has a membership of over 1,000 and has supporters in Fort St. James, Prince George, Williams Lake, Kamloops, Victoria and many other places.
In a small period of two years the EIDC has become a strong organisation of East Indians in Canada and has the support and sympathy of a large number of Canadian and other minority communities because 1) EIDC stands for unity in our community and has worked hard for it. 2) EIDC fought the racist thugs and, upheld the line of ’active self-defence’.
Policies of the Canadian government have always been racist towards our people and other national minorities. In 1912-1913 Ghadar Party, a militant organisation of East Indians in North America organised and united our people here to actively fight back against the racist attacks. Ghadar Party also fought against the British colonialists in India. The old Ghadar Party was dissolved in 1947.
After 1947, the leadership of our community in Canada was taken over by reactionary elements who were lackeys of the Canadian government. These “leaders” always kept their selfish interest first and refused to fight for the rights of our people. They blamed our own people as being the cause of racist attacks on them. The activities of these “leaders” split our community and further encouraged the racist thugs.
The Indian High Commissioner also played a similar role. He not even for once raised his voice against the racist attacks on our people, but instead, conspired against the progressive people in our community and made every effort to harass them.
Since the worsening of economic conditions in Canada, the government has increased its attacks on the national minorities. In the winter of 1973, these attacks reached a peak in South Vancouver. Two alternatives came before the East Indian community at that time. One was the reactionary businessmen, the so-called “leaders” of our community, who went to the government and its representatives and started kneeling before them. They made friends with the fascist police and the mayor of Vancouver and pleaded with them.
The second alternative was presented by the communists under the leadership of Comrade Hardial Bains. Communists came forward to defend the dignity of our community. Under communist leadership the community was organised on the basis of progressive politics. The slogan of ’active self-defence’ was advanced. In a very short time, the people of our community got united and fought side by side with the communists against racist attacks. In this way, our community stopped the first wave of racist attacks in the winter of 1973. On 6 and 7 July, 1974, the Founding Convention of the East Indian Defence Committee was held in Vancouver and it was formally established.
In February 1975. the Canadian government tabled the racist and fascist “Green Paper” in the Parliament. This encouraged the racist thugs and racist attacks on our people in Vancouver and Toronto started increasing and the situation became very grave. In Surrey, over 60 houses of our people were attacked. Children and old people were insulted on the streets. Racist police did not help our people at all. This time again the comrades of the Defence Committee came forward to provide active self-defence to our community. They defended the houses of our people on manyoccasions. These selfless actions made a deep impression on our people. During the whole of this period the racist attacks were beaten back and some racists were taught a good lesson.
These successes of the EIDC were a severe blow to the racist policies of the Canadian government and their lackeys in the East Indian community. They could not tolerate this. Bourgeois press started a large-scale propaganda against the Defence Committee and Comrade Hardial Bains. From March 9 to 23 1975 every dog had barked. All the so-called “leaders” of the community came forward to oppose the Defence Committee. But, instead of weakening, the Defence Committee became more firmly established in the community.
This was a trying period for the EIDC. On March 23,1975 in a meeting attended by over 600 East Indians, Comrade Hardial Bains said. “if the price of defending the dignity of our community is the deportation of myself and my comrades, then we will pay for it. But, we will not let the community to be attacked and insulted, and we will fight word for word and fist for fist.” He further said, “These reactionary M.P.s are threatening to deport us from Canada. A time would come when will deport them not only from Canada, but from this world itself.”
On March 30, 1975 the Defence Committee meeting was attended by over 1,000 people. The whole-community said that Comrade Hardial Bains has defended our dignity. The government had to stop its dirty propaganda against our community and Comrade Hardial Bains.
After the bourgeois press failed in its mission to break the unity of our people, the government entrusted its lackeys in the community to do this work. These reactionary individuals organised splits and fights within our community. The Defence Committee bravely faced these disruptions.
In Toronto, the racists attacked Naaz theatre and defaced the Guruduwara. In Fort St. James, B.C., the government tried to create fights between our people and the Native people. But the line of active self-defence and unity with other minorities, Native people and progressive and democratic Canadians frustrated their efforts.
In the past, sports and other cultural events have been organised by the reactionary businessmen for their self-interest and profits. Through feudal and backward culture and films, they have infected the minds of our young people. But the Defence Committee has taken a first step in this direction. This year we organised three sports tournaments (two in Vancouver and one in Toronto) under the main slogan of “Friendship First, Competition Second”. Thousands of people attended and participated in these programmes. Many young people were very enthused with these programmes.
The Defence Committee very successfully carried out this first step. We will carry this policy forward in future and achieve higher successes. Apart from this, the Defence Committee will strive to unite the East Indians throughout Canada by organising community sports, cultural, social and political programmes.
The East Indian community is the only national minority in Canada which does not have its own community centres where it can carry out social, cultural and political activities. On December 22, 1974 in a public meeting in Vancouver. Comrade Hardial Bains said, “We should take the leadership of our community in our own hands” and proposed that community centres should be built in all rnajor cities. In a public meeting on March 9, 1975, $14,600 were collected for community centre. In a very short time our dream of a community centre will come true in Vancouver under the leadership of the Defence Committee.
On June 26, 1975 Indira Gandhi declared “National Emergency” in India and put thousands of people in jail. The East Indian Defence Committee, uniting with other progressive organisations in our community, like Indian Workers’ Movement, Indian Progressive Study Group, etc. organised pickets, demonstrations and meetings all across Canada to denounce the “National Emergency” and in support of Armed Agrarian Revolution. To create political awareness in the Indians resident abroad, organise and unite them has been one of the main programmes of the Defence committee in the year 1975.
In Canada, the reactionary elements in our community have failed to create any support for the fascist rule of Indira Gandhi. The Defence Committee has been able to wipe out the influence of these elements in our community.
Comrades and Friends,
The year 1975 has been a great success. Let us pledge to work harder and win greater victories to unite our community, fight back racist attacks, support the Armed Agrarian Revolution and on other fronts. The future is definitely ours!
LONG LIVE THE EAST INDIAN DEFENCE COMMITTEE!
LONG LIVE THE UNITY OF OUR PEOPLE!
ACTIVE SELF-DEFENCE IS THE ONLY WAY TO FIGHT RACIST ATTACKS!
DEATH TO RACIST GOVERNMENT AND ITS LACKEYS!
(Reprinted from Lok Awaz, Vol. 3, No. 1, January 16, 1976)