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Who is Justin Trudeau's political rival, Jagmeet Singh, and what could his victory mean for India?

He's the first non-white person to lead a major party in Canada.

BT Online   New Delhi     Last Updated: October 3, 2017  | 17:06 IST
Who is Justin Trudeau's political rival Jagmeet Singh and what could his victory mean for India?
PC: Reuters

A couple of weeks ago, a video of a Sikh man with a bright yellow turban getting heckled by a racist white woman at an event in Canada went viral. The belligerent woman asked the Sikh politician when his Shariah was going to end and that they know that he is "in bed with the Muslim brotherhood." Infuriating and horrifying as it might sound, that was not the first time the Sikh MP from Canada had faced such hostility. In fact, his childhood as an immigrant brown-skinned person was fraught with such racist incidents. The Sikh MP, Jagmeet Singh, is now contesting against incumbent Justin Trudeau to become the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Who is Jagmeet Singh?


Thirty-eight year old Jagmeet Singh, son of Punjabi immigrant parents, became the first non-white person to lead a major party in Canada. He was voted over three competitors with 53.6% votes to lead the party, New Democratic Party (NDP) and run against the current PM Justin Trudeau in the upcoming 2019 elections.

 

 

 

Trudeau's cabinet already has three Sikh ministers, including the Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan. Moreover, the NDP has never held power. Hence, Jagmeet Singh is likely to face quite a few challenges, both with precedence and otherwise.
 
Apart from the challenges that come along with running an election campaign, Jagmeet Singh will also need to overcome the preconceived notions that come along with brown skin and a turban to win over the electorate. In an interview to TOI, Jagmeet Singh mentioned that the obstacles he faced because of his race made him more sensitive to issues of unfairness and injustice. He was bullied as a child and had to learn martial arts in order to defend himself. He eventually became the captain of his high school wrestling team and also won the Toronto championship in jiu jitsu.
 
Jagmeet Singh is also a strong advocate of LGBT rights, champion of rights or people of colour and has fought for religious exemption for turban-wearing Sikhs from helmet laws, focuses on climate change and electoral reform.
 
His motto is 'Love and Courage', something he can be seen repeating to the irate racist woman, and hopes to win over hatred with this simple mantra.

 

A post shared by Jagmeet Singh (@jagmeetsingh) on

 

 What his victory could mean for India


However, Jagmeet Singh and the Indian government do not really have a cordial relationship, to put it mildly.

 

In 2013, he became the first ever sitting member of the Western Legislature to be denied visa to India, as he was considered a persona non grata due to his views on the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.  Singh has been a vocal critic of the Indian government and once even called the 1984 riots genocide.

According to a report in India Today , Singh gave an official statement and said that the Indian government initiated this genocide against the Sikh community. He even said that the genocide did not only end there but dragged on for 20 more years and Sikh youths continued to disappear in what he termed "relentless state-sanctioned terrorism".  Singh called it an attempt to extinguish the Sikh community.

He also accused the Indian government of sabotaging his NDP campaign and flexing its power to prevent influential Sikh people from backing him.

In 2013, Singh was scheduled to visit Amritsar for an awards ceremony organised by two NGOs and receive the Sikh of the Year award, when the Indian government denied him visa.
 
Naturally, with this history, a victory for Jagmeet Singh might mean strained relations with Canada.

You can watch the viral video of Jagmeet Singh being heckled by the woman here.

 

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