After declining the invitation to attend the (now postponed) opening gala of the Sikh International Film Festival in New York, Lord Indarjit Singh reportedly objects to the criticisms leveled towards the film festival organizers:
Regarding attending functions in the presence of Indian government VIPs I have mixed views. I have been invited to many functions at the Indian High Commission since 1984 but have not attended a single one. In my new position as a member of the House of Lords I have new opportunities to meet and perhaps influence key officials. My heart says keep away but reason suggests that I should use such opportunities to influence and articulate our community’s concerns.
One thing is for sure that our community will not get anywhere if we continue to turn on each other with petty infighting. Legitimate and constructive criticism is fine but we should also recognise and applaud the good that people do.
Lord Indarjit Singh’s comments reflect several things. First, he has clarified that he declined to attend the opening gala of the festival (in which he was to be honored as well) because of the presence of representatives of the Government of India, on the basis of that government’s behavior during and since the events of 1984 that led to the massacres of thousands of Sikhs and to the impunity conferred onto the perpetrators. However, evidently, Lord Indarjit Singh’s intent was not to condemn the organizers of the Film Festival.
Second, he has pointed out the divisive nature of the sharp response of the community towards the organizers of the event who have otherwise contributed greatly to preserving and promoting Sikh heritage. The emotional response is understandable, however it took a particularly vitriolic turn and conspiracy theories began circulating recklessly.
Additionally, Lord Indarjit Singh brings up a commonly expressed dilemma. Do we continue to boycott and completely abandon communication, or do we attempt to use dialogue to try to bring change? At the end of the day, I believe both schools of thought are hoping for the same outcome — the realization of justice for the victims of the government-sponsored killings of Sikhs in 1984. Where there is disagreement is on the tactics we use to achieve this justice.
One thing is for certain, acknowledging the good for the community that the organizers of the film festival has done, if we are to engage in dialogue to come to mutual understandings, it would behoove the organizers to be transparent about their now-postponed plans to honor these government officials.