If the aim of the vandals who smashed windows of the Surrey Mandir on Saturday night was to create disharmony and friction among the community, they obviously did not succeed in their mission.
At least two miscreants broke windows of the Mandir and left behind a baseball bat that had Sikh religious markings on it. This looks like a planned thing and probably the bat was left behind on purpose. Or perhaps the vandals just forgot to take it back with them. RCMP are treating it as some mischief.
Meanwhile, the Surrey Mandir leaders (including Parshottam Goyal & Vinay Sharma) believe it was a hate crime that was committed to stop them from holding a vigil in the memory of the Air India bombing victims on Tuesday evening.
The vigil at Surrey Mandir went ahead as scheduled on Tuesday evening and all political leaders unanimously condemned this incident of vandalism.
331 people died in the Air India tragedy on June 23, 1985. The crime was blamed on the Sikh extremists and was the biggest ever attack in the history of terrorism before 9/11.
The Surrey Mandir continues to organize prayers and candle light vigil in memory of those who died in the bombings every year. The temple President Parshottam Goyal feels that robbery was not the motive of those who smashed the windows. “The timing of the incident is very significant as it happened close to the vigil this year.’’
Another temple official, Vinay Sharma said that such an act can never break the Hindu-Sikh bonding.
The leaders who showed up at the vigil condemned the vandalism in one voice. Former BC Minister, Gulzar Cheema, who lost his first cousin and the co-pilot of the ill fated Air India Flight 182, Capt. Satwinder Singh Bhinder flayed both the incidents. He said that such acts have no place in the Canadian society. “If these people cannot respect the Canadian values they can just go back.’’
Others who spoke on the occasion were the Conservative MP, Nina Grewal, her husband and former MP, Gurmant Grewal, NDP MLAs, Harry Bains and Bruce Ralston. NDP MP Jinny Sims addressed the gathering through a video link. The Federal Immigration Minster Jason Kenny sent his written message. The messages from NDP MP Jasbir Sandhu and former MLA Dave Hayer were read out on the occasion. D.K. Sharma from the Indian Consulate in Vancouver also addressed the gathering.
From among the community leaders who spoke on the occasion were World Sikh Organization leader Prem Singh Vinning and two prominent moderate Sikh leaders, Balwant Singh Gill and Kulwant Dhesi. The speakers also included, Arun Suri, S.P. Divedi and Baldev Kalsi.
From among the Air India victims’ families, Major Singh Sidhu, who lost his sister, nephew and a niece and Surjit Kalsi, who lost a cousin were also in attendance.
“If they’re trying to cause friction between the two communities – I don’t think they’re going to succeed,” said World Sikh Organization of Canada president, Prem Vinning. “Acts like that only will bring us closer together where we stand up for one another as Canadians.”
Vinning first heard of the vandalism on Sunday and immediately went to visit Parshottam Goel, president of Surrey’s Vedic Hindu Cultural Society, that evening.
It was early Sunday morning that security cameras at the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir caught two men walk up to the temple on 140th Street, shatter the windows with a baseball bat and flee the scene.
“It’s a small community and when something like that happens it’s a concern to me as a community member and also as the president of the World Sikh Organization of Canada,” said Vinning. “We’re part of the same community in Surrey … the Hindi and the Sikh communities live very peacefully here.”
“There’s a lot of people who share business and family and relationships and so forth.”
“It’s a concern to me and it’s in my neighbourhood,” he said. “It’s absolutely not acceptable.”
“I wanted (Parshottam Goyal) to be assured that we won’t tolerate that kind of violence on any place of worship whether it be Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Sikh … or any other faith. We will stand united.”
“As Canadians we shouldn’t be tolerating any form of violence.”