Chandigarh: The University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, which drew flak over the cancellation of an annual programme this week — allegedly due to pressure from Sikh radical activists — has said it will inquire into why the event was cancelled.
Sikh leader Ujjal Dosanjh, a former premier of British Columbia, wrote a strongly-worded letter objecting to the university coming under pressure, and in response, UBC’s dean of arts Gage Averill has said his team will “learn more about the barriers that made the event impossible to proceed”. However, Dosanjh is not satisfied and is expecting a more “wholesome response”. This entire correspondence has been accessed by ThePrint.
The online event — the Harjit Kaur Sidhu Memorial Program — was to be held on 7 April, and Hartosh Singh Bal, political editor of Caravan magazine, was slated to speak on ‘Perspectives on the Farmers’ Movement in India’. Bal alleged that the event was cancelled after Sikh activists in the university protested against letting him speak, because he is the nephew of former director general of the Punjab Police, K.P.S. Gill.
Gill was credited with ending militancy in Punjab, but Sikh radicals hold him responsible for extrajudicial killings during his tenure.
Dosanjh, a former MP and an alumnus of the UBC, wrote an open letter to the university’s president Santa J. Ono Saturday, saying the cancellation of the event had “saddened” him and was “most ill-considered” and “doesn’t behove a world class university”.
Dosanjh added that though he had threatened to torch his law degree from the UBC in case the event was cancelled, he had “consigned the degree to the yellow recycle bag picked up by the city”.
The former British Columbia premier, a fearless critic of Sikh radical elements, wrote: “It is understood the cancellation came under pressure from the few radical Sikhs agitating for the dismemberment of India to create a theistic state for the Sikhs… I have felt for some time the once well-deserved reputation of Canadian universities for academic freedom has been on the wane. Unfortunately, UBC has not been an exception to this trend.
“The most ill-considered cancellation of the aforementioned lecture on the farm laws in India, the subject of massive ongoing protests in the country, doesn’t behove a world class university.
“I had threatened to publicly torch my UBC law degree if the university cancelled the aforementioned event due to pressure from anyone. A friend had reminded me the city of Vancouver doesn’t allow the burning of waste within the city limits. To conform to the city rules and to avoid causing pollution, I have consigned the degree to the yellow recycle bag picked up by the city.”
Dean of arts Averill responded to Dosanjh the same evening, saying president Ono had requested him to respond on his behalf.
“Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. And please accept my thanks that you have not yet torched your parchment from UBC — we value you as an illustrious alum of this university, and I hope we never give you cause to want to do so,” the dean wrote.
“It’s important for you to know that UBC is, and always will be, committed to academic freedom and it is enshrined in University Senate policy. All decisions related to the event series you reference — including the decision to postpone it — seem to have been made by the event organisers, and did not reflect any interest in censoring the event by UBC,” Averill stressed.
“I want to assure you that in the coming week, my faculty team will engage with the event organisers in order to learn more about the barriers that made the event impossible to proceed,” he added.
Dosanjh reacted to Averill’s letter, writing: “Your response says nothing; looking forward to a more wholesome answer.”
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)
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