REMEMBERING PROF.HARI SHARMA
By Promod Puri
It was tense, divisive and provocative violent period in the mid ‘80s when the communal and religious hatred almost divided the otherwise peaceful and amicable Indo-Canadian community in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.
Tension between Hindus and Sikhs was swiftly escalating as a result of separatists’ fierce Khalistan movement in Punjab, India, and which was having emotional and enraged repercussions in B.C., especially after the Golden Temple attack by the Indian armed forces.
More than that, the entire Punjabi community was severely divided within itself as it was fearfully inflicted with religious fanaticism from extremists dominating the scene with boycotts, threats and violence.
Our inter-caste and inter-religious harmony as a community was falling apart. Our years of united struggles, fighting prejudice, hatred and discrimination and seeking equality in the overall Canadian society was seriously obstructed. We were facing very serious situation whereby as a major ethnic community we were in deep crisis.
Alarmed by the deteriorating situation and accepting the immediate and unexpected challenge, a few of us as community activists openly started holding meetings in an atmosphere of threats and violence to access and tackle the damage being done.
At this critical moment our friend and guide was none other than Hari-bhai. He was bold, forthright and tough personality with meeting-protocol skills that we were able to form a small but effective force which was named Forum For Communal Harmony.
Although we elected not to have any designated titles among us from our membership, but Hari-bhai was certainly a mobilizing force to direct our earnest efforts to combat hatred and violence, and stressing on the need to restore harmony within the community.
It was during participations in the Forum’s meetings and working with Hari-bhai that I as publisher and editor of The Link, the South Asian newspaper, started admiring and recognizing the selfless and passionate for freedom of expression qualities in him. And out of respect for his mature and unbiased thinking, concerned and caring nature, and being fanatically secular personality that I started calling him Hari-bhai.
Although being a newspaperman, I did not join or participate in many of his other diverse campaigns over the years, but I always acknowledged and supported his causes and ardent struggles.
Hari-bhai had been a motivational force to bring out people to fight for causes for our betterment as a society. He challenged the silence and apathy of people toward injustice and violence against minorities whether in India or in Canada. In this regard he seemed to share the views of famous Indian film producer Mahesh Bhatt who once said “I always maintained that society is not devastated by the misdeeds of badman, but by the silence of the so-called good people”.
As a relentless campaigner on numerous issues like anti war and nuclear weapons, human rights and social justice, oppression of landless workers and Scheduled Casts in India, Hindu fundamentalism and minority rights Hari-bhai was certainly a “voice of “consciousness. He reached the “pinnacle of success” as he had always been uninterested in money, compliments or publicity.
Hari Sharma made a very significant contribution in drawing and shaping the political,social and to some extent economic landscape of our community particularly in this part of Canada.
(Prof. Hari Sharma, a distinguished academic at the Simon Fraser University in the department of sociology, died three years ago after fighting a long battle with cancer at the age of seventy-five).