Cartoon On Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan Sparks Outrage Among Sikhs

Harjit Sajjan recently apologised publicly for overstating his role in Operation Medusa, a pivotal 2006 battle in Afghanistan.

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Cartoon On Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan Sparks Outrage Among Sikhs

File Photo: Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.


Toronto:  A cartoon carried by Canadian publications showing Indian-origin Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in a cauldron has sparked outrage among the Sikh community members who say it resembles images of religious figures who were tortured.

Mr Sajjan, 46, recently faced a lot of flak and apologised publicly for overstating his role in Operation Medusa, a pivotal 2006 battle in Afghanistan, while speaking during his India visit last month.

The Edmonton Sun and other Postmedia publications carried the controversial cartoon in which Mr Sajjan is shown stewing in a cauldron with the label "lies", the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Postmedia later apologised for the political cartoon that sparked outrage among members of Alberta's Sikh community. Critics say the caricature was offensive because it resembles images of historic Sikh religious figures who were tortured.

"I was really disgusted. And then I kind of felt sad as well that a prominent news outlet in the country would do so, and would play with the religious sensitivities of the community (which is) an integral part of the society here in Canada," said Harpreet Gill, who is on the executive committee of Gurdwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha.

The World Sikh Organisation of Canada said the Sun's depiction of Mr Sajjan resembled an iconic image of a martyr who was boiled to death.

"This cartoon has caused many Sikhs discomfort due to its resemblance to the torture and death of Bhai Dayal Das," said Harmen Singh Kandola of the World Sikh Organisation of Canada.

Mr Kandola said it was unlikely the cartoonist was aware of the image's cultural significance. But he emphasised that "it's important to understand that type of context before making such statements, just in order to ensure that they don't cause any unintended consequences."

Postmedia responded to criticism in the Letters to the Editor section of the Calgary Sun, saying, "The cartoon was not meant to insult Sikhs. It was a pun on the minister stewing in his own lies. We're sorry if it was misinterpreted." 

The cartoonist, Tim Dolighan, did not respond to the controversy, the report said. 


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