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Lacchu Kabadia: Diaspora play in Canada highlights caste discrimination, oppression

By Jai Birdi 
July 23 is indeed a historical date in the history of Canada. On July 23, 1914, Komagatamaru, a ship full of passengers from India, was forcefully returned from the shores of the west coast because of the racist immigration policies of colonial Canada. This day is now observed annually to remind the public and the lawmakers of the impact of unfair laws and policies.
On July 23, 2023, while this date was being observed in Vancouver to reflect the unfair policies of Canada, Chetna Association of Canada, a lower-mainland based community organisation, observed caste based discrimination and oppression by hosting a play, Lacchu Kabadia.
Lacchu Kabadia explores the impact of caste-based discrimination and inspires the audience to rethink beliefs and assumptions that create barriers for full inclusion.
Lacchu Kabadia is conceived, scripted, directed, and performed by Dr. Sahib Singh, a visiting artist and recipient of the Sharomani Natakkar Award from the Punjabi Language Department in 2020.
The play was well received with a full audience of about 650 guests at the North Delta Secondary School theatre.
Rajinder Singh Pandher, a Burnaby resident and a board member of the Punjabi Language Educators Association of BC (PLEA) sent his sentiments as follows:
"Million thanks for arranging this stage drama. All the audience was very much moved with emotions & the very wrong system in the SAMAJ. Hopefully this disease will disappear in our third generation in foreign countries. We fully support your efforts to awaken the populations. So keep up the good social education work."
Pandher is also a prominent activist, columnist, and former editor of a newspaper he founded, Sach Di Awaaz.
During the event, Chetna Association of Canada also honoured and presented awards to Arwinder Kaur (writer of Living while Human) and Gurdip Bhullar of Bhullar Academy in recognition of his film, Kammo.
Organisers also awarded Singh with the Dr. Ambedkar Arts & Literature Award (2023) for Lacchu Kabadia, and his community engagement.
The event was graced by MLA Jinny Sims, Speaker Raj Chouhan, and BC's former premier, Ujjal Dosanjh.
Master of Ceremony was Navjot Dhillon, a prominent broadcaster, motivational speaker, and media strategist.
Param Kainth, vice-president of Ambedkarite Association of Canada (AICS) was also moved by the play and commended Dr. Sahib Singh for his remarkable presentation.
Opening song was performed by Surrey-based artist Jyotika Jasuja.
In explaining the role and priorities of Chetna for the next year, Birdi highlighted the need for adding caste as a protected category in the legal system of BC.
The association, along with Ambedkarite International Coordinator Society (AICS) and ELLAN Foundation, presented the memorandum to MLA Sims and Speaker Chauhan. The memorandum requests the Province of British Columbia to:
  • Make amendments to the relevant legislations and regulations so the category of "caste" is included as a protected category. We appreciate that the category of 'ancestry' is already included in various existing legislations, regulations, and policies. However, without the explicit reference of caste as a stand alone category, timely and appropriate measures, including training and investigation, are often delayed or overlooked.
  • Community awareness on why caste matters in BC.
  • Enhance community capacity to observe Dr. Ambedkar Equality Day, Dalit History Month, and other anti-caste oppression initiatives.
---  
Pix: Mohan Bachra

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