South Asian Minority Communities Link Arms for Vancouver “Path to Begampura” Conference

Human rights advocates unite behind fundamental value of human equality

Vancouver, BC, Canada, Mar. 19, 2015 – In 15th-century India, spiritual teacher Guru Ravidas spoke about his vision of a place called Begampura, a land without sorrow. Begampura represented the ideal society, where suffering was a thing of the past. In this place, Ravidas said, “There is no second or third status; all are equal there.”

Ravidas’s vision is the inspiration for a conference in Surrey (a suburb of Vancouver) on the March 21-22 weekend. Titled “Path to Begampura,” the conference brings together speakers from around the globe and a wide cross-section of Indian society to talk about topics of caste, discrimination against minorities, and manifestations of violence in South Asian culture. It takes place at Bombay Banquet Hall, 7475 135 Street, Surrey, BC. The conference begins Saturday evening from 5pm-9pm and continues on Sunday from 10am-1pm.

“Teachings from Ravidas are enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib alongside those of 35 other sage personalities,” remarked Arvin Valmuci, coordinator for Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI). “So it’s fitting that this conference is sponsored by Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara of Surrey, which is one of the most vibrant and energetic gurdwaras in Canada.”

Speakers at the conference, organized by Bhim Rao Ambedkar Sikh Foundation (BRASF), include Dr. Manisha Bangar, the vice-president of Mulnivasi Sangh, who is traveling from as far as Hyderabad to join the conference, as well as Harinder Singh of US-based Sikh Research Institute (SRI). Also speaking are Mohan Ram Paul, the international coordinator for Backward And Minority Communities Employees’ Federation (BAMCEF) and a director of BRASF, Avtar Singh Adampuru, a Seattle-based writer and philosopher, Dr. Amrik Singh, a Sacramento State University Ethnic Studies Professor and BRASF director, and Bhajan Singh, a BRASF director and the founding director of OFMI.

“The upcoming conference represents the unified efforts of a diverse collection of South Asian minority communities to address pressing issues in the Indian subcontinent,” says Bhajan Singh. “Beyond major state-sponsored genocides perpetrated against minorities by both of India’s major political parties — in 1984 and 2002, especially — for which no justice was ever provided, the country has more recently seen a growing firestorm in the form of smaller-scale evils. Laws requiring state permission to convert deny religious liberty, supremacists burn churches and mosques and assault religious minorities, and violence against women, particularly women from so-called low-castes, is on a sharp upswing.”