No, it's not cool to 'live fast and die young', in the same way that it is not cool to believe in 'sex, drugs and rock'n'roll' (bhangra in this case). Well, sex and bhangra is fine, but drugs... Nah! "Gangland style" slayings and shootings are becoming more common in the Indo-Canadian community.
They might be small players, but they get a lot of attention because they are so brazenly violent. These gangs get in shootout on the streets regularly, sometimes over as small as a dirty look. According to reports, the body count for the last six years alone numbers 60 youngsters. The number of kidnappings linked to the same criminal gangs doubled since 1999.
Well, it is also widely known that police have had limited success n solving violent crimes in the close-knit gang world. Bhupinder (Bindy) Singh Johal was an icon of indo-canadian organized crime before he was murdered in December, 1998. The profile of Indo-Canadian gangsters varies.
Some come from well-off families, while others are from poorer ones. Also, in most cases families are aware when a member is involved in a gang. Some turn a blind eye (after all more money gets one of those mega houses, right) while others call it destiny. How convenient. Ignore, blame it on fate and good night! But the story doesn't end here.
Months after the other, there is some family which bears the brunt of turning a blind eye. (of course, you knew it along when he got that fancy car and that mega house). Indo-Canadian crime groups are known to specialize in the transportation of marijuana, and the smuggling of South Asians into the United States.
In British Columbia, most of the gang related violence is happening in the South Asian community, according to the Integrated Gang Task Force (IGTF). The task force reports, “The majority of crimes are opportunistic – extortion, kidnapping, drug ‘rips,’ drug smuggling, homicides and violent acts.” And it suggests that the bad boys with the guns still adhere to traditional Sikh values of “image, status, reputation and respect.”
Fellow community member confirms this by saying that the guns and gangster attitude are a way to get respect. "I have been charged for assaults several times, but that hasnt stopped me from bashing an arrogant racist white guy for making a racist comment to a Desi”. What is it? Identity crisis? Inferiority complex? Frustration? Hatred? Insecurity?
Recently, a group of ten Indo-Canadian professionals, many of whom are social workers, after months of research and fact finding concluded that misguided family and cultural values are a chief cause of the disputes that have killed over 100 Indo-Canadian males, almost all in their 20s, in the last 15 years. Research by VIRSA, the Sikh Alliance Against Violence, shows that “gender inequality” and authoritarian parenting may help lead to the creation of gang culture. The studies show “many young boys killed in gang violence were either the only son or the first son in the family,” writes Harbans Singh Kandola, president of VIRSA.
Kandola says there is often poor communication between immigrant parents and their Canadian-raised offspring. “Children growing in western culture do not take orders, they ask for logical discussion and logical answers rather than decisions being forced on them.”
While not discounting the role of racism and the marginalizing of Indo-Canadians by mainstream society, there are many other causes for the continuing violence, including: The absence of emotional security and structure; the importance of status, reputation and image in South Asian culture; the loss of a moral compass and the acceptance of unethical means of pursuing and achieving power, money and status by some South Asian people.
So where are we heading? What can we do to prevent young Indo-Canadians from getting involved in gangs. The main proposal by the group of ten is the establishment of a broad-based, youth and family integration strategy, funded for its first five years by the federal government, to facilitate, coordinate and monitor the community response to youth violence.
Other recommendations include more community counseling, a help line, after-hours school programs aimed at Indo-Canadian youth and a parent education program to help people raise their children in a Canadian context. A final recommendation is for a media watchdog to monitor the role of the media in stereotyping Indo-Canadians.
Meanwhile, addressing the problem by facing it and admitting that there is a problem would greatly help too. Afterall, the roots lie at home, feed the nutrition of love and understanding and prevent these roots from bearing infected and posionous plant.