How do you destroy a population? You can physically attack its people, belittle its character, and desecrate its land. But the most insidious way to attack a community is by rewriting its history, forcing its members to forget their past. When Lions Roar 3 resisted this pressure to forget, and was organized by those expected to forget their past — the youth.
Now in its third year, When Lions Roar is an event put on by the Sikh Activist Network that seeks to unite the community as one body to address injustice. Indeed it was a beautiful sight to see a mix of generations — from young children to grandparents and everyone in between — all sitting in the same room. Thousands gathered at the Dream Convention Centre, with many crowding at the back of the hall, just to be part of the event.
The purpose of the night was not only to remember the injustices of the past, but to recognize that they still exist today. When Lions Roar achieved this by creating a positive space for artists to express themselves regarding issues such as 1984, and related concerns plaguing Punjab, including farmer suicides, drug infestation and female foeticide — issues that are often overlooked within the community.
The night started off with a gatka demonstration, where the eyes of warriors shone with ferocity as the first jakaras of the night were let out. Keertan performed by the youth followed. Together, the gatka and keertan embodied the saint-soldier elements that lie at the heart of Sikhi. Next, there were a number of different performances that included spoken word, song and instrumentals by 23 performing artists including Selena Dhillon, Hoodini, Young Fateh, Mandeep Sethi, Noyz, Baagi, Superwoman, and Violinder. Throughout the night, organizers shared facts on the current situation in Punjab — including the negative impact of the Green Revolution on farming, the high rates of female foeticide and the unjust incarceration of Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar, as well as two very well-made and informative videos highlighting the issues of farmer suicides and the history behind the events of 1984 to transition between performances.
By the end of the night, people were no longer sitting in their seats, but rather crowding the stage, standing side by side. The night was all about inspiration, motivation, education and most importantly a call to action. Sitting in the room, you could feel the energy, the spirit and the drive. Despite the issues that threaten the Punjabi community, it is still possible for us to come together as one. When Lions Roar 3 inspired and will continue to inspire people to take action and be more than just aware. A line from a video shared during the event still rings in my ears:
“Punjab is on the verge of catastrophe. Will we act or watch it crumble?”
It is up to us to show the world what really happens “when lions roar.”