Published July 4, 2012 | 11:17 am
South Asian drug lords back in violent business
Vancouver: The South Asian community in British Columbia has taken pride in its members figuring in rarefied lists of entrepreneurs. But these are entrepreneurs of a different breed, the kinds that figure on the police blotter.
Since the early’ 90s, South Asians have entered and eventually controlled the territorial, often violent, drug trade in the region.
After a lull in violence, the drug lords are now back with a bang. The May 30 shooting of gangster Gurbinder Singh ’ Bin Toor and latest shooting of ‘Independent Soldiers‘ gangster Randy Naicker is only the latest in a series of incidents that have signalled revival of gang violence in the region.
At the centre of the gang wars, is the BC Bud, or cannabis from British Columbia, that is profitably exported to the United States and Mexico.
South Asians have been part of the distribution trade, leading to violent outcomes, resulting in over a hundred murders in the past 15 years. In the past few months, there have been at least more than dozen attempts on lives of people, who are even loosely connected to allied South Asian gangs-theDhak gang founded by Gurmit Singh Dhak and Sukhvir Singh Dhak, and the Duhre gang formed by brothers Sandip, Balraj and Paul Duhre.
It is widely feared now that these shootings may just be markers of return of gang violence, which was at its peak in the region in the mid-2000s.
Over 120 gangs involved in the drug trade in British Columbia are in tussle to fill the vacuum left by death of a few gang leaders in the past. Police too had openly announced that anyone with links to the Duhre and Dhak gangs could be at risk.
The Duhre gang is believed to have 50 to 100 street soldiers. The ‘United Nations‘ and ‘Independent Soldiers‘ are other multi-ethnic gangs that have many South Asian members whose roots can be traced back to Bindy Johal, the first mafia don from the community, who warred with the area’s other gangs and was gunned down in 2008 in a night club.
Johal’s death creates a vacuum. Other groups, drawn largely from the South Asian community emerged. The Sanghera and Buttar factions from Punjabi community were among the most notorious.
In 2009, the patriarch of the former, Udham Singh Sanghera was arrested. By 2010, the police, had ‘ crippled’ the latter as well, with the arrest of its leader Manny Buttar along with several associates.
After the arrests of the ‘United Nations and ‘Red Scorpions‘ leaders in 2010, the Duhres and Dhaks, once associated with Johal, emerged powerful. They have now taken control of the Fraser valley drug trade and have been trying to spread across Metro Vancouver.
Membership of these gangs can be fluid and there are various levels of gang affiliation. South Asians, who have been known to be educated and law-abiding citizens, have become intensely involved in the drug trade. For much of the 1990s and early 2000s, dozens of young South Asians became victims of internecine wars between rival drug-dealers and criminals.
Their descent into a life of criminality and violence seems to challenge every notion held about Asian immigrants being peaceful.
Given the heavy presence of South Asians in the trucking industry, the transportation of illegal drugs was perhaps a natural extension, of their business operations. At one point, the Royal Canadians Mounted Police, ranked the South Asian gangs as third most powerful criminal organisation in the province.
Many have blamed the parent’s non-involvement in their children’s lives since they are too busy buying homes and amassing wealth. It is a known fact in the community that while parents remain out of the house, working day and night, children are taken care of by grandparents who are brought in from India.
Facing systemic and overt racism and violence, many youths in conflict with their parents have turned to gangs for acceptance. Gang leaders use the young wannabes, who want to prove themselves, to commit high-risk crimes.
A Social activist Balraj Singh commented, “As families struggle to integrate within Canadian society , the youths lose sight of their familial or cultural identities , and when they don’t find that at home or in their subculture, they became vulnerable to the allure of gangs which offer acceptance, thrill, and cash.”
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