Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described as “credible” the accusations linking India’s conservative government to the June 18 murder of a Sikh activist. As the investigation by Canadian authorities progresses, a senior Indian diplomat has been expelled. Canada is the country with the largest Sikh population outside of India and a part of it is committed to forming an independent state from India.
Diplomatic tension between Canada and India arose following the June 18 shooting death of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar outside a Sikh cultural center in Surrey, British Columbia.
Nijjar was a strong supporter of an independent Sikh homeland known as Khalistan, a claim that goes against the nationalist policies of the current Government of India chaired by Narendra Modi.
Opponents of the Indian government in both India and Canada have accused Modi’s movement of being behind the assassination. A hypothesis that this Monday the Canadian Government endorsed as possible, but which it was already working on before.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in his address to Parliament that he discussed the Sikh murder with his Indian counterpart at the recent G-20 summit. There Trudeau warned Modi that any involvement by the Indian government would be unacceptable and asked him for cooperation in the investigation.
Trudeau was clear and forceful in his statement on Monday about the national security alert that this case implies.
“Any involvement by a foreign government in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”
For her part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, Melanie Joly, expelled the head of Indian intelligence in the North American country as a result of the accusations against the Modi Government.
“If this is proven to be true, it would be a gross violation of our sovereignty and the most basic rule of how countries relate to each other,” Minister Joly said in her justification for the expulsion.
The Canadian Government’s investigation has escalated and even involves that country’s allies. Trudeau revealed that he has been working closely with Canada’s allies on the case.
An international coordination that was presented to US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. And that was also discussed with the Canadian G7 allies.
What was the importance of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in the Khalistan movement?
The Khalistan movement is banned in India and is considered a threat to national security. The movement still has some support in northern India and in countries with large Sikh communities such as Canada and the United Kingdom due to the diaspora following a Sikh insurgency that was suppressed in India in the 1990s and caused the death of 30,000 people.
Nijjar, the slain Sikh leader, proposed an unofficial referendum in Khalistan to seek a Sikh state independent of New Delhi. So Indian authorities last year announced a reward for information leading to Nijjar’s arrest, accusing him of involvement in an alleged attack on a Hindu priest in India.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada recognized Nijjar as an outspoken supporter of Khalistan who “often led peaceful protests against the violation of human rights actively taking place in India and in support of Khalistan.” And the organization as well as the Sikh community were concerned for Niijar’s safety.
“Nijjar had spoken publicly about the threat to his life for months and said he was a target of Indian intelligence agencies.”
Niijar’s lawyer, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, claimed that Canadian intelligence officials warned Niijar that he would be targeted for assassination by “mercenaries” before he was shot dead.
Canada, country of Sikh migrants
Canada has the largest population of Sikhs outside their home state of Punjab in India, and the country has been the site of many protests that have irritated Narendra Modi.
Canada is also home to one of the largest communities of Indian origin abroad, numbering around 1.4 million out of a total Canadian population of 40 million. Around 770,000 people declared Sikhism as their religion in the 2021 census.
Due to this cultural wealth, the Canadian Government takes the case of Niijar’s murder as an issue that threatens the multiculturalism that exists in the country.
Janice Stein, political scientist and international relations expert at the University of Toronto, stressed to the British news agency The Associated Press (AP) the importance of respect for diverse communities in Canada.
“We have the most diverse community in the world in Canada. “We have people from all countries.”
Along the same lines, the Canadian Government justified the investigations into the death of the Indian Sikh as a defense of freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and the freedom to demonstrate peacefully.
With AFP, Reuters and AP
Source: France 24