Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, recently alleged a credible link between the Indian state and the assassination of Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was fatally shot outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia on June 18. However, India has vehemently denied these allegations, labeling them as “absurd” and politically motivated.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent figure campaigning for Khalistan, an independent Sikh homeland in the Punjab region of India, had been targeted due to his activism, as claimed by his supporters.
India, on the other hand, had previously described him as a terrorist leading a militant separatist group, allegations that his supporters deemed “unfounded.”
Trudeau asserted that any foreign government’s involvement in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of sovereignty.
The White House expressed deep concern about Trudeau’s allegations, and India’s foreign ministry accused Canada of providing shelter to “Khalistani terrorists and extremists” who threaten India’s security.
Canada has expelled an Indian diplomat over the case, and Trudeau has conveyed concerns about Nijjar’s death to high-level security and intelligence agencies in India.
He also raised the issue with U.S. President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, seeking India’s cooperation to shed light on the situation.
Sikh groups in Canada welcomed Trudeau’s statement, as it confirmed what many believed in the community. However, the tension between India and Canada had been escalating recently, with India accusing Canada of not doing enough to suppress “anti-India activities of extremist elements” during Trudeau’s meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit.
This tension has also affected trade relations, with Canada suspending negotiations for a free trade agreement with India.
Nijjar’s killing is part of a series of unexpected deaths of prominent Sikh figures, and the broader context involves India pressuring governments in countries with significant Sikh populations, including Canada, Australia, and the UK, to address what it considers “Sikh extremism.”
These developments have raised concerns about freedom of expression among Sikhs in various countries and the treatment of Sikh detainees in India, such as Jagtar Singh Johal, who has been held in an Indian prison for over six years without trial, with allegations of torture and forced confessions.