CANADA’S Sikh community is hoping Ottawa’s accusations against India – that New Delhi may have been involved in the assassination of one of their leaders on Canadian soil – will be just the first dramatic step taken against alleged “Indian interference.”
Prime minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion last Monday (18) that agents linked to New Delhi may have been responsible for the June 18 murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, sent shockwaves through both countries, prompting the reciprocal expulsion of diplomats.
Members of Canada’s Sikh community – the largest outside of India – said they were relieved that the accusation had been made. “We are happy to see India being held accountable,” said Harkirt Singh Dhadda, a lawyer and prominent member of the Sikh community in Toronto.
But, while he said the expulsion of a diplomat was a “signal,” it was “not the only thing that is expected.” “We want a full investigation that brings to justice the people involved in this assassination, including those who pulled the trigger and the ones who plotted this assassination,” he said.
An activist for the creation of a Sikh state known as Khalistan, Nijjar was wanted by Indian authorities for alleged terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder – charges he had denied. Nijjar’s son also described a “sense of relief” that the accusations were finally out in the open. “Hopefully, you can take this a step further and get specific individuals,” Balraj Singh Nijjar told reporters.
Posters still pay tribute to Nijjar on the gates of the Sikh temple in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver on the country’s western coast.
In front of the blue and white building, yellow flags proclaiming “Khalistan” were flying. Anger in the community, which at 770,000 people forms some two per cent of Canada’s population, has not subsided.
“The fact that a political assassination of this nature could occur in broad daylight in Surrey gives rise to grave concerns about the Government of Canada’s lack of decisive action in combating Indian foreign interference in Canada,” the British Columbia Gurdwaras Council said in a statement.
New Delhi described the accusations as “absurd.”
“I expect Canada to release more information,” Jaskaran Sandhu, co-founder of Baaz News, a website for the Sikh community, said.
“If the government doesn’t take a strong stance and send a strong message, all it declares to the world is that it’s open season on our citizens,” he added.
Jagmett Singh, the leader of the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP) and a Trudeau ally, called for India to be included in a public inquiry launched earlier in September into alleged foreign interference, particularly by China.
“In my experience, as a SikhCanadian, there have always been suspicions that India was interfering in the democratic rights of Canadians. Yesterday’s announcement confirms that these suspicions are valid,” he said.
Canada must also put an end to intelligence sharing with New Delhi, say Sikh officials.