Canada PM says India may be connected to murder of Sikh leader in British Columbia

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Nijjar advocated for the establishment of an independent Sikh state called “Khalistan” in the Indian state of Punjab, where Sikhs are the religious majority. Nijjar advocated for the establishment of an independent Sikh state called “Khalistan” in the Indian state of Punjab, where Sikhs are the religious majority.

Trudeau addressed the House of Commons, announcing that Canadian intelligence agencies are exploring “credible allegations of a potential link” between India’s government and the killing of Nijjar, who was a Canadian citizen. “Any involvement by a foreign government with the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is unacceptable and a violation of our sovereignty.” Trudeau stated that his government will take “all steps” to hold those responsible for the murder accountable and called on the Indian government to cooperate in the ongoing investigation into Nijjar’s killing. The Canadian PM said that his government will take “all steps” to hold those responsible for the murder accountable and called on the Indian government to cooperate in the ongoing investigation into Nijjar’s killing.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Jolie added that a “top Indian diplomat” was expelled from Canada in response to the allegations.

New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, who is Sikh, reacted to Trudeau’s announcement, saying:

I grew up hearing that if you raised concerns about human rights violations in India, then you might be denied a visa, that if you went back to India, you could suffer violence, torture and even death. I grew up hearing those stories, but to hear the Prime Minister of Canada corroborate a potential link between a murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil by a foreign government is something that I could never have imagined.

Indian authorities have previously claimed Nijjar led a terrorist group called “Khalistan Tiger Force,” which they say was responsible for a 2007 cinema bombing in Punjab. Nijjar was previously the subject of an Interpol red alert issued by India for the bombing. In 2016, Indian intelligence agencies accused Nijjar building a terrorist camp in British Columbia in order to carry out attacks on Punjab. Nijjar denied the accusations.

Tensions have remained high between India’s government and Khalistan separatists. Modi criticized the ongoing pro-Khalistan demonstrations in Canada during this month’s G20 Summit while meeting Trudeau. In Toronto, one person was detained outside the Indian Consulate in July during a counter-protest and protest following Nijjar’s death. During the dueling demonstrations, Khalistan activists accused India of being behind the killing, while pro-India counter-protesters labeled the rallying Khalistan supporters extremists.

In April, Indian authorities arrested Sikh separatist Amritpal Singh on charges of attempted murder following a 35-day manhunt which saw internet service temporarily suspended in Punjab. The Indian government also summoned Canada’s High Commissioner to India one month prior to his arrest following a protest outside India’s Vancouver consulate in support of Amritpal Singh and against Punjab’s internet blackout.

There is currently an unofficial global referendum organized by the US-based Sikhs for Justice group asking whether Sikhs want an independent Punjab. The referendum is ongoing.

Neither Modi nor the Indian government has responded to Trudeau’s statements at the time of publication.