Let’s start from the start, an exclusive and detailed coverage on Nijjar murder and impact on Can–Indo relationship by our Special Correspondent Vishal Saxena.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar — a Sikh independence advocate who was killed in Canada, was called a human rights activist by Sikh organisations and a criminal by India’s Government.
Nijjar, 45 when he died, was a prominent member of a movement to create an independent Sikh homeland known as Khalistan, and was organising an unofficial referendum among the Sikh diaspora with the organisation Sikhs For Justice. He also owned a plumbing business and served as president of a Sikh temple or gurdwara in suburban Vancouver.
Following his death, the World Sikh Organisation of Canada called Nijjar 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”.
Nijjar was a wanted man in India, which has for years seen Sikh separatists abroad as a security threat.
In 2020, Indian authorities claimed Nijjar was a member of a banned militant group and designated him a terrorist.
The dispute that started between India and Canada over the murder of Khalistani Hardeep Singh Nijjar does not seem to be stopping at the moment. Both the countries are making statements against each other. On one hand, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated the allegations against India. Trudeau again said that agents of the Indian government were involved in Nijjar’s murder. On the other hand, the Indian government rejected this and accused Canada of not helping in the extradition of terrorists. America and other countries are also continuously giving attention to this growing dispute. Where did this whole controversy start and what has happened in this matter till now, let us tell you one by one.
The whole controversy started on the morning of 18 September. The people of India were sleeping. On the other hand, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau+ gave a statement in Parliament that India may have a hand in the murder of Khalistani Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was killed in Canada. He said that Canadian agencies have confirmed this. Trudeau accused India of violating Canada’s sovereignty and said it was unacceptable for an outside government to be behind the killing of a Canadian citizen on their soil. After these allegations, Indian diplomat Pawan Kumar Rai was expelled.
The Indian government immediately responded to Canada’s allegations. India rejected Canada’s allegations as ‘absurd’. India issued a statement saying that such allegations have no basis and it is an attempt to divert attention from Khalistani terrorists. In response of expellation of Indian diplomat, India also expelled the Canadian diplomat. The diplomat was asked to leave India within 5 days. This shows how concerned is the Indian government about anti-India activities.
On this entire controversy, the Canadian opposition also questioned Justin Trudeau and demanded to present the facts. Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre told the media that the Canadian government should provide all the facts on the allegations linking Indian agents to the murder of Khalistani Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
The population of Sikhs in Canada is around 8 lakh. Therefore, after the tension increased, the Indian government appealed to be cautious for the Indians living there. On September 20, the Ministry of External Affairs issued an advisory. It was said that in view of the increasing hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada due to anti-India activities, political ignorance, all Indian citizens present there and people traveling there are requested to exercise utmost caution. It was also reported that recently those Indian diplomats and Indians who oppose the anti-India agenda have been targeted. Therefore, it is advised that they avoid traveling to areas of Canada where such incidents have been witnessed.
The tension between the two countries increased so much that India banned visas to Canadian citizens on September 21.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a press conference that Khalistan supporters are getting safe haven in Canada. Canada was told not to provide safe haven to those who have terrorism charges against them.
The whole world is keeping an eye on this dispute. Because Canada is also a member of NATO and G-7. On Canada’s allegations, America said that it will protect the basic principles regardless of the country. America’s National Security Advisor Jack Sullivan said that America will not give any ‘special exemption’ to India in this matter. In this matter, America is in touch with both the countries at a high level. And we support the legal process to find out the truth about what happened.
Importantly, Canada is also a member of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance. Apart from Canada, Britain, America, Australia and New Zealand are included in this agreement. These five countries share intelligence information with each other under the Five Eyes Pact. Therefore, apart from America, these countries are also reacting. Britain also clearly said that it supports this investigation by Canada. Australia also said that the allegations against India are very serious. Australia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that the sovereignty of all countries should be respected and Australia has also discussed this issue with high officials of India.
Amid tensions between the two countries, Justin Trudeau reiterated the allegations on September 21 and said that India should take it seriously. Trudeau said during a press conference in New York, “As I said on Monday (September 18, 2023), we have reason to believe that agents of the Indian government have killed a citizen in Canada. This is a huge issue for our country. We are law-abiding We are a country. We are in a time when the system going on in the world is important. We have an independent justice system. We want the Indian government to talk to us so that we can reach the truth of this issue.
A new information has come on this entire controversy that US President Joe Biden had also raised the issue of Hardeep Singh Nijjar with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20. According to the report of British newspaper Financial Times, apart from Biden, other leaders also talked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this issue. The report states that at the behest of Justin Trudeau, heads of state of other countries had raised this issue with PM Modi.
This was the incident which is still not coming to an end. A murder mystery that has shaken all the developed and developing countries of the world, if this issue is not resolved soon, the business relations as well as the cordial relations between many countries will deteriorate.