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Sikh community protests against India over leader’s killing

A week after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a possible link between New Delhi and the killing of a Sikh separatist supporter in British Columbia, Canadian Sikhs organised protests outside Indian diplomatic missions, according to NBC News.

A week ago at a speech in Parliament, Trudeau said domestic intelligence agencies were actively working on credible allegations linking New Delhi agents to the murder of 45-year-old Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June this year.

About 200 protesters gathered outside the consulate in Vancouver. In Toronto, more than 100 protesters burned an Indian flag and kicked a cardboard cutout of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a shoe.

In Ottawa, about 100 people gathered in front of the office of the Indian High Commissioner Embassy in the capital. They waved yellow flags labelled “Khalistan”. The protesters support the idea of making India’s Punjab region an independent state for Sikhs, which Nijjar had advocated. Protester Reshma Singh Bolinas said in Ottawa:

“We are really thankful to Justin Trudeau… We want no stone left unturned to get to the bottom of this cowardly act. Canada should put pressure on India to “stop the killing of innocent people in future.”

About 770,000 Sikhs live in Canada, the largest number of Sikhs living outside their home state of Punjab. Demonstrations have been frequent here in recent years, causing resentment against India.

India considers Trudeau’s allegations “absurd”. Last week, it warned its citizens of increased “anti-India activity” in Canada, urging them to be “extremely cautious”, but did not back up the warnings with any evidence or details of specific incidents.

Canada’s Sikh community has become the centre of attention because of these allegations. Sikhs make up just 2 per cent of India’s 1.4 billion population, but they are a majority in Punjab, the 30-million-strong state where their religion originated 500 years ago. Kuljeet Sing, a protester in Toronto and a member of the group Sikhs for Justice, said:

“The Indian government used dirty tactics and compromised the sovereignty of Canada.”

Canada’s accusations provoked retaliation, with each country expelling diplomats and New Delhi suspending visas for Canadians.

Some protesters in Toronto and Ottawa have made demands for the expulsion of India’s High Commissioner (ambassador) to Canada Sanjay Kumar Verma, who had earlier claimed that authorities had been informed of the protests and were providing security.

Nijjar, who worked as a plumber, left the north Indian state of Punjab a quarter-century ago to become a Canadian citizen. He favoured the creation of an independent Sikh homeland. India declared him a “terrorist” in July 2020.

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