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Ottawa honors memory of Sikh activist designated as ‘terrorist’ by New Delhi

Canada has alleged Indian involvement in last year’s murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Khalistan independence supporter

The Canadian Parliament’s House of Commons on Tuesday honored activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar with a moment of silence to mark the first anniversary of his death.

Nijjar, who was a prominent supporter of the Khalistan movement to create a separate nation-state for the Sikh ethnoreligious group, was gunned down by unidentified assailants in a Vancouver suburb last year.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau linked the murder to “agents” of the Indian government, triggering a huge diplomatic spat with New Delhi. India has repeatedly denied Ottawa’s claims and asked the country for proof to substantiate its accusations.

Notably, last month Canada arrested three Indian citizens in connection with the assassination.

In a separate development, Sikh activists on Tuesday commemorated the first anniversary of Nijjar’s death by staging a mock murder trial for Prime Minister Narendra Modi outside the Indian consulate in Vancouver, Canadian state broadcaster CBC reported. An effigy of Modi dressed in prison stripes was paraded down the street in a makeshift cage, and then a mock trail was held with “evidence” of Modi’s involvement in the killing being presented by a “prosecutor.” The street was cordoned off by police, the report noted. 

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Sikhs protest for the independence of Khalistan in front of the Indian Consulate in Toronto, Canada, on July 8, 2023.
India accuses Canada of ‘glorifying violence’

Nijjar, who was working as a plumber, had been designated as a “terrorist” by the Indian government for his support for the Khalistan movement. New Delhi has repeatedly accused Canada, as well as other countries, including the US and the UK, of “providing safe harbor” for “terrorists” and proving them “political space” under the pretext of “freedom of speech.” 

Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met on the sidelines of the G-7 meet in Italy last week for the first time since the former made his allegations. On Monday, Trudeau admitted that there is an alignment between India and Canada on various “big issues,” adding that he sees an “opportunity” to work with the government on issues including economic ties and national security.

Another controversy erupted earlier this month when a float in a Canadian parade depicted the 1984 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Gandhi was killed days after she ordered a military operation at the Sikh sacred shrine, the Golden Temple, where it was believed that pro-Khalistan militants were hiding.

READ MORE: India the second-biggest foreign threat to Canada – report

India’s foreign minister condemned the display, claiming “there is a larger underlying issue about the space which is given to separatists, to extremists, to people who advocate violence.”

Meanwhile, earlier this month, a Canadian committee comprising MPs and senators with top security clearances, claimed that India has become the “second biggest foreign threat” to Canadian democracy, surpassing Russia.

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June 19, 2024 at 11:44PM

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