Killing of KTF chief in Surrey
TORONTO/NEW DELHI, Sept 19:
Canada and India have expelled a senior diplomat each after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged the involvement of “agents of the Indian Government” in the killing of a prominent Sikh separatist leader in Surrey in June, claims outrightly rejected by New Delhi as “absurd” and “motivated”.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, the chief of the banned Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) and one of India’s most-wanted terrorists who carried a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen outside a gurdwara in Surrey in the western Canadian province of British Columbia on June 18.
“Over the past number of weeks, Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” Trudeau said on Monday in a speech to the House of Commons.
After Trudeau’s remarks in Parliament, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly confirmed that she has ordered the expulsion of “a senior Indian diplomat.”
Reacting sharply to the allegations and Joly’s remarks, India today rejected Trudeau’s claims, calling them “absurd and motivated”. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has also asked a Canadian diplomat to leave India within the next five days.
“Allegations of the Government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated,” the MEA said in a statement on Tuesday in New Delhi.
“Similar allegations were made by the Canadian Prime Minister to our Prime Minister, and were completely rejected,” it said.
“We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to the rule of law,” the MEA said.
“Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it said.
“The inaction of the Canadian Government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern,” the ministry said.
The MEA said Canadian political figures have “openly expressed sympathy for such elements remains a matter of deep concern”.
“The space given in Canada to a range of illegal activities including murders, human trafficking and organised crime is not new,” the MEA said.
“We reject any attempts to connect the Government of India to such developments,” it said.
“We urge the Government of Canada to take prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements operating from their soil,” it added.
In his speech, Trudeau told the lawmakers that any involvement of a foreign government in killing a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is “an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”
“It is contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open and democratic societies conduct themselves,” he said.
“As you would expect, we have been working closely and coordinating with our allies on this very serious matter,” he added.
He also said that he had raised with Prime Minister Narendra Modi the issue during their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi earlier this month. Trudeau urged the Indian government to “cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter.”
During the bilateral meeting with Trudeau on September 10, Prime Minister Modi conveyed India’s strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada as they are promoting secessionism, inciting violence against Indian diplomats and threatening the Indian community there.
The Canadian Foreign Minister’s office identified the expelled Indian diplomat as Pavan Kumar Rai, the head of India’s foreign intelligence agency in Canada, the Toronto Star newspaper reported.
“My expectations are clear. I expect India to fully collaborate with us and get to the bottom of this,” Joly said.
Citing a senior government source, CBC News reported that Trudeau has briefed the leaders of some of Canada’s closest allies about the case, including US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron.
In Washington, the White House said it was deeply concerned about the allegations raised by Trudeau.
“We are deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau,” White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said. “We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice,” AP quoted Watson as saying.
New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, himself a Sikh, said that he’d use “every tool” at his disposal to “bring those responsible to justice.”
“We will ensure that no rock is unturned, that every possible link is examined,” Singh said, adding that the public inquiry into foreign interference, which was prompted by allegations of Chinese meddling, should also look at India and its actions in Canada.
Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is leading the murder investigation.
“We’ll hold the perpetrators accountable and bring them to justice,” he said.
Canada-based Nijjar was designated a ‘terrorist’ by India under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in July 2020 and his property in the country was attached by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in September 2020.
Interpol Red Corner Notice was also issued against him in 2016. The local police of Surrey had also put Nijjar under house arrest temporarily in 2018 on suspicion of his terror involvement but he was released later.
Bilateral ties between India and Canada have been tense in recent months. Trade talks have been derailed and Canada just cancelled trade talks.
Last week, a senior official said in New Delhi that negotiations for a free trade agreement between India and Canada will resume after the resolution of political issues between the two countries.
“There were certain political developments in Canada on which India has raised its objections. India has shown a strong resentment against certain political developments in Canada, and therefore, for the time being, till these political issues are settled, we have paused the negotiations,” the official said in New Delhi.
Meanwhile, the son of Nijjar, Balraj Nijjar, on Monday said the loss of his father is still fresh, especially given the circumstances of his death.
“It’s been hard, obviously. You generally don’t expect something like this to happen even in terms of age, because he’s only 45,” Balraj was quoted as saying by Vancouver-based Global News.
It also reported that Sikh community members vowed Monday to protest in front of the Indian consulates across Canada following Trudeau’s statement.
Canada has a Sikh population of more than 770,000 (about 2 per cent of its total population). (PTI)
9 outfits have bases in Canada
NEW DELHI, Sept 19:
At least nine separatist organisations supporting terror groups have their bases in Canada and despite multiple deportation requests Ottawa has taken no action against those involved in heinous crimes including the killing of popular Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala, officials here said today.
They said that pro-Khalistani outfits such as the World Sikh Organization (WSO), Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) and Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) working at the behest of Pakistan have been allegedly operating freely form the Canadian soil.
They said allegations levelled against India by the Canadian authorities and politicians in relation to the murder of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Khalistani terrorist, are incorrect and based on unsubstantiated assumptions.
The issue of deportations of wanted terrorists and gangsters have been raised by Indian authorities at multiple diplomatic and security talks but the Canadian authorities remained non-committal and brazen in support of these terror elements, the officials said.
Multiple dossiers have been handed over to the Canadian side but India’s deportation requests have gone unaddressed, they said, adding at least nine separatist organisations supporting terror groups have found their bases in Canada.
Eight individuals involved in terror activities and as many gangsters, who have been conspiring with Pakistan’s ISI, have found a safe haven in Canada, the officials said.
They said that deportation requests for these people — including Gurwant Singh who was involved in terrorist activities in early 1990s — have been pending with the Canadian authorities for years now. An Interpol Red Corner Notice is also pending against him.
The officials said Indian authorities had requested for the deportation of Gurpreet Singh, who is also involved in terror cases, and provided his Canadian address but no action was taken.
They said the request for deportation of dreaded gangsters including Arshdeep Singh alias Arsh Dalla, wanted in 16 criminal cases, Satinderjit Singh Brar alias Goldy Brar, who took responsibility for killing of famous Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala, had been submitted with evidence against them but no action was taken by the Canadian government.
The separatist organisation were openly issuing assassination threats, fuelling separatists’ agenda and carrying out targeted killings in India, they said.
They pointed out that high profile assassination of popular singer Sidhu Moosewala by the Canada-based gangster with affiliations to pro-Khalistan elements “is a classic example of this”.
Other Canada-based wanted terrorists are Gurwant Singh Bath of the Dashmesh regiment of Khalistan, Bhagat Singh Brar (who is son of Pakistan-based terrorist Lakhbeer Singh Rhode), Moninder Singh Bual, Satinder Pal Singh Gill, they said.
Nijjar, who carried a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh, was born in Punjab on November 10, 1977 and was affiliated with the now banned Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF). He was arrested in the mid 1990s. He managed to get bail and fled India on February 19, 1997 by assuming a fake identity of Ravi Sharma and securing a travel document in that name.
In 2013-14, Nijjar visited Pakistan where he met Jagtar Singh Tara of Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), wanted in assassination of Punjab former Chief Minister Beant Singh.
He was during that period roped in by the ISI which helped him in organising secret training camps for Sikh extremist groups associated with the Khalistan movement in Missigen Hills, British Columbia.(PTI)
Nijjar, who was designated as a terrorist by the Union Home Ministry, was also accused of working closely with Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) led by Jagtar Singh Tara. He has been associated with Dal Khalsa leader Gajender Singh, a key accused in hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight in 1981.
His name figured in the most wanted list handed over by then Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh to the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2018.
Nijjar along with criminals like Arsh Dalla were generating huge amounts of funds for anti-India activities by various means which included drug money and finances from Gurdwaras, the officials said.
They said Canada’s current diplomatic standoff with India appears to be motivated by failures on the domestic political front and declining popularity of the present government and expulsion of an Indian diplomat seems to be aimed at getting support of the Sikh population especially those harbouring pro-Khalistan sentiments.
The officials also pointed out that support for extremist elements and gangsters in Canada are deeply linked with the political realities that influence the vote bank in various Sikh dominated constituencies.(PTI)
They pointed to the role of Jagmeet Singh Dhaliwal, an MP from Burnaby South, who belongs to the New Democratic Party of Canada which has been a vocal supporter of the Khalistan referendum that seeks a Balkanisation of India and fuels separatist sentiments amongst Canadian Sikhs.
Dhaliwal was earlier placed on black list for his anti-India activities.
The officials said that the Canadian authorities have failed to bring out any direct association of Indian authorities with Nijjar’s murder and pointed out at the another murder of another Canadian citizen Ripudaman Malik, who faced wrath of Nijjar and Sikh for Justice for printing of Shri Guru Granth Sahib by Satnam Religious Prachaar Society (SRPS). Few days later, he was killed by unidentified gunmen.
The officials said that Nijjar’s killing was a handiwork of internal rivalry between various groups. (PTI)