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India protests alleged Sikh separatist slogans at event attended by Trudeau

In News, World
April 30, 2024

New Delhi summons the Canadian deputy high commissioner after slogans in support of a Sikh homeland were reportedly raised at an event addressed by the Canadian prime minister.

India has summoned the Canadian deputy high commissioner and expressed “deep concern and strong protest” after separatist slogans in support of a Sikh homeland were raised at an event addressed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

India’s foreign affairs ministry said on Monday it had conveyed “deep concern and strong protest” at such actions “being allowed to continue unchecked at the event”.

“This illustrates once again the political space that has been given in Canada to separatism, extremism and violence. Their continued expressions not only impact India-Canada relations but also encourage a climate of violence and criminality in Canada to the detriment of its own citizens,” the statement said.

The Canadian foreign ministry told Reuters news agency in a statement that Trudeau “gathered with thousands” in Toronto to mark the occasion of Vaisakhi, a harvest festival celebrated by the people of northern India.

Slogans supporting the rise of a separatist state were raised at the event, according to India’s ANI news agency.

“We will always be there to protect your rights and your freedoms, and we will always defend your community against hatred and discrimination,” ANI quoted Trudeau as saying at the event.

Bilateral diplomatic relations between the two countries soured last year after Trudeau said Canada was “actively pursuing credible allegations” that Indian agents were potentially linked to the June 2023 murder of a Sikh leader who was a Canadian citizen.

US thwarted plot to kill Sikh separatist, issued warning to India: Report
A poster with the image of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot dead in Canada [File: Chris Helgren/Reuters]

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, was shot dead outside a Sikh temple on June 18 in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb with a large Sikh population. Nijjar supported a Sikh homeland in the form of an independent Khalistani state and was designated by India as a “terrorist” in July 2020.

New Delhi has denied any formal government role in Nijjar’s murder.

The Sikh separatist movement was launched by a faction of the community in the late 1970s, triggering a wave of deadly violence that killed thousands of people in the Indian state of Punjab, where Sikhs are in the majority.

While Sikh secessionism has largely died down in India, pro-Khalistan groups have remained active internationally.

Canada has the highest population of Sikhs outside India’s Punjab and the North American country has been the site of many allegedly separatist demonstrations that have irked India.

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