The non-binding vote, organised by a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit group called Sikhs For Justice, is being held in multiple cities around the world.
“I am a Sikh nationalist who believes in and supports Sikh’s right to self-determination and independence of Indian occupied Punjab through a future referendum,” Mr Nijjar wrote in an open letter in 2016.
Sikhs For Justice has collected about 1.1 million ballots since it launched the voting campaign in 2021, said Mr Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, its founder.
Mr Pannun said that he spoke to Mr Nijjar the day before he was killed.
In Mr Nijjar’s last speech at the temple, on the night of his murder, he urged its member to turn out at the vote on Sept 10, Pannun said.
“He did say that, ‘I’m not sure if I’ll be alive by that time this voting happens, but I want the community to make sure that they vote,’” Mr Pannun said. More than 135,000 Sikhs voted, he said.
Mr Pannun said Mr Nijjar had told him that he was approached by the authorities in July 2022 and twice in the spring of 2023 and warned that there was a threat to his life. They advised that he relocate and avoid being at the temple, he said.
Mr Nijjar’s participation in the movement for an independent state was prominent in India’s adamant denial of involvement on Monday.
The Indian foreign ministry said it rejected “any attempts to connect the government of India” to Mr Nijjar’s killing.
But it also took the opportunity to admonish Canada, accusing it of sheltering “extremists and terrorists” who “continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Mr Roland Paris, a professor at the University of Ottawa and a former foreign policy adviser to Mr Trudeau, said the allegations had created a sense of outrage and anger in Canada that crosses all political lines.
“It’s a stunning and appalling set of allegations,” Prof Paris said. “If it’s true that India was behind this killing, then it represents the most offensive and appalling form of political interference in a democracy that would parallel the behaviour of some of the worst authoritarian leaders in the world.”
On Tuesday morning in Surrey, British Columbia, people came to offer prayers and join in a meal service offered at the temple where Mr Nijjar was president, the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara.
The previous evening outside the temple, Mr Nijjar’s son, Balraj Singh Nijjar, said his father’s death remains a fresh wound for his family.
“He had even called home like five minutes before it happened to get dinner ready,” his son said, speaking to reporters outside the temple. “It was kind of a big shock.” NYTIMES
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