In recent developments that have sent shockwaves through diplomatic circles, India and Canada have engaged in a diplomatic standoff, resulting in the expulsion of senior diplomats from both countries. The controversy stems from Canada’s allegations that India may have been involved in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Sikh separatist leader residing in British Columbia. This article delves into the details of this escalating diplomatic crisis and its implications.
Understanding the Diplomatic Tensions: Canada’s Accusations
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a surprising revelation, raised “credible allegations” linking the Indian government to the June killing of Canadian citizen and Sikh leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar. He vowed to hold the perpetrators accountable, a statement that reverberated across international headlines.
In a swift retaliatory move, India expelled a Canadian diplomat identified as an intelligence officer, marking its concern over Canadian diplomats’ interference in its internal matters and their involvement in what India refers to as “anti-India activities.”
The Hardeep Singh Nijjar Assassination
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Sikh leader in western Canada, met a tragic end when he was gunned down in his truck in June by two masked gunmen outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia. His death shocked and outraged the Sikh community in Canada, which is one of the largest Sikh communities outside of India.
Sikh Dissident and Khalistan Supporter
Nijjar was known for his vocal support for the creation of Khalistan, a separate Sikh homeland. He frequently led peaceful protests against what advocacy groups considered the “violation of human rights” in India and in support of Khalistan. The Khalistan movement has been outlawed in India and is considered a national security threat.
India, in response to Trudeau’s accusations, dismissed them as “absurd and motivated.” The Indian government argued that the allegations aimed to divert attention from Khalistani terrorists and extremists sheltered in Canada, who continue to pose a threat to India’s sovereignty.
Historical Background: The Khalistan Movement
The roots of the Khalistan movement can be traced back to the time of India’s independence from British rule in 1947. Some Sikhs advocated for a separate nation carved out of Punjab. However, the violent division of Punjab during the Partition, which caused significant bloodshed, marked the beginning of violent clashes between the Indian government and Khalistan supporters.
The Khalistan movement reached a turning point in 1984 when then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian army to storm Amritsar’s Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine, to eliminate Sikh separatists. This operation led to widespread anger within the Sikh community, and Gandhi was subsequently assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.
The violence spilled beyond India’s borders when Sikh separatists bombed an Air India plane in 1985, killing all 329 people on board, including numerous Canadians of Indian descent.
Sikhism’s Worldwide Presence
Sikhism, founded in Punjab in the 15th century by Guru Nanak, boasts approximately 25 million followers worldwide. While Sikhs form a minority in India, they constitute a majority in the northern state of Punjab.
Support for Khalistan
The Khalistan movement continues to garner sympathy from some Sikhs within the global diaspora, particularly in Canada, Britain, and Australia. A small but influential segment of Sikhs supports the idea of Khalistan, with periodic referendums held to gauge support for a separate homeland.
The India-Canada diplomatic rift over the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar has cast a spotlight on the complex history of the Khalistan movement and its enduring impact on Sikh communities worldwide. As both nations grapple with the fallout of this controversy, the global Sikh diaspora watches closely, hoping for a resolution that respects their rights and aspirations.