The Government of India says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claim is “absurd” after he told the House of Commons on Monday (Sept. 18) there is “credible” intelligence linking Indian government agents to the June 18 fatal shooting of Surrey Sikh temple president Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45.
The slain Guru Nanak Gurdwara president, an ardent supporter of securing an independent Sikh nation in India called Khalistan, was killed in the parking lot of the temple, located in the 7000-block of Scott Road. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has yet to publicly identify a suspect or reply to the Now-Leader’s request for comment on Trudeau’s revelation.
The Ministry of External Affairs for the Government of India has issued a statement saying “allegations of Government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated.
“Similar allegations were made by the Canadian Prime Minister to our Prime Minister, and were completely rejected,” it reads.
“We reject any attempts to connect Government of India to such developments. We urge the Government of Canada to take prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements operating from their soil.”
Bhupinder Singh Hothi, general secretary of the Surrey gurdwara, said Tuesday that “it was obvious that was going to come” from India’s government. “They’re going to deny it, right. We expected that to come out.”
He said there will be a “peaceful protest” at the gurdwara next Monday, Sept. 25. On Tuesday two large billboard signs out front were being removed, related to a non-binding referendum vote held there on Sept. 10 in which Hothi said 134,800 Sikhs over eight hours registered their support for Khalistan.
“We’re taking that down because that was put up for the campaign. That referendum, that’s done, right. Wave two is coming on Oct. 29,” he said. “We’re actually taking all the signs down, even the signs on the street.”
Meantime, the World Sikh Organization of Canada called for “immediate protection” for Canadian Sikhs who “face a threat from India and its agents” on the heels of Trudeau’s comments, the significance of which WSO president Tejinder Singh Sidhu said “cannot be understated for Sikhs.”
“The Prime Minister of Canada has publicly said what Sikhs in Canada have known for decades – India actively targets Sikhs in Canada,” Sidhu said. “It should now be clear to all Canadians that the Government of India is a terrorist state that has brazenly engaged in extrajudicial killings not only on its own soil, but also on Canadian soil.”
Sidhu demanded that “India cannot be allowed to disregard the rule of law and the sovereignty of foreign states. The killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and other Sikh activists were terrorist acts that must be condemned by the international community. Those responsible for these killings must be immediately brought to justice. India should honour its international obligations and cooperate with the Government of Canada in investigating these matters.”
Jinny Sims, NDP MLA for Surrey-Panorama, said any kind of interference by an “outside body on our sovereign country is unacceptable.
“I’m against murder or killings of any kind, I’m against violence and people getting shot. People need to learn to start using words,” she said. “What I can tell you is we will have to let the feds and the RCMP do their job but I can tell you one thing, it doesn’t matter which country it is, it is totally unacceptable.”
Sukh Dhaliwal, Liberal MP for Surrey-Newton, said Canada is a “rule of law” country and protecting its citizens and defending its sovereignty is of paramount importance. “We’ve got to make sure that we protect that.”
Asked what kind of stick Canada has if Indian government agents were indeed involved in Nijjar’s murder, Dhaliwal said Trudeau has asked the Indian government to “do every effort to cooperate with Canadian agencies.”
“India might be a major power but when it comes to the protection of Canadian citizens we cannot leave any stone unturned. We will do everything possible to protect the Canadians and our sovereignty and that’s what we will continue to do.”
“I know the community will be feeling very angry and frightened right now,” Dhaliwal added. “I think its good to make an appeal that we all remain calm and steadfast in our commitment and make sure that the rule of law brings the justice out, and that’s all I would like to say.”
Premier David Eby said he too received a briefing from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) on the allegations.
“I am deeply disturbed and angered by this information. Canadians across the country must be safe from the interference of foreign governments, including being targeted for threats or physical harm, including murder,” Eby said. “Our democracy depends on it.”
He said in light of the allegations his provincial government will “enhance protection” for British Columbians “against the violence or threats of state actors.
“I call, yet again, on the federal government to share all relevant information related to any known ongoing foreign interference and transnational organized crime threats with our provincial authorities and our government, so we may act in co-ordination and protect those at risk.”
As the investigation continues, he added, he asks “those who are rightly angry to support justice and accountability through our formal legal systems. It is what makes us strong and is what distinguishes us from those who would act illegally to advance their own ends through threats, assassinations and attacks.
“We will win and there will be justice, because it must be so to protect what is best about the province we love,” Eby said.
The City of Surrey also issued a statement on Mayor Brenda Locke’s behalf.
“There is an ongoing investigation currently being conducted and I will monitor this very serious incident that has impacted our city and our country,” she said. “I am confident that law enforcement agencies will ensure that the integrity of Canadian democracy and the safety of our citizens are protected. I hope that this investigation provides Mr. Nijjar’s family with the closure I am sure they seek.”
The Ministry of External Affairs for the Government of India’ statement, in reply to Trudeau’s claim, says India is a “democratic polity with a strong commitment to rule of law” and that “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.
“The inaction of the Canadian Government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern,” it reads.
India’s statement also chides Canadian politicians whom it claims “have openly expressed sympathy for such elements” and that this “remains a matter of deep concern.”
“The space given in Canada to a range of illegal activities including murders, human trafficking and organized crime is not new,” it charges.