In a tit-for-tat transfer, India has expelled a senior Canadian diplomat, hours after Ottawa expelled a high Indian official as tensions escalate between the 2 international locations over the killing of Sikh separatist chief Hardeep Singh Nijjar earlier this 12 months.
On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described in parliament what he known as credible allegations that India was related to Nijjar’s assassination in British Columbia state in June.
The Indian authorities dismissed the allegations as “absurd” and requested Canada as a substitute to crack down on anti-India teams working in its territory.
The row centres across the Sikh independence motion, generally generally known as the Khalistan motion. India accuses Canada of sheltering Khalistani activists.
Right here’s all that you must know:
What triggered the tensions?
Nijjar, 45, was shot lifeless outdoors a Sikh temple on June 18 in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb with a big Sikh inhabitants, three years after India had designated him as a “terrorist”.
Nijjar supported the demand for a Sikh homeland in India’s northern state of Punjab, the birthplace of the Sikh faith, which borders Pakistan. He was reportedly organising an unofficial referendum in India for an impartial Sikh nation on the time of this demise.
Trudeau on Monday mentioned any involvement of a international authorities within the killing of a Canadian citizen was “an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty”.
On Tuesday, India’s Ministry of Exterior Affairs (MEA) mentioned allegations of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are “absurd and motivated”.
It mentioned the “unsubstantiated allegations” sought to shift focus away from “Khalistani terrorists and extremists who’ve been supplied shelter in Canada”.
Indian authorities introduced a money reward final 12 months for data resulting in Nijjar’s arrest, accusing him of involvement in an alleged assault on a Hindu priest in India.
Trudeau mentioned he introduced up Nijjar’s killing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Group of 20 (G20) Summit in New Delhi final week. He mentioned he informed Modi that any Indian authorities involvement could be unacceptable and that he requested for cooperation within the investigation.
“Within the strongest potential phrases, I proceed to induce the federal government of India to cooperate with Canada to unravel this matter,” he mentioned.
How did India reply?
The MEA dismissed the accusation that India was linked to Nijjar’s killing.
“Such unsubstantiated allegations search to shift the main focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who’ve been supplied shelter in Canada and proceed to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a ministry assertion mentioned.
— Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) September 19, 2023
On Tuesday, the international ministry mentioned it had given a senior Canadian diplomat 5 days to go away the nation, with out disclosing his identify or rank.
“The choice displays the federal government of India’s rising concern on the interference of Canadian diplomats in our inner issues and their involvement in anti-India actions,” it mentioned.
The ministry had summoned Cameron MacKay, Canada’s excessive commissioner in New Delhi, to inform him of the transfer, it added.
Earlier, New Delhi urged Ottawa to take motion towards anti-Indian teams in Canada.
“Allegations of the federal government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated,” it mentioned, including that related accusations made by Trudeau to Modi had been “utterly rejected”.
Who was Hardeep Singh Nijjar?
Here’s what is understood about Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the person on the centre of the India-Canada row.
Nijjar was born in 1977 in Jalandhar district in India’s northern state of Punjab and moved to Canada in 1997, the place he labored as a plumber, in line with the Khalistan Extremism Monitor of the New Delhi-based impartial Institute for Battle Administration.
He was initially related to the Babbar Khalsa Worldwide (BKI) Sikh separatist group, in line with India’s counter-terrorist, Nationwide Investigation Company. New Delhi has listed BKI as a “terrorist organisation” and says it’s funded by Pakistan’s Inter-Providers Intelligence (ISI) spy company, a cost Islamabad denies.
Nijjar later grew to become chief of the Khalistan Tiger Power (KTF) group and was “actively concerned in operationalising, networking, coaching and financing” its members, in line with a 2020 Indian authorities assertion.
New Delhi formally categorised him as a “terrorist” in the identical assertion, saying he was concerned in “exhorting seditionary and insurrectionary imputations” and “making an attempt to create disharmony amongst totally different communities” within the nation.
For supporters demanding a so-called impartial Sikh state of Khalistan, Nijjar was a distinguished chief and a robust voice for the trigger.
He was elected head of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurudwara, a Sikh place of worship, in Surrey, the Vancouver suburb the place he lived. He held that place on the time of his demise.
Nijjar was shot lifeless outdoors the identical gurudwara on the night of June 18.
Lots of of individuals protested outdoors the Indian consulate in Vancouver after his homicide, alleging international palms had been concerned in his demise, native media reported on the time.
What’s the Sikh separatist motion?
Sikhism is a minority faith originating in northern India that traces its roots again to the fifteenth century and drew influences from each Hinduism and Islam.
Its adherents make up lower than two % of India’s 1.4 billion folks however Sikhs are almost 60 % of the inhabitants within the northern state of Punjab, the religion’s heartland.
India received its independence in 1947 however instantly suffered by way of the blood-soaked Partition that divided the previous British colony alongside spiritual strains.
Muslims fled to the newly shaped nation of Pakistan whereas Hindus and Sikhs fled to India within the ensuing violence, which killed no less than a million folks.
The historic area of Punjab was break up between the 2 international locations and was wracked by a few of the worst violence of Partition.
Since then, some Sikhs have known as for the creation of “Khalistan”, a separate sovereign nation and “land of the pure” carved out of Punjab and ruled by the religion’s precepts.
These calls grew louder in subsequent many years as Punjab grew to become one of many wealthiest states in India, owing to an agricultural revolution that dramatically lifted farm yields.
The separatist motion started as an armed insurrection within the late Nineteen Eighties amongst Sikhs demanding a separate homeland. The violent motion lasted greater than a decade and was suppressed by an Indian authorities crackdown wherein hundreds of individuals had been killed, together with distinguished Sikh leaders.
Lots of of Sikh youths had been additionally killed in police operations, a lot of which had been later confirmed in courts to have been staged, in line with rights teams.
In 1984, Indian forces stormed the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine, in Amritsar to flush out separatists who had taken refuge there. The operation killed about 400 folks, in line with official figures, however Sikh teams say hundreds had been killed.
The lifeless included Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, whom the Indian authorities accused of main the armed insurrection.
On October 31, 1984, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had ordered the raid on the temple, was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards.
Her demise triggered a sequence of anti-Sikh riots, wherein Hindu mobs went from home to deal with throughout northern India, significantly New Delhi, pulling Sikhs from their houses, hacking many to demise and burning others alive.
BREAKING: Trudeau’s assertion relating to allegations of India’s involvement in killing of Sikh chief in Canada pic.twitter.com/ECmwQqnkNY
— The Spectator Index (@spectatorindex) September 18, 2023
Canadian-based Sikh extremists had been additionally accused of finishing up the 1985 bombing of an Air India flight, killing 329 folks, for the Khalistan trigger.
Is the motion nonetheless lively?
There isn’t any lively insurrection in Punjab immediately, however the Khalistan motion nonetheless has some supporters within the state, in addition to within the sizable Sikh diaspora abroad.
The Indian authorities has warned repeatedly through the years that Sikh separatists had been attempting to make a comeback. Modi’s authorities has additionally intensified the pursuit of Sikh separatists and arrested dozens of leaders from varied outfits allegedly linked to the motion.
However Hartosh Bal, govt editor of The Caravan journal in India, informed Al Jazeera the Sikh separatist motion has been non-existent for many years.
“The Khalistan motion has an extended historical past and through the Nineteen Eighties, there was a violent navy motion on Indian soil. However ever since – no less than in India, within the state of Punjab, the place the Sikhs are the bulk – the Khalistan motion has been just about non-existent, enjoys no political help and goes up and down relying on the eye the Indian authorities pays to it,” Bal mentioned.
“This consideration has gone up significantly for the reason that Modi authorities got here to energy in 2014. It does have sturdy roots each in Canada and the UK, the place issues like referendums are held, however on condition that the overwhelming majority of Sikhs are on Indian soil and aren’t members on this referendum, these might have ideally been simply ignored.
“However the Modi authorities has constantly overestimated the Khalistani risk to India. I feel, once more, as a result of it fits them domestically to speak about safety threats to the Indian nation, moderately than the precise measure of risk on the bottom from the motion.”
How sturdy is the motion outdoors India?
India has been asking international locations resembling Canada, Australia and the UK to take authorized motion towards Sikh activists. It has significantly raised these issues with Canada, the place Sikhs make up almost 2 % of the nation’s inhabitants.
Earlier this 12 months, Sikh protesters pulled down the Indian flag on the nation’s excessive fee in London and smashed the constructing’s window in a present of anger towards the transfer to arrest Amritpal Singh, a 30-year-old separatist chief who had revived requires Khalistan and stirred fears of violence in Punjab.
Protesters additionally smashed home windows on the Indian consulate in San Francisco and skirmished with embassy employees.
The MEA denounced the incidents and summoned the UK’s deputy excessive commissioner in New Delhi to lodge a protest towards what it known as the breach of safety on the embassy in London.
The Indian authorities additionally accused Khalistan supporters in Canada of vandalising Hindu temples with “anti-India” graffiti and of attacking the places of work of the Indian Excessive Fee in Ottawa throughout a protest in March.
Final 12 months, Paramjit Singh Panjwar, a Sikh separatist chief and head of the Khalistan Commando Power, was shot lifeless in Pakistan.