Hardeep Singh Nijjar : Human Rights Activist or Criminal Mastermind? Unpacking the Controversy Between India and Canada.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar : Human Rights Activist or Criminal Mastermind? Unpacking the Controversy Between India and Canada.

Who Is Hardeep Singh Nijjar?

Sikh organisations referred to Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh independence campaigner whose assassination two months ago is at the centre of a widening divide between India and Canada, as a human rights activist while the Indian authorities referred to him as a criminal.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar
PC x @AdityaRajKaul

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday his government is investigating “credible allegations” that Indian government agents were linked to the June 18 killing, when Nijjar was shot outside a Sikh cultural center in Surrey, British Columbia.

Went India has denied any role in the killing, calling the allegations absurd.

A separatist and a plumber in Canada.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, when he died, was a leading member of the movement to create an independent Sikh homeland called Khalistan, and was organizing an informal referendum among the Sikh diaspora with the organization Sikhs for Justice.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar
PC Live India

He also owned a plumbing business and served as president of a Sikh temple, or gurdwara, in suburban Vancouver, where banners with his face promoting the referendum hung on Tuesday. In a 2016 interview with the Vancouver Sun he dismissed reports in the Indian media that he was suspected of leading a terrorist cell.

What is necessary to know about the Sikh movement, which is at the root of the conflict between India and Canada.

“This is nonsense – all the allegations. I’ve lived here for 20 years, right? Look at my record. There is nothing there. I am hardworking. I have my own plumbing business,” Nijjar told the newspaper. At the time, he said he was too busy to participate in expatriate politics.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a fervent advocate of Khalistan who “often led peaceful protests against human rights violations actively taking place in India and in support of Khalistan,” according to the World Sikh Organisation of Canada after his passing.

India Called Them Militants; He Denied It.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a wanted man in India, which has for years viewed Sikh separatists abroad as a security threat.

In 2016, Indian media reported that Nijjar was suspected of plotting a bombing in the Sikh-majority state of Punjab and training terrorists in a small town southeast of Vancouver. He denied the allegations.

In 2020, Indian authorities claimed that Nijjar was a member of a banned terrorist group and designated him a terrorist. That year, they also filed a criminal case against him as several farmers from Punjab were camping on the fringes of New Delhi to protest against the controversial farm laws. The Indian government initially tried to discredit the protests by linking them to Sikh separatists, filing several such cases against Sikh activists in India and abroad.

Last year, Indian authorities had accused Nijjar of being involved in an alleged attack on a Hindu priest in India and had announced a reward of about $16,000 for information leading to his arrest.

India’s war against separatism.

The modern Sikh independence movement lasted until the 1940s but eventually became an armed insurgency that shook the country in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1984, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi gave the order to conduct a raid to catch armed separatists hiding out in the most important site of Sikhism.

Following the attack, two of Gandhiji’s Sikh bodyguards assassinated him, leaving hundreds of people dead. In response, anti-Sikh riots occurred across India in which members of the minority community were dragged out of their homes and killed. The rebellion was eventually suppressed in a crackdown during which thousands were killed, but the goal of Sikh independence still enjoys support from some people in northern India and the Sikh diaspora.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar
Hardeep Singh Nijjar

The government of Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, which is governed by Hindu nationalists, has recently cracked down on both non-Hindu rights organisations and dissidents.

Conflict between India and Canada has always been a result of Sikh diaspora activism. India has frequently accused Canada of supporting “terrorists and extremists,” despite the fact that Canada has the largest Sikh community outside of India.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot in a temple.

According to Canadian authorities, Nijjar was shot as he was exiting the parking lot of the Sikh temple in British Columbia where he was president. He was shot multiple times and passed away right away.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar
Hardeep Singh Nijjar

After the murder, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a lawyer and spokesperson for Sikhs for Justice, said that Hardeep Singh Nijjar had become the target of threats because of his activism. His murder was the second killing of a prominent member of the Sikh community in Canada in two years.

Pannun said he had spoken to Nijjar on the phone the day before he was killed and that Nijjar had told him that Canadian intelligence had warned him that his life was in danger.

Canada’s Sikh community is rallying behind him.

About a week after Nijjar’s murder, about 200 protesters from Canada’s Sikh community gathered to demonstrate in front of the Indian Consulate in Vancouver. Many protesters were convinced that Nijjar’s murder was linked to his call for an independent Sikh state.

One of the demonstrators, Gurkeerat Singh, said of the victim, “He was a loving, hard-working, family man.”

On Monday, British Columbia Sikh Gurdwara Council spokesperson Moninder Singh told Canada’s CTV that the wave of support seen for Nijjar after his death is indicative of how he was viewed in the community

The entire globe, including Punjab, suffered according to Singh.

“The community has been destroyed. Days after the murder, Sukh Dhaliwal, the Surrey-representing member of parliament, remarked, “There are very, very high emotions.

This story has been edited to correct that the rebellion was in the 1970s and 1980s.

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