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62 days since Trudeau’s allegations against India, Canada yet to provide any proof of Indian involvement in Hardeep Nijjar’s murder

Canada has not provided any substantial evidence other than saying they have “credible allegations” against India.

On 18th September 2023, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dug a deep grave for the India-Canada relationship as he accused Indian agents of being involved in the murder of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil. Nijjar, who got Canadian citizenship despite entering the country on fake documents, was a wanted criminal in India.

It has been over two months, or 62 days to be precise since Trudeau accused India of being involved in the murder. However, Canada has not provided any substantial evidence other than saying they have “credible allegations” against India. Here is a timeline of what has happened so far and how it has ruined the India-Canada relationship.

Here is how the controversy unfolded and its aftermath.

Allegations against India and expulsion of Indian diplomat

On 18th September (local time), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the Canadian Parliament that there were “credible allegations” against Indian agents. He said, “Over the past number of weeks, Canadian Security Agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between the agents of the Government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.” His allegations led to a diplomatic standoff between India and Canada. “In the strongest possible terms, I continue to urge the government of India to cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter,” Trudeau added in his statement.

Soon after his address in the Parliament of Canada, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly informed the press that an Indian Diplomat was expelled as Canada was investigating Nijjar’s murder. “If proven true, this would be a great violation of our sovereignty and of the most basic rule of how countries deal with each other. As a consequence, we have expelled a top Indian diplomat,” she said in her statement.

India rejected allegations and expelled senior Canadian diplomat

Soon after, the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, issued a statement rejecting the allegations. The statement read, “We have seen and rejected the statement of the Canadian Prime Minister in their Parliament, as also the statement by their Foreign Minister. Allegations of the 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. We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to the rule of law.

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.

That Canadian political figures have openly expressed sympathy for such elements 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.

We reject any attempts to connect the 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.”

In retaliation to the expulsion of an Indian diplomat by the Canadian government, the Government of India expelled a senior diplomat of Canada.

On 20th October, 41 more Canadian diplomats and their families left India after the Indian government asked Canada to remove them from Indian soil. India had warned of withdrawing their immunity. Earlier, India suspended Visa service for Canadians in retaliation to the allegations levelled by Canada against India.

Khalistani and anti-India elements grouped against India

Following the allegations, as expected, Khalistani terrorists, pro-Khalistani elements and anti-India elements grouped against India. Khalistani terrorist organisation Sikhs For Justice’s chief Gurpatwant Singh Pannun released a video warning Hindus to leave Canada and asked them to go to India. He said, “Leave Canada, Indo-Hindus, Go India. Indo-Canadian Hindus, you have repudiated the allegiance to Canada and the Canadian constitution. Your destination is India. Leave Canada, go to India.”

Furthermore, he alleged that the Canadian Hindus are not only backing India but also supporting its alleged suppression of pro-Khalistan voices. “You are supporting violence by celebrating the assassination of Shaheed Nijjar,” Pannu reportedly said. Gurpatwant Singh Pannun is a wanted Khalistani Terrorist by the Government of India. He is known for issuing threats and provoking Sikhs against India. He ran a so-called referendum seeking votes by pro-Khalistan Sikhs worldwide to create Khalistan out of Punjab and other Indian states.

Apart from SFJ, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the World Sikh Organisation of Canada (WSO) jointly issued demands to the Canadian government soon after the Canadian Prime Minister falsely claimed Indian agents were involved in the murder of Nijjar. Their demands included calling for the immediate recall of Canada’s Ambassador to India, the expulsion of the Indian Ambassador to Canada, a freeze on trade negotiations between India and Canada, and a ban on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Their press conference in the Canadian House of Commons raised suspicions about their influence on the Trudeau administration. The NCCM, formerly known as CAIR.CAN is linked to the US-based Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

The ‘Five Eye’ mess

During the controversy, development came to light that Five Eyes partners’ intelligence agencies shared intelligence that prompted Justin Trudeau to accuse India of Nijjar’s murder. On 23rd September, US Ambassador to Canada David Cohen said that shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners prompted the Canadian PM to accuse India of Nijjar’s murder.

In an interview, he confirmed that intelligence emboldened Trudeau’s remarks in the Canadian Parliament. However, he didn’t specify the nature of the intelligence. The Five Eyes alliance comprises Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US for intelligence cooperation. He further denied a Washington Post’s report that claimed Canada sought support from the allies to condemn Nijjar’s murder.

British Columbia Premier David Eby expressed frustration, claiming he received only public domain information from Canadian intelligence regarding the matter. Eby emphasised the need for reforms in intelligence sharing.

Nijjar was in contact with Canadian intelligence agencies

Nijjar’s son Balraj Singh Nijjar, claimed his father had regular meetings with Canadian intelligence officers before his murder. He revealed that the meetings revolved around threats Nijjar faced due to his support for the Khalistani movement. The meetings reportedly occurred weekly and had increased in frequency. Balraj said he attended one such meeting last year, where threats to Nijjar’s life were discussed, leading authorities to advise him to stay home. Nijjar’s son also disclosed that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) are in regular contact regarding the case.

SGPC supported Trudeau in allegations against India

The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) has come out in support of Canada by heeding the allegations made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau against India. In a statement posted on X, it said, “The executive meeting of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) held today, expressed serious concern over the allegations levelled by the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, in the Parliament of Canada, of the involvement of officials of Indian agencies in the murder case of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a resident Sikh there.”

Congress’s Ravneet Singh Bittu called Canada CIA’s puppet

On 21st September, Ravneet Singh Bittu, grandson of former Punjab CM Beant Singh, who Khalistanis assassinated, lashed out at Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his statement in Canadian Parliament accusing India of killing Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. He said that being an emotional community, efforts are being made to create division among Sikhs and break them apart. Remembering the sacrifices the Sikh community made for the country, Bittu said that Sikhs have always stood by India.

Lashing out at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his statement in the Canadian Parliament accusing India of the murder of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, Ravneet Bittu said that it has never happened that a Canadian Prime Minister has spoken against India in their Parliament. He mentioned that when Trudeau’s father was Prime Minister of Canada, he shielded the terrorists who later executed the Kanishka plane bombing in which over 300 people were killed. Nijjar was also a terrorist and the right-hand of Jagtar Singh Hawara, who was involved in Beant Singh’s assassination. Calling Canada CIA’s (American Intelligence) puppet, Ravneet Bittu said, “Trudeau’s recent statement will harm Canada’s image. Canada is just a puppet of the CIA.”

Washington Post report said killers were SIkhs

In a report by the Washington Post, it was revealed that the killers of Nijjar were Sikhs. There were at least six men and two vehicles involved in the murder.

Witnesses say about 50 bullets were fired, 34 hitting Nijjar, and describe the gunmen as wearing Sikh attire with hoodies and masks. The report contradicts Canadian allegations against India, highlighting flaws and raising concerns about the authorities’ response and investigation. Witnesses claim police were slow, and disagreements between agencies caused delays.

Authorities sought public help identifying the gunmen and a silver Toyota Camry over a month after the shooting. Community members express concern over the lack of protection for Nijjar and limited information from authorities. The incident has strained India-Canada relations, leading to diplomatic expulsions and a crackdown on Khalistani terrorists in India.

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka supported India

On September 25, Sri Lanka came out in support of India over misplaced and unsubstantiated allegations by Canada that Indian agents were behind the murder of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka Ali Sabry said, “Some of the terrorists have found safe haven in Canada. The Canadian PM has this way of just coming out with some outrageous allegations without any supporting proof.”

Remembering how Canada accused Sri Lanka of genocide in the past, he said, “The same thing they did for Sri Lanka, a terrible, total lie about saying that Sri Lanka had a genocide. Everybody knows there was no genocide in our country.” He added, “So this is questionable, and we have dealt with it in the past. I am not surprised that sometimes PM Trudeau comes out with outrageous and substantiated allegations.”

On 29th September, Bangladesh extended support to India and slammed Canada while voicing its own grievances. In an exclusive interview with India Today, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister, AK Abdul Momen said that Canada should stop sheltering all the murderers. “Canada must not be a hub of all the murderers. The murderers can go to Canada and take shelter, and they can have a wonderful life while those they killed, their relatives are suffering,” he was quoted as saying.

“We have a very good relationship with India and we have a good relationship with Canada. Both countries are friends. I don’t know the details of this issue between India and Canada but I know the issue we have with Canada,” he added. The main source of contention in the case of Bangladesh is Canada’s refusal to extradite Noor Chowdhury, the man who admitted to killing Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh.

MEA Dr S Jaishankar said if provided evidence, he would probe

On 15th November, India’s Minister of External Affairs, Dr S Jaishankar, responded to questions on the allegations made by the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, regarding Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s murder. The accusations revolved around the involvement of Indian agents, directly or indirectly, in the killing of the Khalistani separatist leader in Canada. In an interview in the UK, Dr Jaishankar categorically denied any evidence pointing to the involvement of the Indian government, direct or indirect, in the murder of Nijjar. He stated that Canada did not provide any basis for the allegations.

He contextualized the situation by highlighting political figures in Canada who back separatist ideology. He added that such ideologies sometimes come with violent means. He expressed his concerns about views in Canadian politics as they provide a shield to the anti-India elements, leading to attacks and threats to Indian diplomats.

Disagreeing with the assertions that other countries like Iran, the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia indulge in extraterritorial assassinations and the attempt to put India in a similar situation, Dr Jaishankar disagreed with this comparison, emphasising the need for presenting evidence rather than justifying actions based on historical precedents. He added, “I would not justify it if presented with the evidence. I would look into it.’

Controversial background and Canadian citizenship of Hardeep Singh Nijjar

On 20th September, Immigration Minister of Canada Marc Miller sparked yet another controversy, He claimed to have made an eight-year mistake in stating the citizenship date of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. In a statement, he claimed Nijjar obtained citizenship in Canada in March 2015 but later “corrected” it to May 2007, which preceded the Interpol’s Red Corner Notice against Nijjar issued at the request of Indian agencies.

If the initial date was accurate, it suggested Canada expedited citizenship post-RCN. Given prior issues, Nijjar’s citizenship, raised during talks with India, remains dubious. Indian authorities questioned his stay from 1997 to 2015, starting with a fraudulent passport in 1997.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a notorious Khalistani terrorist. He was involved in anti-India activities and was designated a wanted criminal by the Indian Government. Nijjar was born in Bhar Singhpura in Jalandhar. He served as the President of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Canada. His name was recently added to the list of designated terrorists by the Indian Government.

An award of Rs 10 lakh was announced against Nijjar by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for his role in a conspiracy to assassinate a Hindu priest in Jalandhar, Punjab. The Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), under Nijjar’s leadership, was named as accused in this conspiracy. Additionally, Nijjar had ties to the Khalistani terrorist organisation Sikhs For Justice.

His activities extended beyond borders as he was involved in the Referendum for Khalistan voting by Sikhs For Justice in Australia. The NIA charged him with conspiring to commit terrorist activities against India, citing incriminating remarks, objectionable content, and social media activities aimed at creating tension in the country.

Apart from his Khalistani activities, he also participated in activism as he travelled to Geneva in 2013 to appeal to the UNHRC to recognise the 1984 anti-Sikh violence as a genocide. Despite facing multiple charges and Interpol notices, he continued his separatist agenda, openly calling for the separation of Punjab at the UN Headquarters in 2014.

Nijjar fled India in 1997 under the alias Ravi Sharma. He faced rejection multiple times from Canadian immigration but remained in Canada. Nijjar claimed the Punjab Police tortured him in the 1990s, but Canadian authorities dismissed his plea, citing fabricated documents and unreliable accounts.

Despite facing setbacks for years, he managed to gain Canadian citizenship. While accusing India of his murder, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referred to him as a citizen, sparking debate over the country’s handling of individuals with controversial backgrounds.

During the controversy over Nijjar’s murder, it came to light that he was on the US ‘no-fly’ list since 2019, revealing his flight risk status. The list was reportedly leaked in January 2023, and it contained names of known or suspected terrorists. Nijjar was also on Canada’s no-fly list in 2017-18.

Known criminal activities of Nijjar

In December 2015, Hardeep Nijjar conducted a terror training camp in Mission Hills, British Columbia, Canada. He imparted training to Mandeep Singh Dhaliwal and other radicalised youth in firing AK-47 rifles, sniper rifles, and pistols. Videos of the gun training camp run by Nijjar had appeared in the media, which showed him brandishing an AK-47 riffle.

In 2016, Nijjar sent Dhaliwal to kill Shiv Sena leaders in Punjab but the Punjab Police arrested the latter. Dhaliwal was arrested in May 2016 and an FIR was filed under sections 124-!, 152, 120-B IPC and under sections 10, 16,18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 and sections 25/54/59 of the Arms Act.

In fact, in 2016, the Indian government informed Canada about the terror camp run by Nijjar, with Canadian passport number QK139247, planning terror attacks in Punjab. “Nijjar has been imparting arms training to his group in Canada after Interpol arrested former KTF chief Jagtar Tara in Thailand last year. He took Mandeep Singh and three more Sikh youths recently for AK-47 training in a range near Mission where they were made to fire for four hours daily,” a report sent by India to Canada had said.

In November 2020, Nijjar partnered with fellow gangster Arsh Dalla, and they together were involved in the murder of Manohar Lal, a follower of the Dera Sacha Sauda, in Bathinda in 2021.

OpIndia’s report on detailed dossier prepared by Indian agencies against Nijjar can be checked here.

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B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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