September 21, 2023 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
(Surrey, BC) – In light of the acknowledgement that India was behind the political assassination of Bhai Hardeep Singh Nijjar, Sikhs across the country are calling on the Government of Canada to take immediate steps to demonstrate concrete commitments to ensuring the safety and security of Sikhs in Canada. This includes guaranteeing our ability to exercise our Charter rights by freely advocating for Sikh sovereignty and the establishment of Khalistan–without fear of violent reprisals by the Indian state. While we welcome and appreciate the official acknowledgement of India’s responsibility by the Canadian Government and all political parties in Parliament and the subsequent expulsion of an Indian diplomat are important first steps, Canada’s comprehensive response must reflect the gravity of India’s role in the premeditated murder of a Sikh dissident living in Canada.
Based on the numerous public reports available in the media, Canadian security and intelligence agencies were well aware of an active threat to Bhai Hardeep Singh’s life yet failed to stop it. This is a massive failure of Canada’s security agencies to prevent a foreseeable violent crime and gives rise to widespread fear and concern within the community. This incident has had an undeniable chilling effect within the community and gravely harms the ability of Sikhs to exercise their Charter rights across this country. This is in addition to the violent threats that other Sikh activists within Canada continue to face.
Bhai Hardeep Singh was killed in a political assassination due to his bold advocacy for Khalistan. While Sikhs around the world will mark his shahadat (martyrdom) with a steadfast commitment to continue his ongoing and unfinished work, we all reflect on the legacy and loss of a historic community leader. The fact that a political assassination of this nature could occur in broad daylight in Surrey gives rise to grave concerns about the Government of Canada’s lack of decisive action in combating Indian foreign interference in Canada.
Given the lack of demonstrable action in the past has led to a widespread feeling within the community that this brazen attack is the direct result of the impunity that Indian diplomatic and intelligence operatives have enjoyed in this country for decades. Indian intelligence agencies are actively engaging in conduct to influence government decision-making to criminalize and prosecute Sikh political advocacy in Canada under the guise of “countering extremism” while also intimidating activists like Hardeep Singh. Senior intelligence agents–including the RAW official who has been expelled today–are routinely appointed to diplomatic posts in India’s High Commissions, where they are known to engage in clandestine operations against Sikh activists.
Since the 1980s, the Indian state has been attempting to eliminate widespread support for the secession of Punjab from India and the establishment of Khalistan as an independent state. The Indian state’s vicious military operations have been well documented in the way they eliminated Sikh political activists, guerrillas, and their families from the political arena in the early 1990s. This repression has continued since then through the ongoing omnipresence of state violence in Punjab and persecution of vocal Sikh activists. The result of this situation has been the erasure of democratic political space for Sikh political dissent. The enforced peace since the decline of the insurgency in the mid-1990s is maintained not through political settlement, but by maintaining the omnipresence of repressive state violence—and making this violence felt upon the bodies and voices of potential Sikh dissidents today.
Sikhs across the country call on the Government of Canada to provide a comprehensive response in three key areas:
1. We call on the Government of Canada to take concrete action to ensure the safety and security of SIkhs in Canada, which includes prosecuting and removing those individuals engaging in foreign interference in any form, as well as taking active measures to ensure Indian representatives and agents do not harm any other Sikh activists facing similar threats.
2. We call on the Government of Canada to demonstrate transparency. The Government of Canada must ensure a public inquiry is able to examine and publicly disclose the reality and full range of threats posed by Indian foreign interference in Canada, as well as the failure of Canadian security and intelligence agencies in stopping the murder despite prior knowledge of an active threat.
3. We call on the Government of Canada to immediately suspend all intelligence, investigative and prosecutorial cooperation with India in order to uphold Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international human rights obligations. This includes any intelligence sharing, mutual legal assistance, extradition, training exercises, consultation or any other forms of cooperation.
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