In a growing diplomatic spat between Canada and India, a Canadian Sikh group, Sikh for Justice, has called on its members and supporters to stage protests outside Indian diplomatic missions in major Canadian cities on Monday.
This comes just a week after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted at the possible involvement of Indian government agents in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Sikh separatist leader, in British Columbia.
Trudeau's statement last week, in which he mentioned that Canada was pursuing "credible allegations" linking Indian government agents to Nijjar's killing, has strained relations between the two nations. India swiftly denied any involvement in the murder, dismissing the allegations as "absurd."
In response to this growing dispute, both countries have expelled diplomats, and New Delhi has suspended visas for Canadians.
Jatinder Singh Grewal, a director for Sikh for Justice in Canada, stated that their organization would lead the demonstrations outside Indian embassies and consulates in Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver.
The main objective of these protests is to raise public awareness regarding Hardeep Singh Nijjar's killing. Grewal further added, "We are asking Canada to expel the Indian ambassador."
The accusations surrounding Nijjar's murder have attracted considerable attention. Nijjar, who had migrated to Canada from the north Indian state of Punjab twenty-five years ago and had become a Canadian citizen, was a vocal advocate for the establishment of an independent Sikh homeland known as Khalistan within Punjab. India designated Nijjar a "terrorist" in July 2020.
According to reports, the Canadian government has been conducting an extensive investigation into the murder of the Sikh separatist leader, gathering both human and signals intelligence. This investigation, as reported by CBC News last week, included intercepts of communications involving Indian officials present in Canada, with some information reportedly provided by an unidentified ally within the Five Eyes alliance.
Canada is home to approximately 770,000 Sikhs, constituting the largest Sikh population outside their home state of Punjab.
Over the years, Canada has been the site of numerous demonstrations and protests related to Sikh issues, some of which have raised concerns in India.
While Sikhs represent only 2% of India's vast population of 1.4 billion, they form a majority in Punjab, a state with a population of 30 million where Sikhism originated 500 years ago.
The escalating tensions between Canada and India highlight the complexities of international relations and the sensitivities surrounding issues like separatism and allegations of state involvement in violent incidents. Both countries are closely monitoring the situation as protests are set to take place outside Indian diplomatic missions on Monday.