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India Rejects Canadian PM’s Claim Of Its Involvement in Canadian Sikh Leader’s Death

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India has vehemently denied Justin Trudeau’s accusations that it had any part in the assassination of a Canadian Sikh leader.

On Monday, Trudeau accused India of being involved in the shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was killed on June 18 in Canada in front of a Sikh temple. He said that “credible allegations” connecting the killing to the Indian state were being investigated by Canadian intelligence.

As the conflict grew worse, India dismissed a senior Canadian envoy on Tuesday. India took the action after Pavan Kumar Rai, an Indian ambassador, was kicked out of Canada due to the situation.

Assailants shoot Sikh leader Nijjar

Two masked assailants shot and killed Nijjar, 45, when he was inside his car on a busy June evening in Surrey, a city of approximately 200,000 people and 30km (18 miles) east of Vancouver.

He was a well-known Sikh leader in British Columbia’s westernmost province and actively advocated for the establishment of Khalistan, an autonomous Sikh country in the Punjab area of India. His backers claim that due to his advocacy, he has previously been the object of threats.

Canadians of Indian descent number between 1.4 and 1.8 million, and they make up the biggest Sikh community outside of Punjab.

Canada-India trade barbs

At the recent G20 conference in Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was brought up on the topic of Nijjar’s murder, according to Trudeau, who mentioned it in parliament on Monday. “Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” he told lawmakers.

The charges made by Trudeau were “completely rejected” by India’s ministry of external affairs on Tuesday, which referred to them as “absurd” and politically driven. It claimed that Canada was harbouring “Khalistani terrorists and extremists” who posed a security risk to India.

India has previously labelled Nijjar as a terrorist who oversaw a militant separatist outfit; his defenders call these false claims.

Supporters said that Nijjar, a well-known Sikh activist in British Columbia, had previously faced threats as a result of his activity. According to Trudeau, Canadians are outraged by Nijjar’s shooting, and some are now concerned for their safety. Following Trudeau’s remarks, the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey was filled with several sizable memorials and banners in the name of Nijjar.

British Columbia Sikh Gurdwaras Council spokesperson Moninder Singh told the BBC that the community was grateful “that at least the prime minister stood up and acknowledged that there is a foreign hand behind this murder.”

The World Sikh Organisation and other Canadian Sikh organisations praised the prime minister’s remarks, saying they reaffirmed what the Sikh community previously considered to be true.

After a difficult encounter with Modi last week at the G20 summit in India, during which the Indian leader accused Canada of not doing more to stop “anti-India activities of extremist elements,” Modi made reference to the Sikh separatists. This is when Trudeau made his statements.

Additionally recently put on hold were talks between Canada and India for a free trade pact. India acknowledged “certain political developments” but provided little other specifics as to why.

About 2% of India’s population are Sikhs, a religious minority. A separate homeland for Sikhs has long been demanded by some organisations. A separatist insurrection conducted by Sikhs in the 1970s resulted in thousands of deaths until it was put an end a decade later. Since that time, the movement has primarily been restricted to nations with sizable Sikh populations, such Canada and the UK.

Nijjar is the third well-known Sikh leader to pass away suddenly in recent months.

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