HUNDREDS of Sikh protesters rallied outside Indian diplomatic missions in Canada on Monday (25), trampling pictures of prime minister Narendra Modi and burning flags a week after Ottawa said New Delhi had played a role in the killing of a prominent Sikh activist.
About 100 protesters in Toronto burned an Indian flag and struck a cardboard cut-out of Modi with a shoe. About 200 protesters also gathered outside the Vancouver consulate.
“We are not safe back home in Punjab, we are not safe in Canada,” said Joe Hotha, a member of the Sikh community in Toronto, referring to the murder in June of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar near Vancouver. In Ottawa, fewer than 100 people gathered in front of the Indian High Commissioner’s office in the capital.
“We are really thankful to Justin Trudeau… We want no stone left unturned to get to the bottom of this cowardly act,” protester Reshma Singh Bolinas said in Ottawa. Canada should put pressure on India to “stop the killing of innocent people in future.”
Last Monday, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau told parliament that New Delhi was possibly involved in the assassination of the Sikh leader, triggering a major diplomatic crisis between the two nations.
“Now our prime minister tells everything in the parliament, so there is no excuse,” said another Sikh protester, Harpar Gosal from Toronto. “The Indians, they are terrorists, they killed our brother in Vancouver, so that’s why we are protesting here,” said the Canadian outside of the Indian consulate.
Like other protesters, he carried the yellow flag of Khalistan – an independent state that some Sikhs hope to create in the Indian region of Punjab.
Several hundred people gathered in Toronto but also in Ottawa and Vancouver to denounce Modi’s government.
Some of the protesters in both Toronto and Ottawa called for the expulsion of the Indian High Commissioner (ambassador) to Canada, Sanjay Kumar Verma, who earlier said authorities have been informed of the protests and were providing security.
Nijjar, who worked as a plumber, left the north Indian state of Punjab a quarter-century ago and became a Canadian citizen. He has supported the formation of an independent Sikh homeland.
India designated him a “terrorist” in July 2020.
Canada is home to the largest Sikh community in the world outside of India, with 770,000 Canadians professing Sikhism in 2021, or two percent of the country’s population.
The Indian government called the Canadian accusations “absurd” and vehemently denied them. It also advised its nationals not to travel to certain Canadian regions “given the increase in anti-Indian activities” and temporarily stopped processing visa applications in Canada. (Agencie)