• Tuesday, February 20, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Sikh protests: India summons Canada High Commissioner

By: Pramod Thomas

INDIAN officials on Sunday (26) summoned Canada’s highest-ranking diplomat in New Delhi after a group of Sikh protesters had assembled outside India’s diplomatic mission in Canada.

As per Canadian media, around hundreds of individuals had gathered outside the Indian consulate in Vancouver on Saturday (25) to protest against India’s pursuit of Amritpal Singh, a Sikh separatist who is a fugitive.

The Indian foreign ministry stated that they had summoned the Canadian high commissioner on Saturday to express their apprehension about the actions of extremist and separatist groups towards Indian diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada during the week.

“It is expected that the Canadian government will take steps to ensure the safety of our diplomats and security of our diplomatic premises so that they are able to fulfil their normal diplomatic functions,” foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a statement.

A manhunt for Singh, a radical Sikh preacher, has lasted more than a week, with mobile internet cut and gatherings of more than four people banned in parts of the northern state of Punjab. Around 100 people have been arrested.

Singh rose to prominence in recent months demanding the creation of Khalistan, a separate Sikh homeland, and with his hardline interpretation of Sikhism at rallies in rural pockets of Punjab.

Twitter has blocked for Indian users the accounts of several prominent Sikh Canadians who criticised the crackdown, including MP Jagmeet Singh, reportedly following Indian government requests.

The Twitter accounts of several Punjab-based journalists and prominent members of the Sikh community have also been withheld, according to media reports.

India also summoned the most senior British diplomat last week after some Singh supporters entered and vandalised the Indian High Commission in London.

India also registered a “strong protest” with the US State Department, as well as the US embassy in New Delhi, after men smashed doors and windows at the Indian consulate in San Francisco.

Punjab — which is about 58 percent Sikh and 39 percent Hindu — was rocked by a violent separatist movement for Khalistan in the 1980s and early 1990s in which thousands of people died.

India has often complained to foreign governments about the activities of Sikh hardliners among the Indian diaspora who, it says, are trying to revive the insurgency with a massive financial push.

(AFP)

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