Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, whose killing in British Columbia has led to an escalating diplomatic standoff between India and Canada, visited Pakistan in 2012 to meet another pro-Khalistan terrorist Jagtar Singh Tara, the chief of Babbar Khalsa International, another banned terror group, according to sources.
The pro-Khalistan terrorist was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen at the parking lot of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in the Punjabi-dominated Surrey city of British Columbia province on June 18. He was involved in training youths at a terror camp in British Columbia to carry out attacks in India, sources told news agency PTI.
Sources revealed that years after Nijjar escaped to Canada, he assumed the role of 'Operation Chief' of banned terror organisation Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF). He visited Tara under the guise of a Baisakhi Jatha member and the latter supplied him with weapons and trained him in assembling improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in 2012 and 2013.
Tara, who later became KTF chief in 2013, also sent the US-based terrorist Harjot Singh Birring to Canada to train Nijjar in operating hand-held GPS devices. Nijjar had provided 1 milion Pakistani rupees to Tara. Additionally, Nijjar also served as the head of outlawed Sikhs for Justice's (SFJ) Canada chapter and orchestrated violent anti-India protests in Canada while also threatening Indian diplomats.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had registered several cases against Nijjar and also issued an Interpol Red Corner Notice for raising a module in Canada involving Khalistani separatist Mandeep Singh Dhaliwal, sources said. However, no action was taken by the Canadian side, as per reports.
Details of the cases were shared with the Canadian authorities but no action was taken, sources said. Also, despite RCN, the Canadian authorities did not take any action except putting him on a no-fly list, they said.
Notably, Jagtar Singh Tara is serving a life imprisonment for the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh in 1995. Tara was arrested in 1995, but escaped from jail in 2004. He was rearrested in Thailand in 2015.
Nijjar indulged in drug trafficking, extortion
Additionally, sources said that Nijjar was involved in running terrorist training camps and funding terror acts, and was a close associate of Gurdeep Singh alias Deepa Heranwala of the Khalistan Commando Force, who was allegedly responsible for the deaths of around 200 people in Punjab during the late 1980s.
Nijjar had escaped to Canada in 1996 fearing arrest and indulged in illegal activities like drug smuggling and extortion to gain funding for terrorist activities, according to sources. He allegedly muscled his way for the post of president of a local Gurdwara in British Columbia's Surrey by forcibly deposing his cousin Raghbir Singh Nijjar with threats of violence.
He also planned a terror attack on Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters in Haryana's Sirsa after receiving directions from Tara. The attack was foiled as Nijjar was denied an Indian visa. The deceased terrorist also supported calls to ban officials from the Indian embassy to participate in programmes organised by local gurdwaras in Canada, sources further said.
Nijjar was designated as a 'terrorist' by India in 2020 and was accused of being actively involved in "operationalising, networking, training and financing" members of the KTF group.
India-Canada diplomatic tensions
Relations between India and Canada soured after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made explosive allegations of 'potential' involvement in Nijjar's killing in June. India angrily rejected the allegations as "absurd and motivated" and expelled a Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move towards a similar action by Ottawa.
India also temporarily suspended visa services for Canadian nationals in view of "security threats" and called for a reduction of Canadian diplomats in New Delhi. India also advised all its nationals in Canada and those contemplating travelling there to exercise "utmost caution" in view of growing anti-India activities and "politically-condoned" hate crimes.
Trudeau has faced intense backlash amid the resurgence of the Khalistan issue, which has remained a point of contention between India and Canada for many decades. Trudeau is yet to provide any official evidence of India's involvement, but has insisted that there 's "credible link".
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that America is “deeply concerned” about the allegations raised by Trudeau regarding India’s involvement in the killing of the Khalistani terrorist, adding that it is critical that the investigation into the matter proceeds.
“We are deeply concerned about the allegations that Canadian PM Trudeau has raised. We have been consulting very closely with our Canadian colleagues, and coordinating with them on this issue. From our perspective, it is critical that the Canadian investigation proceeds,” Blinken said at a press conference.
(with inputs from PTI)