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Who was Hardeep Singh Nijjar, Khalistani terrorist at centre of India-Canada tussle? All you need to know

India strongly rejected the allegations made by Canadian PM Justin Trudeau in the Parliament, calling them 'absurd and motivated'.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee Ottawa (Canada) Published on: September 19, 2023 11:13 IST
Pro-Khalistani protests erupted in Canada in wake of
Image Source : AP Pro-Khalistani protests erupted in Canada in wake of Nijjar's death

Diplomatic tensions between India and Canada escalated on Monday after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged the Indian government of playing a role in the 'killing' of wanted Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was gunned down outside a gurdwara in June.

"Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India," Trudeau said in the House of Commons and referred to Nijjar simply as a "Canadian citizen". After his statements in Parliament, the Canadian Foreign Ministry also expelled a top Indian diplomat citing threats to Canada's sovereignty.

Later, India sharply rejected the claims made by Trudeau in the Canadian Parliament, terming the allegations as 'absurd and motivated'. "Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The inaction of the Canadian Government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern," said the Ministry of External Affairs.

The recent remarks made by Trudeau and the expulsion of the Indian diplomat mark the latest development in souring relations between India and Canada. Last week, Canada cancelled a trade mission to India scheduled for October and trade talks between the two countries have been paused.

Who is Hardeep Singh Nijjar?

Canada-based pro-Khalistan terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen at the parking lot of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in the Punjabi-dominated Surrey city of Canada's British Columbia province.

Born in Jalandhar, Punjab, Nijjar moved to Canada in 1997 and worked as a plumber. He was married and had two children. His wealth rose suddenly due to his involvement in pro-Khalistan activities. He joined the terrorist group Babbar Khalsa International and went on to establish his own group - Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF).

Nijjar was also associated with the separatist organisation, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), which is banned in India. He is accused of being proactively involved in recruiting, training, financing and operationalising pro-Khalistan terrorist modules for spreading terror in India.

The Khalistani terrorist was wanted in several cases, including a blast in 2007 that killed six people in Ludhiana. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed a chargesheet in 2022 against the KTF chief over a conspiracy to kill a Hindu priest in Jalandhar. A cash reward of Rs 10 lakhs was declared against Nijjar by the NIA.

Nijjar had been accused of killing Ripudaman Singh Malik, the man who was acquitted in the 1985 Air India terrorist bombing case, in Surrey last year. He was designated as an 'individual terrorist' by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in July 2020.

India has repeatedly asked the Canadian authorities to take action against Nijjar for his alleged involvement in terrorist acts in Punjab. Last year the Punjab Police had sought the extradition of Nijjar on charges of reviving terrorism in the state.

What followed after Nijjar's death?

After the key Khalistani terrorist was shot dead. a pro-Khalistani poster sparked outrage across India in July by calling India's High Commissioner to Ottawa Sanjay Kumar Verma and Consul General in Toronto Apoorva Srivastava as "killers" of Nijjar. 

Last month, a Hindu temple was vandalised by Khalistanis who allegedly put up posters of " bogus Khalistani referendums" at the door of Surrey Mandir in order to create fear among the Indian community. posters of " bogus Khalistani referendums" at the door of Surrey Mandir in order to create fear among the Indian community. BJP national spokesperson RP Singh condemned the incident and said those attacked on the Hindu temple could never be Sikh.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that Khalistani posters that call for violence against Indian diplomats and missions are "unacceptable", while speaking about activities carried out by Khalistani elements in Canada and the United Kingdom. "In the name of freedom of expression, space to the terrorist elements should not be given and we are very serious in resolution of this issue," he said.

(with agency input)

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