A group of Indian-Americans has condemned hate comments and the hostile environment against Hindus in Canada, more than a week after Trudeau's allegations against India over the murder of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar raised concerns over the safety of Hindu Canadians.
Professor Indu Vishwanathan, co-founder of the Understanding Hinduphobia at the Hindu University of America, said, "It is concerning to see Khalistani terrorists repeatedly threaten Hindu Canadians by desecrating and scarring Hindu sacred spaces on Canadian soil. Silence in the face of such brazen Hinduphobia - or worse, the justification that this is an acceptable form of political expression - is tantamount to the endorsement of hate crimes."
Notably, a pro-Khalistani organisation Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) released a video message recently warning Hindus living in Canada and asking them to leave the country as soon as possible. "Indo-Hindu leave Canada; go to India. You not only support India, but you are also supporting the suppression of speech and expression of pro-Khalistan Sikhs," SFJ’s legal counsel Gurpatwant Singh Pannu said in a video that went viral on social media platforms.
Pannu, a top member of Sikhs for Justice, an outlawed organisation in India, was designated as a wanted terrorist in 2020.
'Trudeau should not mix freedom of expression with terror'
Since the video was released, Canada's Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has appealed for calm as Hindu-Canadians face threats to leave the country amid the row, terming the warnings as 'offensive and hateful'.
"The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should not mix freedom of expression with freedom for terror. He should instead stop radicalisation, and drug gangs and diplomatically handle international situations," said Khanderao Kand, a member of the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS).
Moreover, Dr Sampath Shivangi, the chairperson of government affairs of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, has appealed to US President Joe Biden and the Congress to send a message to Ottawa calling for the protection of Indian Canadians, Hindus and Indian students from rising threats
"I doubt it will spill over. We should keep calm but vigilant. Khalistanis represent a very tiny misled minority, instigated by ISI and involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking and other violent criminal activities," said Chicago-based Indian American leader Bharat Barai.
Sri Iyer, the editor of a US-based media company, opined that there was a thin line between freedom of speech and hate speech, and that line was crossed by Pannun when he asked Hindus to leave the country.
Hindu forum calls for banning Pannun's entry into Canada
On Tuesday, the Hindu Forum Canada (HFC) called for prohibition on Pannun's entry into Canadian territory in wake of the hate speech. "The primary purpose of this communication is to alert you to a recent and disconcerting statement made by Mr. Pannu. This statement has garnered serious concern among the Canadian populace. particularly within the Hindu community," said the group in a letter to Canada's Immigration Minister Peter Thorning.
The Centre by its July 10, 2019 notification had declared SFJ unlawful association and had banned it for five years, saying the group's primary objective was to establish an "independent and sovereign country" in Punjab and it openly espouses the cause of Khalistan and in that process, challenges the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India. This was later upheld by an Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act tribunal.
Reactions to threats against Hindu-Canadians
Top Canadian officials and politicians have denounced the “online hate video” and asserted that Hindus are “safe and welcome”.
“Conservatives condemn these comments against our Hindu neighbours and friends. Hindus have made invaluable contributions to every part of our country and will always be welcome here,” said opposition leader Pierre Poilievre.
Canada’s Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan also posted on X, “To Hindu Canadians and Indians from all backgrounds: Anyone who says you do not deserve to be safe & welcomed in your home, does not embody the values of freedom and kindness we hold dear as Canadians. Do not let others de-legitimise or question your place and love for Canada.”
Indo-Canadian MP Chandra Arya, who is a leader of Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party, has slammed his own government for not taking action against Khalistani terrorists and expressed concern about the safety of Hindus in the country.
The Indo-Canadian MP highlighted that such Khalistani terrorists are being worshipped in some places in Canada. Speaking on the tableau parade celebrating the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Arya remarked, "The killing of a duly-elected Prime Minister of the largest democracy of the world, that was allowed to be displayed and celebrated. Which democratic country, in the name of freedom of expression and speech, allows this thing to happen?"
He also said that Pannun's remarks amount to a 'hate crime' that is being done openly and publicly without any consequences, as if "this Khalistani leader is immune to rule of law of this land".
India-Canada relations nosedived to the lowest point after Trudeau's allegations in Canadian Parliament of "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Nijjar, who was gunned down in British Columbia's Surrey on June 18.
India angrily rejected the Canadian PM's allegations as "absurd" and "motivated" and expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move to a similar move 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.
(with inputs from PTI)