On December 26th of this year, an alarming shooting incident unfolded at the residence of the son of the President of Laxmi Narayan Temple in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. The Indian media has swiftly characterized this event as an act committed by pro-Khalistan elements, escalating concerns over the resurgence of such groups.
Around 2:26 am, three to four unidentified individuals engaged in a drive-by shooting at the residence situated on 80th Avenue in Surrey—a typically tranquil residential area. Although the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Surrey Police are actively investigating the incident, Satish Goel, the temple president, asserts that there is currently no concrete evidence linking the attack to Khalistani groups. In an interview with ANM, Satish emphasized, “Till now no one has claimed responsibility or come forward. Therefore, it is not right to blame anyone or any group.”
Satish contends that his son harbors no animosity toward anyone, making it difficult to pinpoint potential suspects in this distressing act. He recounted how his son initially dismissed the noise he heard in the night, only realizing the targeted nature of the incident in the morning when he discovered shattered glass and bullet holes in the garage walls. Satish contacted the police, prompting an ongoing investigation aimed at swiftly resolving the case and restoring peace to the community.
The incident unfolds against the backdrop of a resurgence in pro-Khalistan sentiments in Canada, marked by “credible allegations” statement raised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this year, at the murder of Harjeet Nijjar in the premises of a Gurdwara in Surrey, by unknown elements. Satish, reflecting on the state of freedom of speech in Canada, expressed concern about its abuse, citing an increase in incidents such as vandalism. He highlighted instances where individuals had jumped the boundary wall of the temple, pasted flyers, and raised Khalistan slogans during a life certificate camp organized at the temple by the Counsel General of India. Since many residents still draw pension from India, government of India from time to time organizes these camps.
Over the past year, acts of vandalism against Hindu temples in Canada have witnessed a concerning uptick. Notable incidents include the vandalization of a Hindu temple in Brampton in January and an occurrence at the Ram Mandir in Mississauga in February. The BAPS Swaminarayan temple in Windsor, Ontario, fell victim to anti-India graffiti, while another Hindu temple faced pro-Khalistan referendum posters. In November, Gurpant Singh Pannun of Sikhs for Justice issued threats against Air India passengers and Hindus in Canada, raising tensions within the community.
Despite the rise in extremist activities, Satish urged caution against prematurely concluding that the Indian community is fearful of attending temples due to the recent shooting. Satish affirms that till now no Hindu has been harmed nor hurt in anyway, despite threats from some extremist elements and that no one feels unsafe in Canada. He noted ongoing police investigations into an extortion racket operated by anti-social elements targeting the community near Vancouver, emphasizing the need for a measured response to the evolving situation.