Even though India and Canada try to thaw out the strife between the two countries after PM Trudeau accused India of masterminding “its citizen and Sikh leader” Harjeet Singh’s Nijjar’s murder, new videos of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun are in circulation on social media threatening Modi to vacate Punjab are scaring those who are not supporters of Khalistan.
Due to this fear people of Indian origin in Canada demands of apology from PM Trudeau is fast growing.
“Modi, learn from Palestine. People under occupation from Punjab to Palestine, with react. Violence begets violence,” “If India will keep occupying Punjab, Modi you will be responsible. Liberation of Punjab is on the cards. India the choice is yours – ballot or bullet,” thunders Pannun in these videos.
Scary indeed are these videos for those living out of India and who are not supporters of Khalistan. These people of Indian diaspora are today living in fear as the issue of Khalistan has once again come to the fore, emboldened by Trudeau, siding with the separatists, by calling Nijjar a “Sikh leader, instead of a terrorist”.
“With this definition, shouldn’t the Hamas leaders be called Palestine leaders and not terrorists, who inhumanely are reportedly killing people, including little children – the kind of barbarism not seen in the 21st century?”, questions people of diaspora.
People suffer amidst thaw in Indo-Canadian relations
Wait for visa services for common people is endless in a time when Indian diaspora look forward to visit India in a prolonged festive season between September to November. The season also includes an important 15 day-period when people pay homage to their loved ones who have left them, and perform certain rituals called Shraddh. During Sharadh, many Indo-Canadians travel to India, to perform rituals for their ancestors. This is considered an important ritual for one’s own wellbeing and the souls of their ancestors.
Both countries issued travel advisories to its citizens, India suspended issuing visas to Canadian tourists and Indo-Canadians. With the withdrawal of 41 Canadian diplomats amidst warning by India to suspend diplomatic immunity the situation of stalemate has grown.
Political observers believe that Trudeau’s decision to level allegations against India was just to divert Canadians’ attention from inflation, high interest rates or the housing issue within his own country. Unfortunately, that seemed to have backfired as without credible evidence to blame another country for a crime committed on his own soil, is nothing but a security lapse of its own agencies.
But now what? Are the Canadians so charmed by Trudeau that they will run to vote his Liberal party, come elections? Will they forget easily that due to his baseless statements, they were stopped from going to India to perform certain rituals for their dead, or to attend weddings, some of which were cancelled due to the visa cancellations or celebrate festivals?
As relatives, parents, brothers and sisters waited for their relatives to come home to celebrate with them, cancellation of visa by India put a damper in their plans. An important event in the lives of many, had to be missed due to political wrangling between the two countries.
Growing demand for apology from PM Trudeau!
Vijay Jain, director of COHHE – Canadian organization for Hindu Heritage Education, calls on Canadian Prime Minister to apologise immediately so that the relations between the two countries can come back on track and doors can open between the two countries again. The statement made by PM Trudeau in Parliament is very unfortunate. Says he, “As a Canadian citizen, I would like to have good relations between India and Canada as India is important for both economies. From a foreign affairs standpoint, Trudeau should not have made that baseless allegation. Charges that India had a hand in the killing of Nijjar are unsubstantiated and unfounded statements. It was a big blunder on his part. Trudeau should apologise immediately.”
When Canadian Parliament’s former speaker, mistakenly honoured Yaroslav Hunka, who served in the Nazi unit, by inviting him to the legislature, Prime Minister Trudeau immediately expressed “unreserved apologies” on behalf of all of Canada. So why cannot he apologise on his baseless allegation by blaming India for the murder and called Nijjar a Sikh leader when he was a wanted terrorist by India. Trudeau’s statement has emboldened the Khalistanis, feels Jain. “The impact of Trudeau’s unfounded allegations has resulted in Hindus being targeted. We are living in fear today. Khalistan supporters indulge in criminal activity. We know that they killed 331 people in the twin Air India bombing – 280 were Canadian citizens. It is well known that they are involved in criminal activities like drug trafficking and Nijjar’s murder could have been a result of gang war. India responded as it should but as a Canadian citizen, I do expect Trudeau to apologize so our lives come back to normal. ”
“By not apologising, who is the Prime Minister trying to protect?” asks Jain. “Media keeps calling Nijjar a Sikh leader. How do they know that he was a Sikh leader? By calling him a Sikh leader, they are maligning all Sikhs. Was Osama-Bin-laden a leader of the Muslim community? Just like Osama, Nijjar was a wanted terrorist and should not be glorified. In the guise of free speech, terrorist activities within Canada are being glorified.”
A rally was organised in Toronto in early October in support of Palestine as the war between Hamas and Israel escalated. Jain tweeted ‘What are you doing about rallies being organised in Toronto in Nathan Phillips Square to glorify terrorists? Those who glorify acts of terrorism or allow to let it happen are also terrorists …unfortunately Canada has such people sitting in Parliament Hill.’
Vijay Jain, on behalf of COHHE, filed a petition in the House of Commons, in July this year, much before Trudeau called Nijjar a Sikh leader and blamed India for his murder. His petition seeks to-
1) Recognize Hindu phobia as a term in the glossary of terms in the Human Rights Code to describe anti-Hindu prejudice and discrimination;
2) Recognize following definition of Hindu phobia: Anti Hindu sentiment or Hindu phobia is denial, negation, prejudice or vilification against Hindus, Hinduism, or Hinduness; and
3) Fund the development of educational and training materials along with a plan to educate Canadians about Hindu phobia and anti-Hindu sentiment to raise awareness and address systemic and institutional Hindu phobia.
What was the need of this petition? Says Vijay, “Hindus in Canada face growing negative stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination at work, in schools and in the communities; and Hindu traditions and culture are misrepresented and misunderstood by media and academia. In last few years, Hindu phobia has reached unprecedented proportions. Hindu phobia in communities exists but is shoved under the carpet by terming it as freedom of expression.”
Demand for acknowledging phenomenon called ‘Hindophobia’
Jain says that Hindus may be from Indian origin but they came from other countries like Sri Lanka, Kenya, Fiji, the Caribbean among others. Says Jain, “Hindus form 2.3% of Canada’s population. Hindus represent the indigenous people of Indian sub-continent, with a distinct and diverse culture, languages and philosophy. It is because Hindu phobia is a term not recognised in Canadian legislation, attacks on Hindus and Hindu temples are merely dismissed as vandalism and the hate messages as graffiti. These attacks are not treated or investigated seriously. Today our community does not feel safe in their places of worship. We need to ensure Hindu phobia is recognised just like Islamaphobia and anti-Semitism is, so police agencies can investigate properly.”
Hindu Forum of Canada is another non-profit organisation working to ensure that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are upheld for all communities and individuals. Says Gaurav Sharma, spokesperson of the Forum, “Our main focus is to generate awareness about Hindu phobia. We write letters to Members of Parliament condemning attacks on the community especially on our places of worship. We try to dispel any misinformation about Hinduism. This is the petition we have been working for couple of years, we have got Hinduphobia added Peel district school board, also got passed in board. Now we want it recognised federally and incidents should be reported as such so we can educate people.”
When they glorify those people who call for killing of 5000 Hindus, it should not be considered as free speech but Hindu phobia, asserts Jain. “That is hate speech and not freedom of expression. And those who indulge in such hatred should be charged under Hindu phobia. Legislation needs to be introduced so even Hindus feel safe in this country.”
In the last one year, there have been 10-11 attacks on Hindu temples in the Toronto area alone and anti Hindu and threatening messages have been plastered on its walls along with other temples in other parts of the country. The stalemate between India and Canada has gone on for far too long and it is high time that the two countries try to improve their relations by talking on the table. US State Department spokesperson, when asked to comment on the India Canada rift, made it clear that the USA’s relationship with India is “an important, strategic, and consequential partnership.” Earlier this week the US rejected a report that the standoff between India-Canada could worsen ties between New Delhi and Washington. The US was responding to US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti statement that India-US ties could get worse. Joe Biden’s administration has mostly been avoiding to come in between the two countries with US officials asking both India and Canada to resolve their differences bilaterally.
UK and Canada Prime Minister reportedly talked on the phone regarding the present situation, before Sunak leaves for India around Dussehra with an aim to conclude a free trade agreement to boost UK’s economy. The two leaders did discuss the Nijjar issue but according to Downing Street statement, Sunak reaffirmed UK’s position that all countries should respect sovereignty and rule of law. Thus it appears, the only support Trudeau has on this issue is his friend NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. The West and even the Five Eye, has refused to get involved in the murky waters of baseless allegation against a country, that is the fifth largest economy and a rising force to be reckoned with.