By: Pippal Singh Randhawa
Source: The Amritsar Talks
Hardeep Singh Nijjer, a Canadian citizen, who was shot dead in June 2023 at the Sikh Gurdwara of Vancouver where he was president. He was a Sikh separatist and activist. After months of his death, Canada has openly accused India of orchestrating his assassination. However, both Indian and Western media have primarily marginalised the context and facts surrounding the escalation between Canada and India.
The dossier accusing Hardeep Singh Nijjar of the Shingar Cinema bomb blast was given to the Canadian Prime Minister in 2018 by then chief minister of Punjab, Capt. Amrinder Singh. The case has been prominently featured in Indian media reports. However, what has been conveniently omitted is that the Indian court eventually acquitted all the individuals arrested and prosecuted for the bomb blast.
Notably, the court acquitted all those who were blamed for the physical execution of the bomb blast. This raises questions about the credibility of the government’s accusations against Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Furthermore, it is essential to mention that the Shingar bomb blast occurred in 2007, while Nijjar had left India a decade earlier in 1997. This time gap casts doubt on his alleged involvement in the incident.
The Indian and Western media’s failure to highlight these crucial facts contributes to a distorted narrative, potentially influencing public opinion and diplomatic relations between Canada and India. Considering all the relevant information and weighing it objectively before drawing conclusions or making accusations is imperative.
In addition to Hardeep Singh Nijjar, another individual named Gurjit Singh Cheema was also included in the dossier handed over to the Canadian Prime Minister. Cheema, a Canadian citizen, was booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in 2017 by the Indian government. However, it is important to note that the case against him was not related to any acts of violence but rather the alleged smuggling of weapons and explosives.
Interestingly, all the individuals accused of physically executing the smuggling were acquitted of the charges under the terror law. This raises doubts about the legitimacy of the accusations made against Gurjit Singh Cheema. The court found the charges under the UAPA to be unsubstantiated, suggesting that the allegations may have been baseless.
It is also worth noting that Punjab has witnessed several major terror attacks in the last two decades, including the Shingar cinema bomb blast in 2007, the Pathankot terror attack in 2015, the Dinanagar terror attack in 2016, and the Maur bomb blast attack in 2017. Initially, Khalistani groups were accused of being responsible for these attacks. However, it is crucial to mention that none of these attacks have been attributed to Khalistan.
In the case of the Shingar cinema bomb blast, allegations against all the accused were found false. It is important to note that both the Dinanagar and Pathankot attacks were associated with militancy in Kashmir and had no connection to the Khalistan movement.
One shocking incident was the Maur bomb blast, which occurred just before the Punjab assembly elections in 2017. The timing of the explosion was crucial, as it resulted in the death of seven people and created a narrative against the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for allegedly harbouring Khalistanis.
However, it was later revealed that an influential sect leader, who had close ties with parties fearing election defeat to the AAP in Punjab, was actually behind the attack. Astonishingly, this sect leader, who has been convicted of rape and murder, has not been questioned for his role in the bombing, which tragically claimed the lives of five children.
The lack of justice in the Maur bomb blast case is alarming. All political parties showed little interest in pursuing the investigation once the Khalistani angle was ruled out. It is disconcerting that despite his criminal convictions, the sect leader continues to receive favours from respective governments.
The assertion that there is hardly any violence in the name of Khalistan in India or Punjab holds considerable validity. The instances of violence attributed to Khalistan separatists are relatively zero, and the term Sikh separatist is often used to label Sikh members of violent criminal gangs. On the other hand, Hindu members of these same gangs are typically regarded as nationalists, highlighting a bias in how these individuals are categorised.
Interestingly, there have been instances where the violent activities of non-Sikh members are unjustly attributed to Khalistan separatists. This pattern becomes evident when minor crimes, with no physical harm caused, are linked to Khalistanis. In some cases, minor blasts are used to blame Khalistanis for violence falsely. It is crucial to note that Hindu individuals have also been involved in these crimes.
However, it is important to mention that none of these cases have been proven in court so far. This raises questions about the credibility of the accusations made against Sikh individuals and the narratives that are constructed around them.
Small crimes being attributed to Khalistanis have a pattern in which no physical harm is caused. Minor blasts are used to blame Khalistanis for violence. Hindu accused are also involved in these crimes. None of such cases has been proved in court so far.
In the recent string of 4 attacks on Punjab police stations, the common thread that has been identified is the involvement of Sikhs for Justice (SFJ). However, the organisation is based in the US, not Canada, as often mentioned. However, it is worth noting that SFJ has never claimed responsibility for any of these attacks.
There have been allegations made by Indian diplomatic channels that Khalistanis are responsible for defacing Hindu temples in Australia and Canada. However, no evidence linking Khalistani involvement to any of these attacks has been found thus far. In fact, an Australian police investigation discovered that members of some temples might have defaced their own temple to disrupt an SFJ rally.
It is important to remember that these assertions are predominantly reported by the Indian media, which is often seen as a mouthpiece for the government. Independent reporting can shed new light on the context, reveal additional facts, and expose potential falsehoods surrounding these incidents.