By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, May 1: A threat publicly issued to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh by pro-Khalistan elements during an event in Surrey city of Canada’s British Columbia province recently has drawn an official protest from India.
Sources here told IANS that the Indian High Commission in Canadian capital Ottawa has lodged a “formal complaint” to Global Affairs-Canada, the foreign office last week, following the open threat to Amarinder Singh and hate speeches.
Videos of the ‘Vaisakhi Parade’ in Surrey on April 22 have been sent to the Canadian foreign ministry as proof of the open threats issued to Amarinder by Sikh hardliners.
The communication has also objected to the public display of Khalistan floats with images of slain separatist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and other terrorists, pictures of Kalashnikov rifles and photographs of former and serving army and police officers who are on the hit-list of Sikh radicals.
It is learnt that the Canadian authorities were cautioned about the “anti-India propaganda” of the Khalistani elements by the Indian authorities, who were anticipating such trouble, on April 13 itself. The Canadian foreign ministry, responding to the early warning, said it will take “necessary action”.
However, the Khalistani elements were allowed to have a free run and even issued threats on loudspeakers to Amarinder Singh in front of hundreds of people from the Indian community who participated in the April 22 parade. The Canadian provincial police and security agencies were present when all this happened, the sources told IANS.
It is learnt that the complaint pointed out to two Khalistani activists, Inderjit Singh Bains (an ex-office bearer of the Dashmesh Gurdwara, Surrey) and another person from the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) organization.
British Columbia premier Christie Clark had also attended the parade. The Punjabi Diaspora, particularly Sikhs, form a major vote-bank in the election-bound province.
“These kinds of open and cheap threats show the extent of radicalisation in a relatively small section of the Sikh community in Canada. They endorse our stand of pro-Khalistani leanings of such elements in the Canadian Sikh community. Such brazen threats, and that too against the elected chief minister of a state in another country, should have no place in a democratic polity. It is up to the Prime Minister of Canada and the authorities there to rein in such elements and take preventive action to ensure that things do not get out of hand,” Raveen Thukral Media Advisor to the Punjab Chief Minister told IANS.
The Amarinder Singh government cold shouldered visiting Canadian Defence Minister of Indian-origin, Harjit Singh Sajjan, 46, as he visited various places in Punjab last month.
Amarinder refused to meet Sajjan, the first Sikh to be the defence minister of a western country, accusing him and other ministers of Punjab origin in the government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of links to radical elements demanding a separate Sikh state of Khalistan.
No minister or senior officer of the Punjab government either went to welcome Sajjan or even accompany him during the visit.
Amarinder had pointed out that “Sajjan and several other ministers and top leaders in Canada were sympathizing with those indulging in anti-India activities, notwithstanding Canada’s claims to the contrary”, adding that he would “not meet any Khalistani sympathisers”.
“I will personally not entertain the Canadian minister as I have concrete information about his being a Khalistani sympathiser, just as his father Kundan Sajjan, a board member of the World Sikh Organisation, was,” Amarinder had said earlier.
“Not only Sajjan but other ministers and MPs, including Navdeep Bains, Amarjit Sohi, Sukh Dhaiwal, Darshan Kang, Raj Grewal, Harinder Malhi, Roby Sahota, Jagmeet Singh and Randeep Sari, were well known for their leanings towards the Khalistani movementaa I will not be seen hobnobbing with a Khalistani sympathiser,” Amarinder pointed out.
Amarinder has been annoyed with the Canadian government since April last year when he was denied permission to visit that country, which has a sizeable Punjabi Diaspora, in the run-up to the Punjab assembly elections. The SFJ had complained to the Canadian government against Amarinder’s visit.
The Congress leader had to cancel his trip after being told by the Canadian authorities at the last minute that he could not allowed to visit the country for holding political rallies and meetings. The visit was aimed at wooing influential Non-Resident Indian (NRI) groups in Canada.
Amarinder had shot of an angry letter to Trudeau protesting against the “gag order”. He was informed by Foreign Secretary S. Jaishanker of the Canadian government’s stance.
Trudeau’s prdecessor, Stephen Harper, had visited Punjab in 2012 and 2009 in an apparent bid to woo the Punjabi and Sikh community in Canada.