Farmers' protest: India may seek help from Canada in Greta toolkit probe

Updated on Feb 05, 2021 11:49 AM IST

The toolkit is linked to the Vancouver-based organisation Poetic Justice Foundation. HT reached out to PJF founder Mo Dhaliwal, who agreed to an interview but then said he will issue a statement instead

Demonstrators at the Tikri border site of a farmers’ protest against new farm laws, in New Delhi on Thursday. (Amal KS/HT photo)
Demonstrators at the Tikri border site of a farmers’ protest against new farm laws, in New Delhi on Thursday. (Amal KS/HT photo)

India is likely to ask Canada for assistance in the investigation into the antecedents of individuals and groups responsible for creating a toolkit for those supporting the agitation against the farm laws, especially if it is linked to violence on Republic Day in New Delhi, Indian officials aware of the matter said. If the Delhi Police were to charge persons based in Canada in this regard, such a request is tenable under the mutual legal assistance treaty India has with Ottawa, they added. “We will take it up with the Canadian government when we need the cooperation of law enforcement agencies in Canada,” said an official, who did not wish to be named.

The toolkit tweeted by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and then deleted is linked to the Vancouver-based organisation Poetic Justice Foundation or PJF. HT reached out to the founder of PJF Mo Dhaliwal, who agreed to an interview but then said he will issue a statement instead.

The toolkit is in support of the farmers’ agitation, and ostensibly to raise its profile internationally. PJF has also worked in coordination with the World Sikh Organisation, or WSO, which has been critical of India for several years, and, as per the Canadian Encyclopaedia, wanted to “create an independent nation — Khalistan”, when it was founded.

PFJ’s co-founder, Anita Lal, joined WSO as its Director of Community Development on February 1. The organisations along with two others have also issued a press statement criticising actions of the Indian government following the violence on January 26, including arrests of journalists and cutting off of internet connectivity at points of the Delhi border where protesting farmers continue to gather.

According to an interview with a campus journal, Dhaliwal is an alumnus of the University of Fraser Valley in British Columbia. He also worked briefly in Silicon Valley before returning to Vancouver. Dhaliwal also founded the Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration Society and was director of the strategy at Skyrocket, a branding web design agency in Vancouver.

In an interview on January 26 to the Canadian network Global TV, Dhaliwal claimed the #AskIndiaWhy campaign was launched to “create awareness so that with the world’s eyes on India”, the government is “less likely” to undertake “any extreme violence” against the agitating farmers. Such “scrutiny”, he said, was required so that “India does not massacre the protestors standing against these laws.”

The website launched to undergird the global campaign, AskIndiaWhy, was a recent development and PFJ asked people to “tag a celebrity, politician or influencer” to make some “noise” over the matter.

PFJ’s website appears to be temporarily down. The AskIndiaWhy site displays a Sikh Sovereignty section, with its page linking to publications from the Khalistan Centre. The Centre’s web presence, at, prominently says, “Mobilising the Khalsa panth to effectively achieve Khalsa Jee De Bol Baalay through the establishment of an independent Khalistan.”

Dhaliwal, described as a community activist, was also the moderator for a panel discussion last year titled Khalistan, a conversation on trauma, racism, and sovereignty, organised by PFJ. Among the participants was Moninder Singh of the British Columbia Gurdwara Council, who also founded an organisation called the Sikh Liberation Front. In an interview with HT in 2018, he said, “The Khalistan movement doesn’t necessarily have to be associated with violence. Self-resistance, resistance against the state, self-defence — these modes sometimes require people to resist in many different ways including armed struggle.”

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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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