Have nothing to do with Khalistan sympathisers, says Jaspal Atwal
Atwal was arrested in Canada in 1986 for a murderous attack on a visiting Punjab politician, served time, and was on an India black list till 2016.Updated: Mar 01, 2018 00:04 IST
Surrey, Canada resident Jaspal Singh Atwal, the man in the middle of a who-invited-him controversy during Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s visit to India distanced himself from Khalistan supporters and claimed proximity to Indian and Candian politicians.
Atwal was arrested in Canada in 1986 for a murderous attack on a visiting Punjab politician, served time, and was on an India black list till 2016. His invitation to a reception for Trudeau in Delhi raised eyebrows, and spiralled into a very public controversy.
Atwal denies any association with Khalistan activists: “I have nothing to do with Khalistan sympathizers. They are a handful of people, who are misleading the youth,” he said over telephone.
Atwal, 62, who hails from Pharala of Nawanshahr, grew up in Madhya Pradesh where his father ran a trucking business. He migrated to Canada in 1972. In 1986 he and three others were convicted for an attack on Punjab’s minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu who was visiting Canada. All four were sentenced for 20 years in jail but were paroled after serving just five years and six months.
“Not only me, three persons sentenced with me also have been travelling to Indian frequently,” said Atwal, whose name was deleted from the ministry of home affairs’ black list in 2016. He has been coming to India regularly since 1999.
Last week, Atwal shot into the limelight after his name was found in the guest list for a reception for Trudeau in NewDelhi. Surrey Liberal MP Randeep Singh Sarai has owned up to recommending his invitation and admitted it was bad judgement.
Atwal admits he committed a mistake in 1986. “I repent getting emotional and taking drastic steps after 1984,” he said, referring to the year India quashed the militant Khalistani separatist movement by storming Amritsar’s Golden Temple where the separatists were holed up.
People who now Atwal in Canada say he is a ‘reformed terrorist’ turned ‘fixer’, and add that he likes to be photographed with Indian and Canadian politicians. He admits to arranging interviews for them with radio stations in British Columbia. “This is my way of helping people, and I was engaged with the liberals” he said.
In Punjab, Atwal supports the Shiromani Akali Dal and even been part of its campaign, but in Canada, he says he has “been helping all politicians – from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Congress and Akalis” when they visit.
Atwal dabbles in the property business in Canada.