Indo-Canadian journo assaulted for criticising pro-Khalistan elements
Deepak Punj was assaulted by a group of three persons, for apparently criticising pro-Khalistan elements in Canada.
An Indo-Canadian mediaperson and host of a Punjabi-language talk show network in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) was assaulted by a group of three persons, for apparently criticising pro-Khalistan elements in Canada.
Deepak Punj, host of Frontline Radio, was accosted by three young men at around 12.30pm local time on Wednesday, while he was preparing to enter the building housing his studio.
The day prior, he had featured a show during which he had criticised the display of Khalistan flags and anti-India slogans during a vigil in Brampton, a GTA town, on Sunday.
That, he told the Hindustan Times, appeared to be the provocation for the attack. “They asked me if I did a show on this topic, and then attacked me.”
One of the as yet unidentified assailants was armed with a handgun, while another hit Punj on the head with an empty beer bottle and punched him.
Punj said he reported the assault to local law enforcement and it was being investigated.
He said the attackers spoke to him in English and Punjabi, and he provided the police with the last three digits of the licence plate of the vehicle they were travelling in as well as its make.
“I’m being harassed because I’m from Punjab and I oppose Khalistan,” he said.
Punj said he also criticised New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh on his programme for his hypocrisy. He said while Singh had repeatedly supported the anti-farm laws protests in India, when it came to the truckers’ strike in Ottawa, he not only opposed that agitation but even helped the minority Liberal Government pass the Emergencies Act through the House of Commons.
The trigger for Punj’s programme was the vigil at Brampton City Hall on Sunday, which has already drawn the ire of the Indian government.
India has formally expressed “serious concern” over the appearance of Patrick Brown, Brampton’s mayor, at the vigil, in a diplomatic representation or demarche to Global Affairs Canada, the country’s foreign ministry.
The vigil was for Deep Sidhu, who emerged as a significant figure during the anti-farm laws protests in India, was arrested for violence at Red Fort on Republic Day last year, and died in an accident this month. The event was organised by Brampton councillor Harkirat Singh.
India’s concern was related to flags of the secessionist Khalistan movement being seen in the backdrop to Brown’s speech, as other attendees held placards reading #IndiaKills.
The demarche denounced Brown’s reference to the farmers’ protests as interference in India’s internal affairs, particularly at a time when an emergency has been imposed at the national and provincial levels in Canada to counter an agitation by truckers.
Responding to queries sent to Brown’s office on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the mayor said, “Mayor Brown was invited to speak at a vigil by local Brampton residents. This was a vigil, not an anti-India protest. Mayor Brown has visited India on 20 occasions and from 2006-14 was the Chair of the Canada-India Parliamentary Association.”
But like many Indo-Canadians who were incensed with Brown attending and addressing the vigil, Punj believes otherwise, as, he said, the vigil featured “anti-India stuff”.