Pro-India group vs Khalistani protesters outside Indian consulate in Toronto | World News - Hindustan Times
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Pro-India group vs Khalistani protesters outside Indian consulate in Toronto; 2 held

Jul 09, 2023 09:20 AM IST

The pro-Khalistan group was challenged by pro-India demonstrators, who faced off against them across the street outside Indian consulate in Toronto.

Two Khalistani protesters were apprehended by police as violence broke out at an anti-India rally outside the Indian consulate in Canada's Toronto on Saturday. About 250 pro-Khalistani elements gathered across the street from the building housing India’s consulate. The protest, backed by the secessionist group Sikhs for Justice or SFJ, had been publicised through the circulation of the infamous ‘Kill India’ posters online, which targeted India’s seniormost envoys in Canada.

Khalistani protesters were challenged by a pro-Indian group outside the Indian consulate in Toronto on Saturday. (HT photo)
Khalistani protesters were challenged by a pro-Indian group outside the Indian consulate in Toronto on Saturday. (HT photo)

However, this time the pro-Khalistan group was challenged by pro-India demonstrators, who faced off against them across the street. They were separated by a line of Toronto Police personnel, even as barricades were erected to restrain the protestors and the section of Bloor Street where the building is located, was blocked to traffic.

The pro-Khalistan group attempted to breach the barricade and storm the pro-India contingent. Police pushed them back and one person who rushed ahead was thrown to the ground and subdued and taken away by the police.

A Khalistani protester being subdued by Toronto Police after he broke through barricades and attempted to attack a pro-India group outside the Indian consulate.(HT photo)
A Khalistani protester being subdued by Toronto Police after he broke through barricades and attempted to attack a pro-India group outside the Indian consulate.(HT photo)

Two persons were apprehended, the second for apparently assaulting a police officer. However, a spokesperson for Toronto Police, responding to an emailed query from the Hindustan Times, said both were subsequently released without charges.

The Khalistani group held posters of SFJ leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was murdered in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18. The posters accused India of being behind the assassination. Other posters promoted the so-called Punjab Referendum’s next phase, in the Greater Toronto Area or GTA on July 16. Some of them also wore jackets, bearing the legend Republic of Khalistan and bearing an image of an AK47.

The pro-India group did not flinch even when the attempted attack was prevented and though they were outnumbered. After the group was dispersed on Saturday evening, amid light rain, by police, one of them, Arvind Mishra said, “We were successfully able to demonstrate resistance to the Khalistanis.”

“These Khalistanis continue to violate the limits of freedom of speech,” he added.

‘Violent side of Khalistanis was exposed’

Another person present there, Neel Sehgal, said, “The violent side of the Khalistanis was exposed when one of them broke through the police barricade to try and attack our peaceful gathering.”

He called upon Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government to “act swiftly and firmly to immediately ban such violent rallies and referendums".

‘Kill India’ protests

Toronto witnessed the largest of the ‘Kill India’ protests by far. About 30 protesters gathered across the road from India’s high commission in Ottawa but were peaceful. The protest in Vancouver attracted about 50 protestors and passed without incident.

The rallies on Saturday were held in the name of Nijjar. SFJ has blamed India for his “assassination”. Nijjar was murdered in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Surrey, which he headed. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team or Investigation Team or IHIT, which is probing the killing, has not ascribed any motive while it seeks the murderers.

Nijjar was alleged to be the head of the Khalistan Tiger Force by Indian law enforcement and faced several terror-related charges, while being the principal SFJ figure in the Metro Vancouver region. The National Investigation Agency or NIA had announced an award of 10 lakh for information leading to his capture. None of the charges against him were tested in Canadian courts and SFJ has maintained it does not use violence.

Posters appeared in front of temple

Physical posters that appeared in front of a temple and at other locations in the GTA of Friday bore the legend “War Zone".

With security heightened in all three target cities, Canadian authorities appeared to be “responsive” to “some of our sensitivities,” an Indian official said. That was signalled earlier by Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly who had described the posters threatening Indian diplomats, including High Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Verma and two Consul Generals in the country, as “unacceptable.” Minister of National Defence Anita Anand had tweeted, “Canada will continue to ensure the safety of foreign diplomats in this country – and we take this responsibility seriously.”

While the Canadian government proved true to its word, the next challenge will be on August 15 when the SFJ has threatened to “besiege” India’s missions in the country.

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