Canadian PM Trudeau’s presence at event with Khalistani flags upsets India

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s presence at a nagar kirtan in Toronto that featured Khalistani flags and posters of extremist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale has upset the Indian government.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s presence at a ‘nagar kirtan’ in Toronto that featured Khalistani flags and posters of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale has upset the Indian government.(Courtesy Canadian PMO)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s presence at a ‘nagar kirtan’ in Toronto that featured Khalistani flags and posters of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale has upset the Indian government.(Courtesy Canadian PMO)
Updated on May 04, 2017 11:36 PM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times, Toronto | By

While vitriolic attacks on Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh at the annual nagar kirtan in Vancouver riled the Indian government, there is consternation over Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s presence at a Toronto event that featured Khalistani flags and posters of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

The Toronto nagar kirtan on Sunday also celebrated the carrying of a motion in the Ontario assembly last month that described the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as “genocide”.

A senior Indian official described Trudeau’s presence at the Khalsa Day event as “surely a matter of concern”. 

Trudeau was the first Canadian prime minister to attend the event since Paul Martin in 2005. Trudeau’s predecessor Stephen Harper had stayed away in previous years.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the nagar kirtan in Toronto. (Courtesy: Canadian PMO)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the nagar kirtan in Toronto. (Courtesy: Canadian PMO)

Bhindranwale, an extremist leader who was at the forefront of the Khalistan movement in the 1980s, was killed when the Indian Army carried out Operation Blue Star in June 1984 to remove extremists who were holed up in the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Though defence minister Arun Jaitley had expressed India’s concerns about the Ontario assembly motion to his Canadian counterpart Harjit Sajjan last month, the organisers of the nagar kirtan in Toronto honoured Harinder Malhi, Liberal member of the provincial parliament or MPP (equivalent to an MLA), who moved the motion, during the event.

The organisers, Ontario Sikhs and Gurdwara Council, also felicitated New Democratic Party MPP Jagmeet Singh, who had moved a similar motion in 2016 that was defeated.

A display featuring Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale at the nagar kirtan in Toronto. (HT Photo)
A display featuring Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale at the nagar kirtan in Toronto. (HT Photo)

These developments have boosted the morale of pro-Khalistan groups in Canada.

For instance, Sukhminder Singh Hansra, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (A) Canada, said in response to an emailed query: “I am glad that the organisers who represent a larger segment of the Sikh community have reminded the world of the peaceful struggle for Khalistan.”

Hansra further said: “In Toronto, all floats are prepared by the organisers, at least two floats were dedicated to the events of 1984, including flags and banners of Khalistan. I along with many others walked with these floats with Khalistani flags.”

He described the honouring of the two lawmakers as “the highlight of the nagar kirtan” in Toronto. 

A float featuring Khalistan flags at the nagar kirtan in Toronto. (HT Photo)
A float featuring Khalistan flags at the nagar kirtan in Toronto. (HT Photo)

The Toronto celebration came in the wake of the event in Vancouver on April 22 where the Amarinder Singh was attacked in a speech.

While the Indian government has notified Ottawa of its concern, Canada has consistently maintained that such a protest, as long as it remains peaceful, is part of freedom of expression.

Khalistani activist Sukhminder Singh Hansra with opposition Conservative Party of Ontario leader Patrick Brown, who has, in the past, described Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “friend”. (Courtesy: Sukhminder Singh Hansra)
Khalistani activist Sukhminder Singh Hansra with opposition Conservative Party of Ontario leader Patrick Brown, who has, in the past, described Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “friend”. (Courtesy: Sukhminder Singh Hansra)

The Vancouver event too was welcomed by rejuvenated pro-Khalistan groups. Sikhs for Justice, a hardline activist group, described India’s complaint as “a nefarious attempt to curb the freedom of expression of Sikh separatists living in Canada”.

Its legal advisor, Gurpatwant Pannun, said: “Canadian Sikhs have a constitutionally protected right to express any political opinion no matter how discomforting it may be for Indian government, including propagating for Sikh homeland Khalistan and campaign for Referendum 2020 to liberate Indian occupied Punjab.”

Taken together, this flurry of incidents has upset New Delhi and furthered the impression that Canada does not take India’s worries seriously, and that attitude may extend all the way to the top of the government. 

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    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.

Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson 

    Four G7 powers impose gold export ban on Russia, announces Britain

    Four G7 powers will ban Russian gold exports in a new bid to stop oligarchs from buying the precious metal to avoid the impact of sanctions against Moscow, Britain said Sunday. The joint action taken by Britain, Canada, Japan and the United States, "will directly hit Russian oligarchs and strike at the heart of (President Vladimir) Putin's war machine," said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

  • (File/Reuters)

    Curious case of Pakistan's Sajid Mir, mastermind of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks

    "Wanted: Dead or Alive" is the usual demand in the world of crime anywhere. But the living is declared dead in Pakistan's world of criminals and terrorists. This is the curious case of Sajid Mir, one of the masterminds of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, India, in 2008. This is why, and how, Sajid Majeed Mir has surfaced. The now ailing and exiled military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf would ridicule any talk of Pakistan hiding Osama Bin Laden.

  • (Representative Photo)

    South Africa makeshift nightclub death toll climbs to 20: Safety official

    The number of young people who have died at a makeshift nightclub in a township in South Africa's southern city of East London has risen to 20, a senior safety official said Sunday. "The number has increased to 20, three have died in hospital. But there are still two who are very critical," head of the provincial government safety department Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe said on local TV.

  • US president Joe Biden says ‘G-7 to ban Russian gold in response to Ukraine war’

    US president Joe Biden says ‘G-7 to ban Russian gold in response to Ukraine war’

    President Joe Biden said Sunday that the United States and other Group of Seven leading economies will ban imports of gold from Russia, the latest in a series of sanctions that the club of democracies hopes will further isolate Russia economically over its invasion of Ukraine. A formal announcement was expected Tuesday as the leaders meet for their annual summit.

  • US First Lady Jill Biden looks on as US President Joe Biden signs the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Saturday. (AFP)

    ‘Do something’: Joe Biden signs rare bipartisan gun control legislation

    United States President Joe Biden signed a rare bipartisan bill which institutionalises a set of limited gun safety measures on Saturday into law. The first legislative reform in three decades on the issue was sparked by a recent spike in mass shoutings across the country, especially a hate crime in Buffalo that killed ten people and a school shooting in Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, June 26, 2022