Friday, July 19, 2024

Pro-Khalistan protesters stage demonstration against Indian diplomat in Canada

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Toronto: With pro-Khalistan elements staging yet another protest against an Indian diplomat on Thursday, officials and missions have now faced over 20 demonstrations in less than a year.

Khalistani protesters were challenged by a pro-Indian group outside the Indian consulate in Toronto, Canada on July 8 last year. (HT)

The “picketing” of India’s High Commissioner to Ottawa Sanjay Kumar Verma was organised by the secessionist group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), once again in connection with the allegations that Indian agents were potentially linked to the killing of pro-Khalistan figure Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18 last year in Surrey, British Columbia.

The number of protests that have targeted India’s senior-most officials and missions in Canada have crossed 20, after the first Nijjar-connected event on July 8, 2023.

In each instance, India had indicated its concern over the planned protest to Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the nation’s foreign ministry in advance and enhanced security was provided.

On Thursday, protesters gathered in front of the High Commission building in the Canadian capital Ottawa and shouted anti-India slogans, as they remained there for about four-and-a-half hours. A senior Indian official said, “Security was inadequate. Complaint lodged with Canadian side.”

But, the official added, there was “no major disruption”.

The protests which started in July last year were preceded by posters circulated online (and later used during the events) with the words, ‘Kill India”, and featuring images of the High Commissioner and India’s Consul Generals in Toronto and Vancouver.

They continued into the year, getting momentum in autumn, after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement in the House of Commons that there were “credible allegations” of a potential link between Indian agents and Nijjar’s murder. While four Indian nationals have been arrested in relation to the murder this year, investigators have yet to reveal evidence of that link, though they have said the probe in that context is continuing.

When the protests first started in July last year, Melanie Joly, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, had described some of the promotional material for the rallies as “unacceptable” and added that Canada took “its obligations under Vienna Conventions regarding the safety of diplomats very seriously”.

However, such criticism has not been reiterated since Trudeau’s statement on September 18 last year.

In the interim, pro-Khalistan groups had also targeted temples and other venues where Indian officials were present for consular camps in November last year. This March, they also staged protests when the High Commissioner held trade and business events in Surrey, and later in Edmonton and Calgary in the province of Alberta.

SFJ’s general-counsel Gurpatwant Pannun has warned these so-called Khalistan rallies will continue “till India diplomats are forced to leave”.

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