The Hindu – India protests Canadian PM’s presence at ‘Khalsa Day’

Event in Toronto saw felicitation of separatist elements; parade included floats glorifying Sikh militant leaders, including Bhindranwale

Suhasini Haidar

New Delhi, 10 May 2017.  India indicated that it has taken up the issue of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attendance at a Sikh community event in Toronto that saw a felicitation of separatist elements again, after earlier protests on similar issues appear to have gone unheeded by the government.

“We have taken up such issues in the past with the government of Canada, and in this particular instance, without getting into details, I can tell you the practice has not been discontinued,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Gopal Baglay.

On April 30, Mr. Trudeau addressed a parade for ‘Khalsa Day’, which included floats glorifying Sikh militant leaders Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Amrik Singh and former General Shahbeg Singh who were killed in the siege of the Golden Temple and Operation Bluestar in June 1984.

The procession, organised by the Ontario Sikhs and Gurdwara Council, also felicitated the legislator from Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party, Harinder Kaur Malhi who had moved a resolution on “genocide” against India for the anti-Sikh riots of November 1984, that was passed by the Ontario Assembly on April 6 this year.

India had raised a strong protest after the vote (34-5), calling it a “misguided motion based on a limited understanding of India, its constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and its judicial process,”, with the government expressing its unhappiness both with the High Commission in Delhi, and with the Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan when he met with Defence Minister Arun Jaitley in Delhi on April 18.

But the tussle between the Indian government and the issue of Sikh groups in Canada is an ongoing one, say Indian diplomats.

“This is an issue we will have to grapple with, not just in the provinces, but in the House of Commons, where many of these Sikh separatist groups believe they now have a sympathetic ear,” a former diplomat well-versed with the issues, told The Hindu, speaking of the election of the Liberal party to power.

The party includes several prominent figures of separatist Sikh organisations as elected leaders.

The Canadian High Commission in Delhi refused to comment despite several requests.

Mr. Trudeau is expected to visit India “late this year or early next year” according to Canada’s High Commissioner to India Nadir Patel, and the issues over the growth of Khalistani groups in Canada are likely to be highlighted further as other officials from Ottowa travel to India in the run-up to the Trudeau visit.

Meanwhile, Sikh groups who participated in the Khalsa Day event accused India of trying to bring “economic pressure” on the Canadian government by issuing statements over the event.

“Strengthening India-Canada ties are one thing, but on issues of human rights, you cannot stop the Canadian government from taking a stand on principle,” said Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Legal Adviser for US-based hardline advocacy group ‘Sikhs for Justice’ over telephone.

Mr. Pannun is leading the campaign for a “referendum” in 2020, where he says all Sikhs in Punjab and the diaspora worldwide would be asked to vote on the issue of a separate state for Sikhs, flags and posters for which were also prominently featured at the event Mr. Trudeau attended, becoming the first Canadian PM to attend the ‘Khalsa Day’ event in a decade.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-protests-canadian-pms-presence-at-khalsa-day/article18420866.ece?homepage=true

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