A recent news report claims that in a letter addressed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016, slain Khalistani hardliner Hardeep Singh Nijjar had denied the allegation of the government of India that he was a terrorist.
Nijjar, who was the head of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Canada’s Surrey, was shot dead in June this year. He had reportedly urged Trudeau to intervene on his behalf after the Interpol issued a Red Corner Notice against him in 2016. This was done on India’s request.
According to the National Post newspaper, Nijjar had said, “I urge your administration to dispel the Indian government’s fabricated, baseless, fictitious and politically-motivated allegations against me.” He had also alleged that India had “blatantly abused its governmental authority”.
Nijjar was accused of killing six people in a blast at a cinema hall in Ludhiana in 2007. He was also alleged to have committed murder, sedition and terrorist activities in India.
As the head of the Khalistan Terror Force (KTF), a proscribed organisation, Nijjar was accused of operating terror training camps in the British Columbia province of Canada. As mentioned above, a Red Corner Notice had been issued by the Interpol against him in 2016, on a request made by India.
A warrant against Nijjar had also been issued by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 2014. This was on charges of making or keeping explosives with an intent to endanger life or property, attempting to cause an explosion and making and possessing explosives under suspicious circumstances.
Nijjar had reportedly told the Canadian PM that he and his associates had been targeted by India because of his support for a separatist movement that seeks to create an independent homeland for Sikhs — Khalistan. The letter said that Nijjar “never supported, believed in or had been involved in any violent activity”. This was stated in a joint news report by the Post and Vancouver Sun.
The letter read further, “Because of my campaign for Sikh rights, it’s my belief that I have become a target of an Indian government campaign to label my human rights campaign as terrorist activities.”
Nijjar also stated, in the same letter, that the “campaign to label me as a terrorist started when I actively participated in a campaign to collect signatures on a complaint to the UN’s Human Rights Council for investigation and and recognition of 1984 anti-Sikh violence as Genocide”.
Meanwhile, with Canada saying that it suspects Indian involvement in Nijjar’s killing, this has triggered a diplomatic row between Ottawa and New Delhi. India has called all the allegations leveled against it as “absurd”.
According to India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), Nijjar was initially associated with Babbar Khalsa International, the outlawed separatist group. Fresh reports by Indian intelligence agencies also reveal that he went to Pakistan for 15 days in April 2012 to gain “expertise” in arms and ammunition.
India had officially declared Nijjar as a designated terrorist in 2020, claiming that he was involved in “exhorting seditionary and insurrectionary imputations” and “attempting to create disharmony among different communities” in India. Saying that it is funded by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, India has listed KTF as a terrorist organisation.
Meanwhile, in 2018, Amarinder Singh, then Punjab chief minister, had provided a list of wanted individuals, including Nijjar, to the government of Canada. Nijjar’s extradition was sought by Punjab Police in 2022.