Trudeau links India to the assassination of a Sikh leader near Vancouver

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accused the Indian government of a role in the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Sikh leader who was shot dead outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia on 18 June. Trudeau claimed that Canadian intelligence has identified a "credible" link between his death and the Indian state, which India called "absurd." He raised the issue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the recent G20 summit.

India has previously denied any involvement with Nijjar's murder, but India's Ministry of External Affairs rejected Trudeau's claims. The ministry stated that allegations of the Indian government's involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated. Canada also expelled an Indian diplomat, Pavan Kumar Rai, on Monday over the case.

Investigators have previously categorised the death of 45-year-old Nijjar as a "targeted incident." After Trudeau's comments in Ottawa, several large posters and tributes to Nijjar were visible at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey. Moninder Singh, a spokesman for the British Columbia Sikhs Gurdwaras Council, said there was a sense both of frustration and appreciation in the community after Trudeau's comments.

Other Sikh groups in Canada, including the World Sikh Organisation, welcomed Trudeau's statement, saying he confirmed what was already widely believed in the community. There are an estimated 1.4 to 1.8 million Canadians of Indian origin, and the country has the largest population of Sikhs outside the state of Punjab in India.

The tension between Delhi and Ottawa is due to the increasing pressure the Indian administration has put on governments of three countries with sizeable Sikh populations: Canada, Australia, and the UK. India has openly said that a failure to tackle "Sikh extremism" would be an obstacle to good relations. Australian officials said they would look into vandalism of Hindu temples by pro-Khalistan activists, but would not stop Australian Sikhs expressing their views on an independent homeland.

Mr Johal has been held in an Indian prison for more than six years without trial, accused of extremist activities, but he says he has been tortured and forced to sign a confession. Human rights group Reprieve says it has evidence that his arrest came (while he was in India to get married) after a tip-off from British intelligence.


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