In a disturbing turn of events, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a pro-Khalistan organization banned in India since 2019, has issued a menacing ultimatum to Hindus of Indian origin residing in Canada. SFJ’s threat, calling for the departure of these individuals, stems from their perceived support for India and their alleged promotion of violence through the celebration of the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. This contentious development has not only sent shockwaves through the Indian diaspora in Canada but has also raised concerns about the state of religious harmony and freedom of expression in the country.
The Threatening Video
The spark that ignited this controversy was a video featuring SFJ’s legal counsel, Gurpatwant Pannun, who has been designated as a terrorist in India. In this video, Pannun brazenly called on Indo-Hindus to leave Canada and return to India. His reasoning? Pannun accused them of not only supporting India but also of suppressing the speech and expression of pro-Khalistan Sikhs. This video swiftly went viral, intensifying the already fraught situation.
Trudeau’s Statements and Diplomatic Fallout
Adding fuel to the fire, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a statement linking Indian government agents to the killing of Nijjar in June. This claim led to a diplomatic spat, resulting in the expulsion of senior diplomats from both countries. While India promptly dismissed Trudeau’s claim as “absurd and motivated,” he maintained that Canada had no intention of provoking or escalating the situation.
Concerns and Hinduphobia
The repercussions of Pannun’s threat were felt across the Canadian Hindu community. Vijay Jain, a spokesperson for Canadian Hindus for Harmony, expressed deep concern about the growing Hinduphobia. He remarked, “We are now seeing full-scale Hinduphobia out across the board.” This sentiment is shared by many, and it has prompted calls for the recognition of Hinduphobia in Canada’s Human Rights Code, a move supported by nearly 9000 signatures on a pending petition in the Canadian House of Commons.
Historical Echoes: The Air India Bombing
Jain’s reference to the 1985 Khalistani bombing of Air India Flight 182 serves as a grim reminder of the potential consequences of such tensions. This terrorist act, which resulted in the loss of 307 passengers and 22 crew members, remains the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history. To commemorate this tragic event, Canada observes the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism every year on June 23.
Calls for Action and Concerns Over Silence
Amidst these tumultuous events, some have questioned the lack of action in response to Pannun’s menacing threat. Rupa Subramanya, a commentator, raised a thought-provoking point, drawing parallels to a hypothetical situation involving a white supremacist. She noted, “If a white supremacist had threatened saying all people of colour must leave Canada, imagine the uproar. Yet when a Khalistani threatens Hindus in Canada at an event in Canada, everyone bats their eyelid and looks the other way.”
SFJ’s Perceived Emboldenment
SFJ has openly stated that it feels “emboldened” by recent actions taken by the Trudeau government to distance itself from India. This sentiment is echoed in an opinion piece by Andrew Coyne in The Globe and Mail, where he highlights the urgent need to maintain peace within Canada following Nijjar’s killing. Coyne warns that the risk of ethnic and sectarian violence in Canada is real.
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Appeal for Calm
In the midst of this turmoil, Canadian Minister Anita Anand, who is of Hindu faith, has made a heartfelt appeal for calm. She stressed the importance of allowing the legal process to unfold and urged all South Asians and families from India, regardless of religion, to remain unified and empathetic.
In conclusion, the escalating tensions between pro-Khalistan groups like Sikhs for Justice and the Indian diaspora in Canada are a matter of serious concern. This controversy underscores the delicate balance that nations like Canada must strike in ensuring freedom of expression while also safeguarding the principles of unity, diversity, and harmony. It remains to be seen how this situation will evolve and whether diplomatic efforts can bring about a resolution to these pressing issues.