Original Author: Ian Austen and Vjosa Isai
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada on Tuesday firmly rejected the Indian government’s denial of any involvement in the assassination of a Sikh dissident in Canada, calling on India to take his country’s allegations seriously.
“We are not looking to provoke or escalate,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa. “We are simply laying out the facts as we understand them and we want to work with the government of India.”
On Monday, the prime minister stunned Canadians when he told the House of Commons that “agents of the Indian government” were behind the shooting death in June of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist leader and a Canadian citizen, near a Sikh temple in suburban Vancouver, British Columbia.
The prime minister offered no details to support his charge that a nation had ordered a political killing on its soil, only citing “credible allegations” that had been pursued by Canadian security agencies for several weeks.
Canada’s intelligence agencies, noting the continuing police investigation into the Mr. Nijjar’s killing and the need to protect intelligence gathering methods, have declined to offer any more details.
A Canadian government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information, said the intelligence had been gathered by multiple countries. Canada is a member of the so-called five eyes, an intelligence alliance that includes the United States, Britain and Australia.
India has long claimed that Canada is harboring Sikh terrorists plotting from aboard to fracture the Indian state by providing funding and planning to create a separate Sikh nation called Khalistan within India’s Punjab region. Mr. Nijjar was active in that independence movement.
He had been a key organizer in rallying community members in British Columbia to vote for an independent state of Khalistan.
That theme was prominent in India’s adamant denial of involvement on Monday.
In its statement, the foreign ministry of India said that it rejected “any attempts to connect the government of India” to Mr. Nijjar’s killing and charged that Canada shelters “extremists and terrorists” who “continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Roland Paris, a professor at the University of Ottawa and a former foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trudeau, said the allegation and the denial had created a sense of outrage and anger in Canada that crosses all political lines.
“It’s a stunning and appalling set of allegations,” Professor Paris said. “If it’s true that India was behind this killing, then it represents the most offensive and appalling form of political interference in a democracy that would parallel the behavior of some of the worst authoritarian leaders in the world.”
On Tuesday morning in Surrey, British Columbia, women in colorful suits and saris came to offer prayers and join in a meal service offered by the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, the temple where Mr. Nijjar was president.
The previous evening outside of the temple, Mr. Nijjar’s son, Balraj Singh Nijjar said his father’s death remains a fresh wound for his family.
“He had even called home like five minutes before it happened to get dinner ready,” his son said, speaking to reporters outside the temple. “It was kind of a big shock.”
Mihika Agarwal contributed reporting from Surrey, British Columbia.