What We Know About Canada’s Claims Against India About a Sikh’s Killing

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada made the shocking accusation that government agents from India had been involved in the killing of a Sikh community leader in British Columbia in June.

The allegations have widened a growing rift between Canada and India and set off a political dispute between the two already apprehensive nations.

Here is what we know:

Who was Hardeep Singh Nijjar, and what happened to him?

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, was born in the North Indian state of Punjab. After several unsuccessful attempts to gain entry to Canada, he moved there in the mid-1990s, according to Indian news reports, just after a period of Indian government crackdowns on a Sikh separatist movement.

In Canada, Mr. Nijjar worked as a plumber, got married and had two sons. He obtained his Canadian citizenship in 2015, according to Canada’s immigration minister, Marc Miller, in a post on X, formerly called Twitter. In 2020, Mr. Nijjar became the president of a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia, the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara.

An image of Mr. Nijjar at the temple in Surrey where he was gunned down.Credit…Chris Helgren/Reuters

Mr. Nijjar was a self-proclaimed “Sikh nationalist who believes in and supports Sikhs’ right to self-determination and independence of Indian-occupied Punjab through a future referendum,” according to an open letter he wrote to the Canadian government in 2016. He had been a key figure in British Columbia rallying votes for a referendum in Canada supporting the establishment of a nation called Khalistan from part of Punjab State.

The Indian government declared Mr. Nijjar a terrorist in 2020, decades after he left India. It accused him of plotting a violent attack in India and leading a terrorist group called the Khalistan Tiger Force. In Punjab, however, politicians and journalists asserted that despite such charges against him, many locals had never heard of him or his movement.

Mr. Nijjar was shot in June near the Sikh temple that he led. While investigators from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police later said he had been ambushed by masked men, they did not disclose if the attack had been politically motivated.

What did Canada say?

On Monday, the Canadian prime minister told lawmakers that “agents of the government of India” had been linked to Mr. Nijjar’s killing on Canadian soil.

Evidence of the ambush was based on intelligence gathered by the Canadian government, according to Mr. Trudeau, who added that he had raised this issue directly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India “in no uncertain terms” at the Group of 20 summit this month in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India at a Group of 20 meeting in New Delhi this month, where Mr. Trudeau reportedly discussed Mr. Nijjar’s killing.Credit…Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Mr. Trudeau said on Monday, adding that Canada would pressure India to cooperate with investigations into Mr. Nijjar’s death.

Canada’s foreign minister, Mélanie Joly, also announced that it had expelled an Indian diplomat, whom she described as the de facto head of India’s intelligence agency in Canada.

How did India respond?

The Indian government has vehemently denied the allegations by Mr. Trudeau. Mr. Modi “completely rejected” them, according to India’s foreign ministry.

In a statement, the ministry office also spurned “any attempts to connect the government of India” to Mr. Nijjar’s killing and called the accusations “absurd.”

In a tit-for-tat move against Canada, India expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in India.

The Indian government also fired back at Canada, accusing the country of sheltering “extremists and terrorists” who “continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

India has long said that Canada is harboring Sikh terrorists and providing funding to create Khalistan. In the past, Indian officials have also accused Britain, the United States and Australia of passivity against separatist movements in their countries.

Mr. Trudeau rejected India’s denial on Tuesday morning. “We are not looking to provoke or escalate,” he told reporters in Ottawa before flying to New York for the United Nations General Assembly. “We are simply laying out the facts as we understand them, and we want to work with the government of India.”

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