Some are focusing a spotlight on intelligence agencies of India and Canada following the June 18 murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. As president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Society, Nijjar often spoke in favour of an independent Sikh country called Khalistan.
The Indian government, on the other hand, vehemently opposes any attempts to carve out a Sikh homeland from the northwestern state of Punjab.
In a recent interview with broadcaster and Pancouver contributor Gurpreet Singh, Nijjar expressed concerns that he might die at the hands of Indian agents because of his advocacy for Sikhs.
My last interview with Hardeep Singh Nijjer in the wake of the mysterious murder of Paramjit Singh Panjwar in Pakistan. He openly expressed his apprehension about his death at the hands of Indian agents. pic.twitter.com/n48apnnen1
— gurpreet singh (@gurpreetonair) June 19, 2023
At 8:27 p.m. on June 18, Surrey RCMP received a report of the shooting at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara. Nijjar, a 46-year-old plumber, died at the scene.
In the past, he’s been active with the Canadian arm of Sikhs for Justice. It’s a pro-Khalistan group based in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Vancouver Sun reporter Kim Bolan reported that Nijjar had told his lawyer about a message he had received from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. This lawyer, Sikhs for Justice founder Gurpatwant Singh Pannum, said that CSIS had warned about threats against Nijjar’s life.
India banned Sikhs for Justice in 2019. This came after it began organizing a referendum on creating an independent state.
Coincidentally, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, appointed a new head of his country’s intelligence agency on June 19. Modi promoted Ravi Sinha from the Number 2 position at the Research and Analysis Wing. Described as a “hardcore RAW operative”, Sinha will take over on June 30 from Samant Goel.
The move comes just before the prime minister is about to visit the United States. This will mark Modi’s first trip to America since coming to power in 2014.
WSO criticizes CSIS for death of Nijjar
Meanwhile, the World Sikh Organization has described Nijjar’s murder as an “assassination”. In a June 19 statement, it also declared that it follows the “assassination” of other Khalistan activists in recent months.
As an example, the WSO cited the death of U.K. resident Avtar Singh Khanda last week “under suspicious circumstances”. The statement mentioned an India media claim that he had been poisoned.
In addition, the WSO pointed to the targeted shooting in May of another Khalistan activist, Paramjeet Singh Panjwar, in Lahore.
“The assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar is gravely alarming for Sikhs in Canada,” WSO president Tejinder Singh Sidhu said. “Nijjar openly and repeatedly stated that he would be targeted by Indian intelligence and this was made known to CSIS and law enforcement.
“CSIS has known that Nijjar faced an imminent threat to his life for months,” he continued. “The fact that he was assassinated in this manner is a failure of these bodies to provide protection to someone they knew would be targeted. The role of foreign interference from India must be thoroughly investigated and those responsible for this crime must be brought to justice.”
Last July, India’s National Investigation Agency issued a reward of a million rupees (CDN$16,000) for information about Nijjar. The NIA alleged that he was conspiring to commit a major terrorist attack.
However, the WSO has questioned that claim.
“Nijjar denied being involved in any criminal activity and said he was being targeted for his advocacy in support of Khalistan,” the WSO said in its statement. “Nijjar was placed on India’s ‘blacklist’ and Indian authorities seized and appropriated the land he held in his native village in Punjab, as punishment for his activism.”
An amazing moment of intersectional solidarity. Shortly after #Kamloops215 brought forward long known truths of genocidal residential schools, Mr. Nijjar invited myself and Jennifer Sherif to speak at a prayer commemorating the lives of the 215 Indigenous children. pic.twitter.com/5RJ6QaFtVK
— Annie Ohana (@ohana_annie) June 19, 2023
Temple oversees broad range of activities
The Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Society plays a big role in the lives of Sikhs in Surrey and Delta. In addition to overseeing religious events, it offers social, sports, and youth programs. They include a Punjabi school, Kirtan, and Gatka (Sikh martial arts).
In 2021, the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Society generated $2.3 million in revenue, according to a financial statement filed with the Canada Revenue Agency. That included $110,000 from the federal and provincial governments.
Nearly $1.4 million went to charitable activities.
The society also reported $889,500 in cash, bank accounts, and short-term investments at the end of 2021. In addition, it listed assets of $16.5 million and liabilities of $4.9 million.