Hardeep Singh Nijjar, A prominent Sikh leader was brazenly murdered this summer outside a temple in British Columbia (BC), Canada.
The death has outraged his supporters and intensified global tensions between Sikh separatists and the Indian government.
Who was Hardeep Singh Nijjar?
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a Canadian activist and advocate for the creation of a separate Sikh state out of the Punjab region of India.
He was wanted by Indian authorities and was killed in Canada on 18 June 2023. The Canadian government is investigating allegations that the murder was committed by the Indian government.
India has denied the allegations, dismissing them as baseless and motivated, and accused Canada of harboring Khalistani terrorists and extremists, which it sees as a threat to India’s sovereignty.
Nijjar was originally from a village in Jalandhar and had been living in Canada for several years.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was alleged by the Government of India to be the leader of pro-Khalistan groups Khalistan Tiger Force and was a leader of the Canadian branch of Sikhs for Justice. He also served as the president of a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia.
By 2018, the Government of India had accused Nijjar of multiple targeted killings in India. Nijjar claimed that the Indian authorities were falsely implicating him in criminal cases.
In February 2018, Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab, gave the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a list of most wanted persons that included Nijjar’s name.
On 13 April 2018, the Surrey unit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) briefly detained Nijjar for questioning and released him within 24 hours without laying any charges.
In July 2020, India designated Hardeep Singh Nijra a ‘terrorist’ under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and, in September 2020, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) seized his assets in the country.
The NIA has accused him of plotting the murder of a Hindu priest in Punjab. In 2022, the NIA offered a reward of approximately $16,200 for any information that could help apprehend him.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar Cause of death
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was assassination by gunshot On 18 June 2023.
He left behind a wife and two adult sons, the Canadian media reported.
How was Hardeep Singh Nijjar killed?
On 18 June 2023, Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead in his truck by two masked gunmen in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, Canada.
He was found in his vehicle with gunshot wounds. Nijjar was 45.
Canada accuses India of role in Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s murder
On September 18, 2023, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau stated that Canadian intelligence has identified a credible link between his murder and the Indian government and that he had brought this up to his counterpart Narendra Modi at the 2023 G20 New Delhi summit, calling on India to cooperate with Canada in investigating the murder.
In response to the alleged killing, the Canadian foreign minister Mélanie Joly ordered the expulsion of a top Indian diplomat in Canada named Pavan Kumar Rai, who headed the operations of the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency, in Canada.
India expelled a Canadian diplomat the next day in a tit-for-tat move and denied the claims as absurd. The investigation was said to have led to the suspension of talks on a Canada–India trade deal.