India has slammed Canada for allowing a parade float showing the 1984 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, perceived to be a glorification of violence by Sikh separatists. The parade, which took place in the Canadian city of Brampton on June 5, has sparked outrage and condemnation from Indian officials and politicians, who have called it an insult to India’s history and democracy.
The parade float featured Gandhi wearing a blood-stained white saree with her hands up as turban-clad men pointed guns at her. A poster behind the scene read: “Revenge”. The parade was organized by Sikh activists who support the creation of an independent homeland for Sikhs in India, known as Khalistan.
Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 by two Sikh bodyguards after she ordered a military operation to flush out Sikh separatists who had occupied the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of Sikhs, in Amritsar. The operation, known as Operation Blue Star, resulted in hundreds of deaths and widespread damage to the temple complex. The assassination triggered anti-Sikh riots across India, in which thousands of Sikhs were killed by mobs.
The issue of Khalistan has been a source of tension between India and Canada for decades, as Canada has a large Sikh diaspora, some of whom support the separatist cause. India has accused Canada of being soft on pro-Khalistan elements and of allowing them to use Canadian soil for anti-India activities. Canada has maintained that it respects India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty but also upholds the right to peaceful expression and protest.
The latest incident has added to the strain in bilateral relations between India and Canada, which are worth $100 billion in trade and investment. Earlier this year, India summoned Canada’s High Commissioner to convey concern over pro-Khalistan protesters in Canada who breached the security of India’s diplomatic mission and consulates. India has also expressed its displeasure over Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s remarks on the farmers’ protests in India last year, which India saw as interference in its internal affairs.
India’s recent crackdown on Sikh activists who support the creation of an independent homeland for Sikhs in India, known as Khalistan, has sparked outrage and protests both within and outside the country. The Indian authorities have arrested more than 100 people, shut down mobile internet in the whole of Punjab state, and summoned a UK diplomat over the alleged vandalism of the Indian High Commission in London by pro-Khalistan supporters.
The crackdown was triggered by a massive manhunt for a famous Sikh preacher named Amritpal Singh, who has been on the run since March 18 after he was accused by police of attempted murder, obstruction of law enforcement and creating “disharmony” in society. Singh is a leading ideologue within the outlawed separatist movement that seeks to establish Khalistan for followers of India’s minority Sikh religion.