The killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Sikh leader and temple president in Surrey, B.C., has sparked outrage and fear among many in the Sikh community, who accuse the Indian government of being behind his assassination.
The assassination of Nijjar is a serious blow to India-Canada relations that also raised several questions of the safety of such minorities and activists who are in Canada for their safety and protection.
The killing of Nijjar sparked serious concerns among such communities who believed to be safe in Canada when their lives are at risk back to their home countries.
Nijjar, 45, was shot dead in his truck on June 18 in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, where he served as president. He was also a vocal supporter of Khalistan, a proposed independent Sikh state from present-day India.
Thousands attended his funeral on Sunday at the gurdwara where he was gunned down, waving yellow Khalistan flags and chanting slogans against India.
On Saturday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Indian consulate in Vancouver, holding signs with Nijjar’s face and calling him a martyr. They also stepped on an Indian flag they brought to the demonstration.
Some protesters said they came from other parts of Canada and the United States to pay tribute to Nijjar and demand justice for his killing. They said they believed Nijjar’s death was a result of foreign interference from India, which they said was trying to silence and suppress the Sikh diaspora.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) is still looking for two “heavier-set” male suspects in the shooting. Investigators have not established a motive or a link to foreign interference but said they are aware of the allegations and speculation stemming from the attack.
They also said they have no reason to believe that the Sikh community in Canada is at risk or that there is any connection to the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.
A report released earlier this month by Canada’s national security adviser named India as a major actor in foreign interference, including election meddling and disinformation campaigns on social media.
India has also been accused of cracking down on religious minorities, especially Muslims and Sikhs, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government. Human rights groups have documented cases of violence, discrimination and harassment against minority groups in India.