New Delhi: India has shot another demarche to Canada as a banned Sikh extremist group prepares to hold a second referendum over Khalistan in recent times, advocating its secession from the mainland.
New Delhi has even reminded Ottawa of the bombing of the Emperor Kanishka aircraft (Air India flight 182) in 1985 which blew up over the Atlantic Ocean killing all 329 aboard, including 268 Canadian citizens. The bomb was planted by Canadian Sikh militants.
The demarche, or a formal note of protest between governments, comes after India was informed that the second referendum would be held on 6 November in Paul Coffey Arena, Mississauga.
The last one was held on 19 September in Brampton, Ontario, following which India issued a rare travel advisory against Canada over rising anti-India incidents and hate crimes.
According to official sources, it was important that India issue yet another demarche through diplomatic channels because Ottawa was “not taking any action” despite repeated requests by New Delhi.
Sources also told ThePrint that Canada “knows it well” that New Delhi was “unhappy and upset” and that “no effective measures” were being taken against Khalistani elements who continue to hold referendums aimed at creating a new country for Sikhs.
The government has now publicly referred to the Kanishka terror attack to “put pressure” on the Justin Trudeau government to take action against organisations like the “Sikhs for Justice” (SFJ) that was banned in India in 2019, sources said.
Last week, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told the media: “We have obviously conveyed (India’s concerns) at different levels to the Canadian government. We expect that there should not be such developments or such activities… We have also issued an advisory on how anti-India activity is increasing in that country and how much risk can be there for us Indians in such things.”
“As you know, we should not forget how violence took place, (the) Kanishka bomb blast… bombing can also get linked to similar activities and has happened before and you know that organization (SFJ) is banned here,” he added.
The SFJ, promoted by Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, had called for a referendum in 2020 as well.
On the impending referendum, Pannun has reportedly said, “November 6 voting is a journey of the Sikh community from being the victim of genocide to seeking independence through Khalistan Referendum.”
The SFJ is supported by one of the main allies of the Trudeau administration – National Democratic Party (NDP) – according to certain media reports.
Prominent NDP leader Jagmeet Singh backed the referendum and said Saturday: “Some people are spreading false information to create division, distract and misinform the public. The straightforward thing is that seeking impudence through a referendum is an inalienable right of all peoples… It is not a crime to seek secession and independence through Referendum.”
Sources have told ThePrint that tension between the two countries began to simmer ever since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concerns over the farmers’ protests in 2020. India, at that time, had not ruled out the involvement of Khalistani elements in that incident.
Meanwhile, Trudeau has denounced Russia’s referendums on Ukraine and said that his country will “never recognise” those.
“Canada denounces Russia’s planned ‘referendums’ in occupied regions of Ukraine. We will never recognise them. This is a blatant violation of international law. It is a further escalation of war. And it is unacceptable,” Trudeau said in a tweet last month.
Canada denounces Russia’s planned “referendums” in occupied regions of Ukraine. We will never recognize them. This is a blatant violation of international law. It is a further escalation of war. And it is unacceptable.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 20, 2022
India has also lodged a stern complaint with Canadian authorities over the recent vandalisation of a temple in Toronto, which the Canadian police are still investigating. The BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir was defaced with anti-India graffiti.