A leader from Kelowna’s Sikh community travelled to Surrey to meet with representatives from across Canada to discuss the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and the resulting response from the Indian and Canadian governments.
Nijjar, who is a Canadian citizen, was shot and killed by two masked gunmen outside of a Sikh temple in Surrey where he was the president, on June 18.
The Canadian government is currently investigating allegations that the Indian government is linked to the death of Nijjar. India had previously accused Nijjar of terrorism and Canadian intelligence officers had been meeting with Nijjar on a regular basis in the months ahead of his death and had informed him about threats to his safety.
Andy Sandhu from the Okanagan Sikh Temple spoke with Capital News on Oct. 3, after meeting with Sikh leaders in the Lower Mainland.
Sandhu explained that Nijjar was known to be a vocal and active separatist, advocating for a designated Sikh homeland in India. He said that Nijjar would share his views on the controversial and storied past of Khalistan separatism at Surrey’s Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, where he was president.
Nijjar was organizing an unofficial referendum in India for an independent Sikh state at the time of this death.
Sandhu said that Nijjar was known to have organized and attended extremist training camps for separatists.
Members of the Gurdwara, however, described Nijjar as “peaceful,” “humble” and “loved in the community.”
Sandhu said only a very small minority of the Indians with Sikh heritage living in Canada consider themselves to be separatists.
“If they want a separate state, they should go back to India and follow the democratic process,” said Sandhu about the Indian separatists living in Canada.
The community in Kelowna at the Okanagan Sikh Temple does not subscribe to the beliefs of Khalistan separatism, said Sandhu.
India has the largest democracy in the world, and Sandhu said that if people want to make change, they should do it democratically and elect leaders who represent their views.
He said that this incident will not impact the vast majority of Canadians, Indians and Sikhs, other than travel restrictions that have been recently put into place.
With files from the Canadian Press.