Who was Hardeep Singh Nijjar whose killing triggered India-Canada tensions?

Ottawa and New Delhi expel diplomats as tensions escalate over the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

In a tit-for-tat move, India has expelled a senior Canadian diplomat, hours after Ottawa expelled a top Indian official as tensions escalate between the two countries over the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar earlier this year.

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described in parliament what he called credible allegations that India was connected to Nijjar’s assassination in British Columbia state in June.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar

The Indian government dismissed the allegations as “absurd” and asked Canada instead to crack down on anti-India groups operating in its territory.

The row centres around the Sikh independence movement, commonly known as the Khalistan movement. India accuses Canada of sheltering Khalistani activists.

What triggered the tensions?

Nijjar, 45, was shot dead outside a Sikh temple on June 18 in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb with a large Sikh population, three years after India had designated him as a “terrorist”.

Nijjar supported the demand for a Sikh homeland in India’s northern state of Punjab, the birthplace of the Sikh religion, which borders Pakistan. He was reportedly organising an unofficial referendum in India for an independent Sikh nation at the time of this death.

Trudeau on Monday said any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen was “an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty”.

On Tuesday, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said allegations of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are “absurd and motivated”.

It said the “unsubstantiated allegations” sought to shift focus away from “Khalistani terrorists and extremists who have been provided shelter in Canada”.

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Indian authorities announced a cash reward last year for information leading to Nijjar’s arrest, accusing him of involvement in an alleged attack on a Hindu priest in India.

Trudeau said he brought up Nijjar’s killing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Group of 20 (G20) Summit in New Delhi last week. He said he told Modi that any Indian government involvement would be unacceptable and that he asked for cooperation in the investigation.

“In the strongest possible terms, I continue to urge the government of India to cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter,” he said.

Who was Hardeep Singh Nijjar?

Here is what is known about Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the man at the centre of the India-Canada row.

Nijjar was born in 1977 in Jalandhar district in India’s northern state of Punjab and moved to Canada in 1997, where he worked as a plumber, according to the Khalistan Extremism Monitor of the New Delhi-based independent Institute for Conflict Management.

He was initially associated with the Ba bbar Khalsa International (BKI) Sikh separatist group, according to India’s counter-terrorist, National Investigation Agency. New Delhi has listed BKI as a “terrorist organisation” and says it is funded by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, a charge Islamabad denies.

Vikas

Chief Content Producer at PKB News Team

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