Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh Khalistan activist murdered in Canada in June sparked intense diplomatic tensions between Ottawa and New Delhi, following Canada’s allegations India had hand in the crime and the latter dismissing the claims as “absurd.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday affirmed there were “credible allegations of a potential link” between the murder of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June and Indian government agents.
The allegations were followed by the immediate expulsion of an Indian of a “top Indian diplomat”, announced by Mélanie Joly, Canada’s foreign minister, soon after leading pro-Khalistan Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) urged the Canadian officials.
But, who is this Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the murdered activist, at the centre of this chaos?
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, according to Reuters.
India’s counterterrorism agency, the National Investigation Agency, claimed that he was initially connected to the Sikh “separatist organisation” Babbar Khalsa International (BKI).
New Delhi has listed BKI as a “terrorist organisation.”
A 2020 Indian government statement claims that Nijjar later rose to the position of chief of the militant organisation Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF).
The statement further claimed that he was “actively involved in operationalising, networking, training and financing” its members.
He was formally labelled a “terrorist” by New Delhi in the same statement, which said he had been “exhorting seditionary and insurrectionary imputations” and “attempting to create disharmony among different communities” in the nation.
Nijjar was a well-known figure and a powerful advocate for those who demanded the creation of the independent Sikh state of Khalistan.
He was chosen to lead the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurudwara in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, where he resided and held that position at the time of his murder.
For supporters demanding a so-called independent Sikh state of Khalistan, Nijjar was a prominent leader and a strong voice for the cause.