The news that keeps us Onward On!

The Carroll News

The news that keeps us Onward On!
Since 1925
The news that keeps us Onward On!

The Carroll News

The news that keeps us Onward On!

The Carroll News

From asylum to assasination: the life of Hardeep Singh Nijjar

Prime Ministers Trudeau and Modi Shaking hands at a summit on Feb. 23, 2018 - Hyderabad House, New Delhi.
Indian Press Information Bureau
Prime Ministers Trudeau and Modi Shaking hands at a summit on Feb. 23, 2018 – Hyderabad House, New Delhi.

Over the last few weeks, tensions grew between the Republic of India and the Dominion of Canada over one man, Hardeep Singh Nijjar. To understand the place these nations find themselves now, we have to first delve into his life, and the modern story of his religious community, the Sikhs

The Tiger in Exile

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was born in 1977 in Punjab, India in a harsh and unforgiving environment. Sohaa Khan, a Master’s graduate from Seton Hall University’s Diplomacy and International Relations program, described the situation as hateful as a majority Hindu nation that feels threatened by minority religions and ethnicities outside of the norm wishes to curb and crush non-conformists.

Khan writes in her work, Religious Persecution at Home and Abroad that “…anti-Sikh riots, which were conveniently labeled ‘riots’ to take accountability away from the government’s involvement in inciting anti-Sikh rhetoric” killed many in their community across India and the hate around the Sikhs helped mask overt government oppression as well.

These included the 1984 storming of the Golden Temple, the largest Sikh Temple in the world which was done in the name of Indian national security. All of this, which happened in quick succession, laid a heavy toll on the mind of Nijjar, who was a child at the time.

Al Jazeera reports that the violence and hate in India forced him to immigrate to Canada in 1997. Though he left India and his homeland of Punjab, Al Jazeera states that this was not the end of his involvement in India. He became a supporter of the Khalistan Movement, a Sikh nationalist project in which Punjab would become the seat of an autonomous Sikh state as it had been before British colonization. To support this he would help lead an on-the-ground, and international resistance, the “Khalistan Tiger Force”.

Murder Most Foul

As a leader of the KTF, Nijjar helped seek autonomy for Khalistan at all costs. In 2013, as the Indian Express reports, he was in contact with a force member who assassinated the Chief Minister of Punjab in 1995 for cooperating with the Indian government. As such, Nijjar was hoping to lead a “Khalistan referendum” starting with support from Sikh immigrants in Canada and Australia where Indian laws outlawing the referendum have no standing.

Besides the referendum, he was also quoted by Al Jazeera as “‘actively involved in operationalizing, networking, training and financing its members’ according to a 2020 Indian government statement.” Likely, it seems, he would have been involved in both the democratic and non-democratic means of reform for the Sikh community in Punjab.

This was his life until 2023, organizing the Sikh community across the British Commonwealth, and supporting radicals to overthrow governance in Punjab. Additionally, he had a whole life in Canada where, regardless of his actions in support of independence or violence. He was a hard-working Vancoverite, whose spiritual and physical family saw him as a figure to look up to as reiterated in the Global News.

In the above article, the Global News states that, when leaving a late-night temple meeting on June 18, 2023, Nijjar was shot three times while getting into his truck. By the time EMS got to him, he had died of his wounds. Until now, the Vancouver Police Department and Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, had not issued a statement on the murder.

Chaos in the (Former) Commonwealth

According to the Hindustan Times, on Sept. 19, Justin Trudeau stated that there was “credible evidence” linking state agents of India with the murder of Nijjar. Through clarifications, he stated that “…weeks ago, he wanted New Delhi to address it properly.”

It seems that this was the final nuclear option for accountability in this case, as Trudeau did not want a proxy war for Punjab to spread to Canada and undermine national sovereignty. This asks the question of why they let proponents of violence enter their borders in the first place even if he is a voice of democratic autonomy for the Sikh community.

Nevertheless, the problem has devolved into what CNN calls a “tit-for-tat diplomatic warfare.” In response, on the same day as the address, the Indian official linked to the group potentially responsible for the killing was asked to leave Canada. By the end of the day, India had similarly exiled a member of the Canadian embassy from India.

As of Sept. 25, 2023, this is the state of affairs and there is no real accountability for the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Based on the evidence presented, it seems that there was a political motive for murder on behalf of the Indian government, though I would not call it morally justified. In this war of words between India and Canada, there are no winners, just as there is no winner in the real conflict between Sikh radicals and India. Eyes for eyes are leaving both sides blind, and no matter if it’s the KTF, the Indian government, or the Canadian government, there is a lack of accountability. One can only hope that there will be a change and that a middle ground of stability can be found between Nijjar’s extremism and the past and present of Sikh othering in India. Because as it is now, there is no justice for Nijjar, those executed by the KTF, or the Sihks and fellow Indians caught in between.

View Comments (2)

Comments (2)

The Carroll News allows comments on articles to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards.
All The Carroll News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • S

    SamSep 29, 2023 at 12:33 pm

    Aljazeera is an utterly an unreliable source. The writer should perhaps the Nijjar’s 2016 letter to PM Trudeau referenced by National Post

    The letter is also available on social media and internet in which Nijjar says:
    “I am a Sikh nationalist who believes in and supports Sikhs’ right to self-determination and independence of Indian-occupied Punjab through a future referendum.”

    Also, India’s December 2020 FIR against Nijjar based on which India declared Nijjar a “terrorist” lists Nijjar’s crime as “organizing protest at the Indian High Commissions” and “campaigning for Khalistan Referendum”. So much for “terrorism”.

    • M

      MOct 2, 2023 at 1:06 pm

      That is a fair critique, as there is definitely an imbalance when it comes to AJ coverage and the separate English and Arabic language divisions.

      In terms of terrorism and labeling, the point of discussion was that Nijjar had supposedly met with an assassin for the KTF who committed a high-profile murder in the 1990s for the cause. As such both languages were used to let the reader take away from that what they will.

      Thank you very much for your comment though, as we appreciate your feedback!