His Slaying in Canada Is Now an International Incident

What we know about Hardeep Singh Nijjar, whose June killing has caused a Canada-India rift
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2023 8:45 AM CDT
His Murder in Canada Is Now an International Incident
A photograph of late temple president Hardeep Singh Nijjar is seen on a banner outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Surrey, British Columbia, on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023.   (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau startled the international community on Monday with a damning allegation against India—he said Canada was investigating "credible allegations" that the Indian government orchestrated the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil. India denies it, and a diplomatic tit-for-tat is now under way between the two nations. Coverage:

  • The killing: On June 18, masked gunman shot to death 45-year-old Hardeep Singh Nijjar while he was in his pickup truck in the parking lot of a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia. The two gunmen remain at large, along with a third man who was their getaway driver, reports the Toronto Sun.
  • Who was he? Nijjar, who was born in India and emigrated to Canada in 1997, owned a plumbing business but he was better known as a prominent leader of the Sikh community in his adopted country, per Canada's Global News. In fact, he was leader of the temple, or gurdwara, where he was fatally shot.

  • His cause: Nijjar championed the movement to carve out a separate Sikh homeland called Khalistan in India, and he was in the process of organizing an unofficial referendum toward that end when killed, per the AP. Some context, via the Washington Post: "Canada is home to one of the world's largest Sikh diaspora communities and is the site of Sikh activism that has displeased the Indian government."
  • India's view: India labeled Nijjar a terrorist in 2020 and accused him of masterminding a 2016 bombing in the state of Punjab and of training terrorists in British Columbia. "This is garbage—all the allegations," Nijjar told the Vancouver Sun after the bombing accusation came out. "I am living here 20 years, right? Look at my record. There is nothing. I am a hard worker. I own my own business in the plumbing."
  • The history: Vivek Dehejia, an associate professor at Carleton University, tells the Vancouver Sun that the issue of Khalistan and its support in Canada's Sikh community has long been a sore spot in relations between the two countries. That support is fed by continued resentment among Sikhs over an infamous 1984 siege by the Indian government on a major Sikh temple that left hundreds dead. "Diaspora groups bring grievances from their home countries," he said. "Even though many Sikh Canadians are first-, second- or third- generation Canadians, that issue resonates."
(More Canada stories.)

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