India strongly protests ‘Khalistan’ slogans at public event attended by Canadian leaders

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NEW DELHI: India on Monday strongly protested against ‘Khalistan’ slogans being raised at a public event attended by Canadian leaders and said that such disturbing actions will not only impact India-Canada relations, but also encourage a climate of violence and criminality in Canada to the detriment of its own citizens.

“The Government of India’s deep concern and strong protest was conveyed at such disturbing actions being allowed to continue unchecked at the event. This illustrates once again the political space that has been given in Canada to separatism, extremism and violence. Their continued expressions not only impact India-Canada relations but also encourage a climate of violence and criminality in Canada to the detriment of its own citizens”, said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in an official statement.

India also summoned the Canadian Deputy High Commissioner to the Ministry of External Affairs to raise its concerns over the matter. “The Canadian Deputy High Commissioner was today summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs with regard to the raising of separatist slogans on ‘Khalistan’ at an event which was being personally addressed by the Prime Minister of Canada”, said MEA.

Notably, at the Khalsa Day Celebrations that took place in Toronto on Sunday, loud chants of pro-Khalistan slogans were raised in the presence of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as opposition leader Pierre Poilievre.

India and Canada are dealing with an unprecedented diplomatic crisis, after Canadian Prime Minister accused agents of the Government of India for killing Canadian Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June 2023. However, India has dismissed the accusations as “absurd” and “motivated.”

Nijjar, who was designated a terrorist by the National Investigation Agency in 2020, was shot and killed as he came out of a Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, on the evening of June 18, 2023.

The video of his killing that reportedly surfaced in March recently, showed Nijjar being shot by armed men in what has been described as a ‘contract killing’.The killing led to accusations from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the government of India had a hand in the killing — a claim that was denied by India and led to the deterioration of diplomatic ties between Canada and India.

As PM Trudeau was about to take the stage for his address to mark Khalsa Day, the chants were heard getting louder till he arrived and commenced his speech in the video released by Canada-based CPAC TV.

Slogans of “Khalistan Zindabad” were heard at the event in which, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow were also present. A similar instance also occurred when the leader of the official opposition of Canada, Pierre Poilievre walked up to the stage to begin his address to the people gathered at the event.

Thousands of people flocked to downtown Toronto on Sunday for one of the biggest yearly gatherings in the city. According to the Ontario Sikhs and Gurdwaras Council (OSGC), Vaisakhi, also called Khalsa Day, commemorates the founding of the Sikh community in 1699 as well as the Sikh New Year.

The group has been organising an annual parade down Lake Shore Boulevard for many years; the council claims that it is the third-largest parade in the nation and that it regularly draws thousands of spectators, according to CBC News.

Even as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walked up to address the Sikh Community in Toronto loud pro-Khalistan slogans were raised from the crowd. Trudeau in a staunch assurance to the Sikh Community in the country has said that the government is always there to protect their rights and freedoms at all costs.

He said that diversity is one of Canada’s greatest strengths, and the country is strong not in spite of the differences, but because of those differences.

“One of Canada’s greatest strengths is its diversity. We are strong not in spite of our differences, but because of our differences; but even as we look at these differences, we have to remember, and get reminded on days such as this, and every day, that Sikh values are Canadian values…” Trudeau said during the Khalsa Day Celebrations on Sunday in Toronto.

“To the nearly, 800,000 Canadians of Sikh heritage across this country, we will always be there to protect your rights and your freedoms, and we will always defend your community against hatred and discrimination,” he asserted.

The Canadian PM also noted that the country is enhancing the security and infrastructure programmes by “adding more security at community centres and places of worship, including Gurdwaras.”

“Your right to practice your religion freely, and without intimidation is exactly that. A fundamental right guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that we will always stand up and defend you for,” Trudeau assured the Sikh community in his Khalsa Day address. (ANI)

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