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- Canada and India's relation have hit rock bottom after Canadian PM Justin Trudeau accused the Indian government agency of killing Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
What is the Khalistan movement?
- In India, the Sikh independence movement turned out to be a bloody armed insurgency that shook the country in the 1970s and 1980s. The movement centered in northern Punjab state, where Sikhs are the majority.
- The insurgency lasted more than a decade and was suppressed by the Indian government crackdown in which thousands were killed including Sikh militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
- In 1984, Indian forces stormed the Golden Temple in Amritsar to flush out separatists who had taken refuge there. On October 31, 1984, then-Indian PM Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards. Her death triggered a series of anti-Sikh riots.
Is the Khalistan movement still going on?
- In Punjab, the Khalistan movement still has some supporters but there is no active insurgency in the state today. Over the years, the Indian government has repeatedly warned that Khalistani terrorists were trying to make a comeback.
- The Narendra Modi government has also intensified the pursuit of Khalistani terrorists and arrested dozens of leaders from various outfits that are linked to the movement.
- During farmers' protests against the agriculture laws in 2020, the Modi government initially tried to discredit Sikh participants by calling them ‘Khalistanis’. Under pressure, the Modi government later withdrew the laws.
- Earlier this year, the cops arrested a Sikh leader who had revived calls for Khalistan and stirred fears of violence in Punjab. Amritpal Singh, a 30-year-old preacher, had captured national attention through his fiery speeches. He said he drew inspiration from Bhindranwale.
Khalistan movement outside India
- Over the years, India has been asking countries like Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom to take legal action against Khalistani terrorists. Personally, PM Modi raised the issue with these nations' prime ministers, particularly with Canada where Sikhs make up nearly 2% of the country's population.
- Sikh protestors have also pulled down the Indian flag at the country's high commission in London. They smashed the building's window in a show of anger against the move to arrest Amritpal Singh.
- India’s foreign ministry denounced the incidents and summoned the UK’s deputy high commissioner in New Delhi to protest what it called the breach of security at the embassy in London.
- The Indian government also accused Khalistan supporters in Canada of vandalizing Hindu temples with “anti-India" graffiti and of attacking the offices of the Indian High Commission in Ottawa during a protest in March 2023.
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