LONDON: India's foreign minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has attacked Canada for allowing a float in a pro-Khalistan Sikh parade in the Canadian city of Brampton depicting the 1984 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.
Video circulated by Sikh activists showed a float from the parade featuring Gandhi wearing a blood-stained white saree with her hands up as turban-clad Sikh men pointed guns at her. A poster behind the scene read: "Revenge".
Jaishankar said: "It isn’t only one incident, no matter how egregious it may be. I think there is a larger underlying issue about the space which is given to separatists, to extremists, to people who advocate violence. I think it is not good for relationships, not good for Canada.”
India’s external affairs minister argued the incident shows Ottawa’s lax approach to extremism.
He said: “We are at a loss to understand, other than the requirements of vote-buying politics, why anyone would do this.”
Canada's high commissioner to India also condemned the incident at the parade by Sikh activists in Brampton.
Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 by two Sikh bodyguards after she allowed the storming of the holiest Golden Temple Amritsar, killing thousands of Sikhs who demanded the creation of Khalistan.
India’s condemnation came within days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser said India was among the top sources of foreign interference in Canada, directly naming India for exerting improper influence in Canada.
Jaishankar said he found it hypocritical that Canada would call out India for interference.
“If anybody has a complaint, we have a complaint about Canada; the space that they’re giving to Khalistanis and to violent extremists,” he said.
Pro-Khalistan campaign group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) defended the float rally in Brampton. Its General Counsel Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said the float depicted a harsh reality that Indira’s assassination was the direct outcome of her decision to attack Darbar Saheb, killing over 10,000 Sikhs.
He said: “Indira Gandhi ordered Operation Blue Star in which more than 10,000 Sikh pilgrims including women and children were massacred by the Indian army. The violence started by Indira Gandhi continues against Sikhs today. Sikhs from Canada suffered violence too. Shaheed Talwinder Singh Parmar was accused of Air India bombing and tortured to death. He was killed without a charge because there was no evidence. Mohinder Singh Khalsa from Ontario was also killed by India. India’s weapon is violence but Sikhs believe in using the weapon of the ballot through Khalistan Referendum voting.”
Canada and India openly clashed a few months ago as tens of thousands of Sikhs gathered in Brampton to take part in the Khalistan Referendum voting. India asked Canada to ban voting but the Canadian govt refused saying it cannot ban the democratic political activity of its citizens.
Canada has the highest population of Sikhs outside of Indian Punjab. Earlier this year, India summoned Canada’s high commissioner to convey concern over pro-Khalistan protesters in Canada who breached the security of India’s diplomatic mission and consulates.