Shortly after a prominent Canadian Sikh independence activist was assassinated by two masked gunmen outside of the gurdwara he led in Surrey, British Colombia, the FBI warned at least three Sikh Americans of threats to their lives, according to The Intercept.
Though the warnings were delivered over the summer, not long after Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara on June 18th, they’ve taken on a new light since September 21st, when the Canadian government declared it had intelligence linking the Indian government to the killing, as the CBC first reported two days ago.
Pritpal Singh, a Sikh American political activist with the American Sikh Caucus Committee told The Intercept that he and two other Sikh Americans who chose to remain anonymous had been contacted by the FBI, and warned of threats—but the FBI didn’t specify the source.
Sikh American activist Sukhman Dhami also told The Intercept that “certain community leaders associated with politics of Sikh self-determination” were warned by U.S. law enforcement. Dhami is the co-director of Ensaaf, a California-based NGO that aims to protect human rights in India, especially in the Punjab, a Sikh-majority state in India.
The “politics of Sikh self-determination” refers to the Khalistan movement, which aims to create an independent Sikh nation-state in the Punjab. The Indian government had declared Hardeep Singh Nijjar a terrorist for his efforts in support of the movement, accusing him of involvement in violence in the Punjab.
The same day Canada publicly announced it had records of Indian diplomats’ communications as evidence in their murder investigation, India ceased issuing visas for Canadian citizens, calling the accusation “absurd, the BCC reported. The suspension has thrown the travel plans of Indian Canadians hoping to visit their families into jeopardy, along with the large industry of Canadian tourism in India.
Sikh Canadians are feeling even more pressure, especially those involved in activism relating to the Punjab. Other Sikhs wanted by India have recently been killed in Canada, including Sukhdool Singh Gill, found dead in his Winnipeg home on Wednesday, September 20th, according to the CBC.
India has recently cracked down on the Sikh independence movement within its borders, and the killings are raising fears Modi’s government is trying to extend its reach beyond India’s borders as well. Harmeet Singh and Paramjit Panjwar were killed in Lahore, Pakistan, contributing further to the fear of an assassination campaign.
Though the United States and Canada are very close allies, the US has done its best to stay out of the ongoing diplomatic row between Canada and India as it tries to court one of the world’s largest countries.
But Canada has said that its evidence includes intelligence shared by one of the Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US, and the US law enforcement has been warning Sikh Americans about threats—making it more and more likely the US could find it’s way into the midst of the diplomatic spat, especially if Indian intelligence turns out to be working on similar operations in the United States.
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