Why did the MEA ask the Indians of Canada to be careful and vigilant?

Citing a “sharp increase in incidents of hate crimes, sectarian violence and anti-Indian activity” in Canada, the Department of External Affairs (MEA) issued a notice on Friday (September 23) for Indian nationals and students who are in Canada.

The notice stated: “In view of the increasing incidence of the crimes described above, Indian nationals and Indian students in Canada and those traveling to Canada for travel/study are urged to exercise caution and stay watchful.”

What has happened recently in Canada?

The notice came days after media reported a ‘Khalistan referendum’ in Canada, as well as reports of a Hindu temple vandalism recently.

During a press conference on September 22, a question was posed to Arindam Bagchi, the official spokesperson of the MEA, about a “so-called referendum on Khalistan which is taking place in countries like Canada”.

In response, Bagchi called it a “wacky exercise” held by “extremist and radical elements.” He said the issue had been raised with Canadian authorities, that the Canadian government respects India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that Canada would not recognize the exercise.

“However,” Bagchi said, “we find it deeply reprehensible that politically motivated exercises by extremist elements should be allowed to take place in a friendly country.” People were aware of the “history of violence” around the request, the spokesman said, and assured that the Indian government would continue to pressure the Canadian government on the matter.

What hate crimes and violence are happening?

Earlier this month, the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Toronto was reportedly defaced with “anti-Indian” graffiti, PTI reported. India’s High Commission in Ottawa, Canada, tweeted that it strongly condemned the act and called on Canadian authorities to investigate the incident.

What is the history of Indians in Canada and the Khalistan movement?

Indians have been settling in Canada for over a century and the country has a large population of Indian origin, which is among the largest Indian diasporas in the world. Canada is now a preferred destination for higher education for many Indian students, with around 60,000 students choosing to go to the country in the first half of 2022, second only to the United States.

Indian immigration to Canada was initiated by Punjabi Sikhs. According to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) report compiled by local consultants, it is estimated that around 60-65% of people applying to travel to Canada are from Punjab in India.

Over the years, the Punjabi Sikh community has become a wealthy and politically powerful group in Canada. Sections of the community have also supported and funded the Khalistan separatist movement for decades and have been home to many Khalistan ideologues and extremists. India has raised this issue several times with Canada, and the situation has sometimes led to diplomatic embarrassment.

In 2018, during Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India, Canadian diplomats had to withdraw a party invitation from a man convicted of the attempted murder of a minister from Punjab who was visiting Canada in 1986. Jaspal Atwal, a known supporter of Khalistan, had been invited to two events organized for Trudeau before the invitation was rescinded.

Trudeau later said, “Obviously we take this very seriously. He should never have received an invitation. As soon as we received the information, we canceled it. A deputy had included this individual”.

That same year, Public Safety Canada, an arm of the Canadian government, said some people in the country continued to support extremist Sikh (Khalistan) ideologies and movements in its 2018 public report on the terrorist threat to Canada, taking note of the links of the movement. to terrorism for the first time, while adding that overall support for the request has diminished over time.

In 2010, then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a joint press conference in Canada with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper that “the Sikh community in Canada is thriving” and that most Sikhs are ” peace-loving and good citizens of Canada”.

“But,” Singh said, “a small group of people have taken the path of extremism, which is doing great damage to the Sikh community, to India, and to good relations with Canada.”

Prime Minister Singh urged Canada to act, saying, “Religious extremism is out of step with the growing realities of the integrated global community and the globalized community…I spoke with Prime Minister Harper because Canadian soil is not used to promoting extremism. The Prime Minister told me that there are laws which (have) established limits, which exist. But I am convinced that Prime Minister Harper’s government is fully aware of what is happening. »