On 22nd September 2022, India sharply objected to the ongoing ‘so-called’ referendum in Canada. The government accused Canada of allowing extremist activities that are “deeply objectionable” and “politically motivated” which directly threaten India’s integrity.
The statement came amid the so-called referendum in Brampton, a suburb on the outskirts of Ontario in Canada on 19th September, 2022. The referendum was organized by a pro-Khalistani group, Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), which India banned in 2019.
The Khalistan movement is backed by Pakistan and it had signalled its strong support for the Khalistan movement by sending its Consul General Janbaz Khan to the two pro-Khalistan Gurdwaras in Surrey, Vancouver.
The Pakistani consul General’s visit was apparently to thank the Gurudwara authorities for sending donations for flood relief in Pakistan, but the timing of the visit at a time of the referendum, which directly threatens the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India, was a message by Pakistan to all the pro-Khalistani groups around the world that their demands would be backed by Pakistan.
A report on the ‘Hindustan Times’ website mentions: “The Pakistan CG Khan, who has done two stints in India in Pakistani High Commission, visited pro-Khalistan Sri Dashmesh Darbar and Guru Nanak Sikh Gurudwara in Surrey on September 18 along with two officers of his consulate and held secret meetings with the separatist office bearers.”
Canada’s reaction to the Khalistan movement
India’s objection to the so-called referendum was turned down by Canada, citing that the state cannot interfere in the right of freedom of speech and expression of its citizens.
Although the Canadian government has reiterated that such acts, which affect the territorial integrity of India, are not supported by them, but the number of Sikhs in Canada is large and the vote bank politics forbids Canada to take any harsh measures against the pro-Khalistani Sikh groups.
In 2018, Canada brushed out all references to Sikh and Khalistan extremism in its 2018 report on terrorist threats, thus indirectly legitimizing the movement.
The lenient attitude adopted by the Canadian government in curbing the Khalistan activity has made it easy for the pro-Khalistan elements to propagate their ideas freely in the country. Social media has also made it easy to propagate the ideology of Khalistan to various parts of the world.
Pakistan’s backing of Khalistan
The debacle of the 1971 war with India was a setback for Pakistan. After losing half of its country, Pakistan understood that it cannot win a conventional war with India. Hence, Pakistan’s President and Dictator Zia Ul Haq came up with a policy of “bleeding India through thousand cuts”.
The policy focussed on attacking India through unconventional means like terrorism, insurgency, sowing seeds of separatism, etc. Khalistan is one such cut of the many cuts.
During Zia ul Haq’s regime, the Khalistan terrorists were involved in various hijacking incidents in India, including the hijack of an Indian Airlines Boeing 737 which was taken to Lahore in September 1981.
Khalistan terrorists enjoy a safe haven in Pakistan, enjoy free movement and also raise funds for their movement as well as are involved in the process of transportation of weapons shipment to India.
Dal Khalsa chief Gajinder Singh is also been reported to be present in Pakistan. He was involved in the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight in 1981.
The visit of Pakistani Consul General Vancouver Janbaz Khan to pro-Khalistan Gurudwaras in Surrey is a clear indication that Pakistan is invested in instigating and supporting Sikh radicals against India.