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Who Was Hardeep Singh Nijjar, Khalistani Leader At Centre Of India-Canada Standoff?

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau , during a session in the House of Commons, recently made allegations regarding India's involvement in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar , a prominent figure in the Khalistani movement.

Nijjar met a tragic end in June this year, having been gunned down. His name had been closely associated with the separatist cause of Khalistan, which advocates for the creation of an independent Sikh state in Punjab, India.

Born in Bharsinghpur village in Jalandhar, Punjab, Nijjar eventually migrated to Canada in 1995. Over time, he garnered a reputation for being a contentious and controversial figure due to his alleged participation in violent activities, subversive endeavors, and his affiliation with outlawed separatist groups.

While residing in Canada, Nijjar remained a fugitive, wanted by Indian authorities for his suspected involvement in terrorist actions against India. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had filed charges against him, accusing him of conspiring and executing acts of terrorism within the country.

Nijjar's involvement in various high-profile acts of violence, such as the Shingar Cinema bomb blast in Ludhiana in 2007 and the assassination of Rashtriya Sikh Sangat President Rulda Singh in Patiala in 2009, only added to his notoriety.

One of Nijjar's key affiliations was with the Khalistan movement. He played a pivotal role in organizing the Khalistan Referendum in Brampton, Ontario. Nijjar's association with Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a banned separatist organization in India, drew significant attention. He was accused of participating in terrorist activities in Punjab, prompting the Indian government to repeatedly request Canadian authorities to take action against him.

The Indian government went to the extent of declaring Nijjar a 'wanted terrorist' and including his name on a list of designated terrorists alongside 40 others. In 2022, the NIA even offered a reward of Rs 10 lakh for information leading to Nijjar's arrest. He faced allegations of conspiring to assassinate a Hindu priest in Jalandhar, Punjab, with the conspiracy attributed to the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), of which Nijjar served as the chief.

In 2011, Nijjar encountered Jagtar Singh Tara , the leader of the Pakistan-based Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), and shifted his allegiance to this newly-formed group. Allegedly, he received training in crafting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and handling sophisticated firearms during visits to Pakistan. Nijjar was also implicated in providing financial support to Jagtar Singh Tara and assisting in his relocation from Pakistan to Thailand in 2014. Additionally, he allegedly trained Sikh youths in Canada in the use of firearms, dispatching them to India with the intent to target senior police officials and religious leaders.

Nijjar's criminal involvement extended beyond separatist activities. He formed an alliance with Punjabi gangster Arshdeep Singh Gill, known as Arsh Dala, engaging in organized financial crimes in both Punjab and Canada to fund his terrorist plans. This brought him into the crosshairs of rival criminal gangs operating in the Surrey-Delta area.

Furthermore, Nijjar launched a campaign of intimidation against Jathedar Akal Takht, Giani Harpreet Singh, leading the latter to cancel his visit to Canada. Nijjar was also suspected of having a role in the assassination of Ripudaman Malik. There were persistent allegations that funds from the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, where Nijjar held the position of president, were being misappropriated to finance terror activities in Punjab.

While Trudeau's accusations reverberated, the Indian government vehemently denied these claims, labeling them as "absurd." In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) asserted, "Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The MEA further expressed concerns about the Canadian government's inaction on this matter, highlighting that Canadian political figures had openly expressed sympathy for such elements. They stressed that Canada had, over time, become a space for various illegal activities, including murder, human trafficking, and organized crime.

India firmly rejected any attempts to link the Indian government to these developments and called upon the Government of Canada to swiftly take legal action against all anti-India elements operating within its borders.