Canadian Sikhs Mourn The Killing Of Hardeep Singh Nijjar

hardeep singh nijjar

The brazen murder of the President of Surrey-Delta Gurdwara on Sunday, June 18 has left many of us devastated. Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a tireless community activist and a hardworking family man, who earned his livelihood as a plumber. He was shot to death by at least two unidentified assailants on Father’s Day, when he was heading home to spend time with his sons after finishing his work at the Gurdwara.

Nijjar has been declared a “martyr “ by thousands of individuals who gathered at the Gurdwara on June 25 to pay their final respects to the deceased. Demonstrating their concern, they signed a petition urging the Canadian government to thoroughly investigate the possible involvement of Indian agents in the incident. Nijjar’s body had been brought to the Gurdwara in a casket before the funeral ceremony.

Nijjar was associated with Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), an advocacy group fighting for an independent Sikh homeland of Khalistan. SFJ is banned in India, and Nijjar had been branded as a designated terrorist by the government in New Delhi. He was constantly targeted by a section of the Indian media and was relentlessly accused of being involved in violent activities and political murders in the country. This was despite the fact that he had never been convicted or faced any criminal charges in Canada.

The Indian government had been trying to get him extradited. It was claimed that he was running a terror training camp in Mission, BC – a claim that proved to be a hoax.

In fact, Nijjar lived under constant fear for his life at the hands of foreign actors active in Canada. More than once, he had confided in me about threatening messages and being cautioned by the Canadian police to remain vigilant.

In May, upon hearing news about the murder of a Pakistan-based prominent Khalistani leader Paramjit Singh Panjwar, Nijjar’s apprehensions about his own life grew.

India has been asking Pakistan to handover Panjawar and others like him hiding in that country.

Nijjar had made a statement accusing the Indian establishment of killing Panjwar through hired hitmen and later organized special prayers for him at the Surrey-Delta Gurdwara.

On May 18, I interviewed him for Spice Radio during which he revealed that he too was on the radar of the Indian state and feared he could meet the same fate as Panjwar, here in Canada. In a nutshell, despite foreseeing his death he remained steadfast in his fight for Khalistan through peaceful means. He insisted that all they want was a right to self-determination through ballot and not bullet (read referendum). Which is why, exactly a month later, when I first heard about his murder on the night of June 18, I was shocked, but not surprised.

While it remains to be seen if the Canadian authorities will seriously look into this possibility of targeted attack on Nijjar and make any progress, his final interview serves as an eye opener for Canada to delve deeper into growing foreign interference in this country.

In the meantime, the right-wing Indian media commentators and pro Delhi trolls on social media continue to malign Nijjar as a terrorist, with some even celebrating his death. Though it’s all very disheartening and insensitive, Nijjar needs no validation from them. I never fully agreed with his politics and nor do I support Khalistan, but I recognize his legacy of standing up for human rights and social justice.

He was firm, polite and humble. Not only did he advocate for the rights of Sikhs facing persecution in India, but he also stood up for the rights of Muslims, Christians and Dalits. He had once attended our rally for the jailed Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba, who is disabled below the waist and is being incarcerated on fabricated charges. The professor’s only “crime” was daring to question those in power and defending the poor and marginalized. Nijjar had announced whole-hearted support to the campaign for the freedom of Saibaba on behalf of the Gurdwara.

When Canada was mourning the heartbreaking discoveries of unmarked graves of indigenous kids at the former residential school sites, Nijjar took the initiative to organize special prayers. In recognition of this, I presented him with Radical Desi medal, for which I also came under attack on twitter from a former Indian envoy in Vancouver.

Earlier this year, Nijjar held another event in memory of Nirmal Singh Gill, a temple keeper, who has been murdered by white supremacists at the Surrey -Delta Gurdwara 25 years ago. During the pandemic, the gurdwara under Nijjar’s leadership provided free food to the needy and the foreign students They also generously extended support to communities affected by floods and wildfires in British Columbia.

Gurpreet Singh is a journalist

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