Police say three Indian nationals charged with murder of British Columbia Sikh activist Nijjar

Chuck Chiang and Nono Shen, Canadian Press

Published on Friday, May 3, 2024 2:00 pmEDT

Last updated Friday, May 3, 2024 6:06 pmEDT

SURREY, BC – Three Indian nationals have been charged with the murder of BC Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in a murder last year that disrupted Ottawa’s relationship with New Delhi.

Police say they are investigating whether the Indian government was involved, an allegation raised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons last year.

Superintendent of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team. Mandeep Mooker said at a news conference Friday that the three men had been arrested in Edmonton that morning and there could be more suspects and arrests as the investigation progresses.

“We are investigating whether there are links to the Indian government,” Mooker said. “However…it is an ongoing investigation and I do not have any information to provide on that matter at this time.”

Nijjar was shot dead in his truck last June as he was leaving Guru Nanak. Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, sparking a wave of protests and demonstrations by local communities against Indian diplomats.

He was the president of the gurdwara where he was murdered. Nijjar also campaigned for a Sikh his homeland in India – also known as Khalistan – and organized unofficial referendums around the world on Punjabi independence.

BC Gurdwaras Council spokesperson Moninder Singh said he and Nijjar’s family were informed by investigators in Surrey about the arrests, and that Nijjar’s children were “very excited.”

“Right now, there is a sigh of relief over the murder of his father,” Singh said. “There is a bit of anger and frustration around why this had to happen in the first place, and then there are a lot of questions around India.

“Is this over? How do we go back to our community and have this conversation about whether this is safe or not?

Trudeau said in September that there was credible intelligence linking Nijjar’s murder to the Indian government, sparking a diplomatic row that resulted in India suspending issuance of visas to Canadians for two months.

India has repeatedly denied involvement in Nijjar’s death.

RCMP Deputy Commissioner David Teboul said police in Canada have been trying to collaborate with Indian authorities on investigations like the Nijjar case, an effort that began before his murder.

“I’ll be frank, I’ll characterize that collaboration as quite challenging and difficult over the last few years,” Teboul said. “However, the RCMP is very committed to continuing to establish a working relationship between law enforcement and law enforcement agencies. So let’s continue our efforts.

“But it’s been difficult.”

Police say the three suspects arrested for Nijjar’s murder, Karan Brar, Karanpreet Singh and Kamalpreet Singh, are all Indian males in their 20s who live in Edmonton.

Mooker said the men have been in Canada for three to five years as non-permanent residents, but did not provide other details about their immigration status.

Police say all three suspects are expected to be transported to British Columbia on Monday to face charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun is a resident of New York. Sikh Independence activist who, according to US prosecutors, was the target of an assassination plot led by an Indian government official.

He said the arrests were “a step forward” but “they only scratch the surface.”

“Shaheed Nijar was my dear personal friend and close collaborator,” Pannun said in a statement, using an honorific that implies martyrdom. “He was a person of integrity, a peaceful man with a demonstrated commitment to community service.

“Canadian politicians of all stripes must support Canadians. Sikh“The right of Indians to peacefully defend Khalistan without facing any violent retaliation from the Indian government.”

The world Sikh The Organization of Canada echoed those sentiments and said it welcomed news of the arrest of three members of an “alleged hit squad that murdered” Nijjar.

But the group said in a statement that it believes the arrests raise troubling questions about the connection between the Indian government and criminal gangs.

He noted that the Foreign Interference Commission report says India uses proxies in Canada who work with intelligence officials in India and Canada.

An interim report on foreign interference released Friday in Ottawa said Indian officials engaged in a variety of activities to influence communities and politicians in Canada.

He says India’s interests in Canada are linked to the large South Asian community in the country.

“India does not differentiate between pro-Khalistani legal political advocacy and the relatively small Canadian-based Khalistani violent extremism,” the report says.

Indian officials in Canada have increasingly relied on Canadian representatives and contacts in their network to conduct foreign interference, the report says.

“He views anyone aligned with Khalistani separatism as a seditious threat to India. The targets of Indian foreign interference are often members of Indo-Canadian communities, but prominent non-Indo-Canadian individuals are also subject to India’s foreign influence activities.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2024.

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