The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued an advisory to Indian students studying in Canada on Friday, days after an Indian student, Satwinder Singh, (28), was killed there. Singh was working part-time after completing his Global Business Management degree when he was slain in a shooting incident at a store in Milton, Southern Ontario.
The warning stated that there has been a sharp increase in incidents of hate crimes, sectarian violence, and anti-India activities in Canada, and Indian students are advised to exercise due caution, remain vigilant, and may register with the High Commission of India in Canada.
“In view of the increasing incidences of crimes … Indian nationals and students from India in Canada and those proceeding to Canada for travel/education are advised to exercise due caution,” said the statement.
According to the advisory, New Delhi has asked the Canadian authorities to look into the offences and take the necessary measures. It stated that the offenders of these crimes have not yet been brought to justice in Canada. The ministry, however, failed to give any information about any claimed hate crimes or to support its assertion that there had been an increase in such instances in Canada.
New Delhi advised its citizens in Canada, including employees and students, to register with the Indian embassy in Ottawa or consulates in Toronto and Vancouver.
In contrast to this warning, there is another side to the story where people are fearful due to the chaos brought about by some Punjabi student organisations in some Canadian regions where there are more of them. Even in regions where these groups are well-established and infamous for their disorderly behaviour, Punjabis who are local or have lived there for a long time avoid coming there.
In the most recent occurrence, a video demonstrated how 40 Indian youth and a number of students engaged in hooliganism in Strawberry Hills, Surrey, Canada, last week. They even confronted a police officer after they received a warning for causing lawlessness at the scene.
One of the Indian drivers had been driving about Strawberry Hill Plaza for three hours while blasting loud music, and when he was stopped, a group of Punjabi youngsters gathered and began intimidating him. In this instance, the investigation is ongoing, and they might be charged with major offences.
While the majority of students in Canada reported feeling safe, some remarked that the Indian government’s advice is greatly appreciated and would raise awareness among them. They said that they would register themselves on the Indian government’s website as well.
According to Indian media reports on Friday, the caution came in response to stories about a “referendum” that was allegedly organised by a section of Sikhs in Canada and called for the establishment of a separate Khalistan nation in the northern Indian state of Punjab. The 1980s saw the peak of this separatist movement.
Sikhs now make up a sizeable portion of Canada’s 1.6 million-strong Indian diaspora or more than 3 per cent of the country’s population. According to the Hindustan Times newspaper, there are 17 parliamentarians and three cabinet members in Canada who are of Indian descent, including Anita Anand, the minister of defence.
India has condemned Canada for permitting Khalistani separatist organisations to operate on its territory on several occasions. According to the Hindustan Times, New Delhi feels that the Trudeau administration has not done enough to allay its worries over the pro-Khalistan elements’ actions in Canada.
According to a report by the NDTV network, India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi described the Canadian vote on Thursday as a “farcical exercise held by extremist and radical elements.”
Bagchi said that the fact that such an activity was permitted in a friendly nation was “deeply objectionable.”
The Canadian government has also said that it respects India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and that it would not recognise the fictitious referendum. The MEA was not happy with the response, though. Arindam Bagchi, on Thursday, said that the Government of India would still continue to urge the Government of Canada to act on this matter.