Murder By Proxy

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Canadian police charged three Indian nationals in the assassination of prominent Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, intensifying a diplomatic dispute between Canada and India following Ottawa’s accusation of New Delhi’s involvement in the murder, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested the suspects – all in their 20s – and charged them with first-degree murder Friday. Police officials said they are still probing any connections between the three individuals and the Indian government.

The detentions come nearly eight months after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told parliament that Canada was pursuing “credible allegations” about Indian government agents being involved in Nijjar’s killing.

The well-known Sikh activist was killed by two masked armed men in Surrey, in the province of British Columbia in June.

India rejected the allegations as “absurd,” sparking a dispute that saw both nations expelling each other’s diplomats.

But Trudeau’s allegations received some backing in November after the United States accused Indian citizen Nikhil Gupta of cooperating with India’s government to orchestrate an ultimately foiled plot to assassinate another Sikh activist and close associate of Nijjar.

The US accusation prompted the Indian government to set up a panel to investigate the allegations. However, India has continued to dismiss Canada’s claims, saying Canadian authorities have not provided enough evidence to warrant taking the accusations seriously.

Meanwhile, New Delhi has accused Canada of sheltering Sikh extremists and terrorists such as Nijjar, who threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to Sky News.

Nijjar supported the creation of an independent Sikh state, named Khalistan, out of India’s northern Punjab state. The topic of Khalistan remains sensitive in India, where the movement took a militant form in the 1980s and 90s, resulting in bloody conflicts in Punjab and other parts of northern India.

Indian authorities did not comment on the recent arrests, but reiterated their complaints that Ottawa has given “space to Khalistan forces and also allowed them to indulge in activities that adversely impact bilateral relations between India and Canada.”

Canada hosts the largest Sikh population outside of India, making up more than two percent of the population and exerting significant political influence in suburban Toronto and Vancouver.

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