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British Sikhs concerned over lack of security advice after activist’s murder in Canada

<span>Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

British Sikhs have been asked to write to their MPs in an effort to get Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman to explain what steps police will take “to alert Sikh activists who may be under threat” after the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada.

The Sikh Federation is concerned that British officers have given no security advice to high-profile individuals or gurdwaras and the community, after Canada said last week that India was probably behind Nijjar’s murder in June.

The representative body has drawn up a letter for Sikhs to send to parliament, asking their MP to press Sunak on how far he has taken up the issue with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, and what security measures are being taken in the UK.

It goes on to ask that MPs “write to the home secretary and security minister to set out actions that have been taken or will be taken to alert Sikh activists who may be under threat and address their safety and security”.

Concern has increased among the Sikh community, numbering over 500,000 people in the UK, after the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said in the country’s parliament that there were “credible allegations potentially linking” India to Nijjar’s death. India denies involvement.

Nijjar, a prominent supporter of a Sikh independent state in the Punjab region of India, was shot dead in a car park outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia. But it was not until mid-September, after India hosted the G20 summit, that Trudeau went public with the accusation.

Dabinderjit Singh, principal adviser to the Sikh Federation, said that prominent individuals or the community as a whole had heard nothing from police: “The strict answer is that we have had no advice. The UK has so far remained silent, yet there is a sizeable Sikh community here.”

The only recent contact, Singh added, had been from police officers offering to give to gurdwaras anti-terror Prevent support, which is aimed at preventing people from becoming radicalised. Even then, the effort was patchy, he added, as last week officers did not turn up to a scheduled meeting in Gravesend, Essex.

Earlier this week it emerged that the US FBI had warned three Americans active in the Sikh community that their lives were in danger in the immediate aftermath of Nijjar’s murder. While there may be no such threats in the UK, Singh said there had been no effort at reassurance from police since Trudeau went public.

Former Whitehall sources have indicated that Britain is aware of Indian espionage activity in the UK, some of which has been directed against individuals in the Sikh community. But the UK has not been willing to discuss the issue publicly.

The Five Eyes intelligence-sharing relationship between the UK, Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand means that Britain is likely to be aware of the evidence underpinning Trudeau’s statements.

Community concerns in the UK were already heightened after the sudden death of another pro-Khalistan activist in the summer. Avtar Singh Khanda, 35, passed away in a Birmingham hospital on 15 June, three days before Nijjar was shot, and just four days after being diagnosed with blood cancer.

West Midlands police said “no suspicious circumstances” were involved in Khanda’s death after what it said was a thorough investigation, although his mother, Charanjeet Kaur, has said he was “killed by poisoning” without providing any evidence.

Six British Sikhs were also among 20 pro-Khalistan activists named as “enemies of the state” in a list put out by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) that the Federation said aired on video on the pro-Modi government Aaj Tak channel in July.

It is understood the six received practical advice from police at the time, but there has been no further contact with British authorities since. One, Kulwant Singh Mothada, told the Times last week he feared for his safety after seeing the film aired.

Sikhs are now planning to hold a demonstration on Monday outside India’s high commission in central London about the alleged state involvement in Nijjar’s death, part of a coordinated set of protests around the world.

In doing so, Sikhs are returning to the scene of a controversial protest in March. A single pro-Khalistan demonstrator removed the Indian flag from outside the building in front of a group of about two dozen protesters. The incident prompted immediate complaints from Delhi and the opening of an NIA investigation.

NIA investigators were allowed to travel to the UK to continue with their inquiries and in June the agency released photographs of 45 individuals taken from CCTV footage asking for public help in identifying them. In August, the agency raided homes in India belonging to family members of 40 British Sikhs.