India summons top Canadian diplomat as ‘violent’ Khalistan protests spread
India has summoned the Canadian high commissioner over the latest attack by Sikh separatists on Indian diplomatic missions and consulates.
Supporters of the Khalistan movement – a Sikh secessionist movement that calls for a separate homeland for the religious community to be carved out of India – have vandalised Indian missions overseas.
It comes after the Indian flag at the country’s high commission in London was pulled down and the building’s window was smashed last week.
India's foreign ministry on Saturday summoned the top Canadian diplomat and sought an explanation on how the separatists were allowed to breach the security of its diplomatic mission and consulates.
“It is expected that the Canadian government will take all steps which are required to ensure the safety of our diplomats and security of our diplomatic premises so that they are able to fulfil their normal diplomatic functions,” the ministry said in a statement.
New Delhi also reminded the Canadian government of its obligations under the Vienna Convention and asked it to arrest and prosecute the individuals identified and involved in such acts.
Canada is home to one of the largest Sikh diasporas.
Last Sunday, an event scheduled to be attended by the Indian envoy to Canada was cancelled due to concerns following a protest by Khalistan supporters. Journalist Sameer Kaushal, who was at the venue to cover the protest, was also reportedly assaulted.
Meanwhile, another journalist was assaulted by the protesters outside the Indian embassy in Washington DC on Saturday.
Lalit K Jha, a correspondent with the Press Trust of India, was covering the protest when he was attacked.
The US secret service and local police's swift intervention saved Mr Jha, the news agency reported.
Thank you @SecretService 4 my protection 2day 4 helping do my job, otherwise I would have been writing this from hospital. The gentleman below hit my left ear with these 2 sticks & earlier I had to call 9/11 & rushed 2 police van 4 safety fearing physical assault👇. pic.twitter.com/IVcCeP5BPG
— Lalit K Jha ललित के झा (@lalitkjha) March 25, 2023
The attack drew strong condemnation from India along with US lawmakers.
"We have seen disturbing visuals of a senior Indian journalist from the Press Trust of India being abused, threatened and assaulted physically while covering the so-called ‘Khalistan protest' in Washington DC earlier today," the Indian Embassy here said in a statement.
"Such activities only underscore the violent and anti-social tendencies of the so-called ‘Khalistani protestors' and their supporters, who routinely engage in wanton violence and vandalism."
Member of Congress Ro Khanna called the violence against Mr Jha "outrageous" and an "assault on journalism".
This violence against @lalitkjha is outrageous and an assault on journalism. I condemn it in the strongest terms. Lalit is one of the fairest and most thoughtful journalists. Thank you to our security for protecting Lalit and the diplomats and consulate. https://t.co/XrBhogInEo
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) March 26, 2023
The protests were against a recent massive crackdown by India’s police on the Khalistan movement’s members in the northern state of Punjab, a state with a large population of Sikhs and which has had a long, contentious history with the secessionist movement.
Punjab police have launched a massive manhunt to arrest fugitive Amritpal Singh, a self-styled preacher and leader of a radical organisation “Waris Punjab De”, or Heirs of Punjab.
Mr Singh, a 30-year-old preacher, and his aides are accused of creating discord in the state, which is still haunted by the memories of an armed insurgency in the 1980s.
Authorities have deployed thousands of paramilitary soldiers in the state and suspended mobile internet services for millions to prevent unrest. At least 154 supporters of Mr Singh have been arrested so far, Sukhchain Singh Gill, the inspector general of police for Punjab, said earlier this week.