Meet Jaspal Atwal, the Sikh Separatist Clouding Trudeau’s Visit

Atwal was convicted of attempting to murder Punjab minister Makiat Singh Sidhu in Vancouver in 1986.

2 min read

Digging up an old issue that has often kept Indo-Canadian ties on tenterhooks, convicted Khalistan separatist Jaspal Atwal was seen taking photographs with Canadian Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, at a dinner party in Mumbai on 20 February.

Amid raging controversy, the High Commission of Canada on Thursday, 22 February, said that it has rescinded an invitation extended to the Khalistan separatist for a reception in New Delhi in honour of Trudeau.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs said it is "ascertaining" details on how Atwal got a visa to enter India.

But, who is Jaspal Atwal, a pro-Khalistani separatist and now an Indian-origin businessman, who has become a bone of contention in the Indo-Canada relationship?

Atwal was convicted for attempting to murder the then Punjab minister, Makiat Singh Sidhu, in Vancouver in 1986. He was a part of the four-member gang who shot at Sidhu’s car near Gold River on Vancouver Island. Though Sidhu survived the attack, he was assassinated five years later in Moga, Punjab.


The Hindu reported that Atwal, along with his companions, was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. The trial court had termed the murder attempt as "act of terrorism” but the verdict was overturned after an appeal, and the accused didn’t have to serve their full term in prison.

Atwal Was Associated With Banned Sikh Separatist Outfit

Atwal was, at the time, associated with banned Sikh separatists outfit International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), which was fighting for a separate land for the Sikhs – or Khalistan.

The ISYF was declared a terrorist outfit by India after it was banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 2001. The outfit was also banned in many countries with a sizeable Sikh population like Canada, United Kingdom, and the US.

History of Criminal Activities

However, this was not the first time that Atwal had been embroiled in controversy. He was charged for brutally attacking Ujjal Dosanjh, a vocal critic of the Sikh movement, in 1985, CBC reported. In a case of theft, Insurance Corporation of British Columbia won a $28,000 judgment against Atwal over a stolen car ring involving his son, Vik.

Atwal had denied any involvement in the attack on Dosanjh, but had admitted to the charge of attempting to assassinate Sidhu, CBC reported. Atwal is now runs Media Wave Communications that runs an online radio station in England.

(With inputs from The Hindu, CBC)

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