In an effort to pacify the large Sikh diaspora in the country and bowing to pressure after several agitations, the Canadian government has removed a reference to Sikh and Khalistani extremism in its 2018 report on terrorist threats.
The ‘2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada’ had been heavily criticised by the Sikh community in Canada, with several pressure groups threatening the government with dire consequences in its election year. According to The Tribune, “the Leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and newly-elected MP Jagmeet Singh along with the NDP Public Safety Critic Matthew Dube had even shot off a letter to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau”. In the letter, Singh expressed concern over:
“...the inappropriate labelling of the two communities without any sufficient evidence or basis by way or using terms such as “Shia”, “Sunni” and “Sikh” which, according to him, was relating these all communities to terrorism.”The Tribune
The report originally said that while attacks by Khalistanis were rare in Canada, “some Canadians continue to support these extremist groups, including through financing.” According to a report in Hindustan Times, the report now says:
“The Government will carefully select terminology that focuses on the intent or ideology. For example, as a first step, the Government will use the term: Extremists who support violent means to establish an independent state within India; rather than terminology that unintentionally impugns an entire religion.”The revised 2018 Report, as quoted by HT
Global News also reported that the language had been changed late on Friday to remove the mention of the religion, talking instead of the threat posed by “extremists who support violent means to establish an independent state within India.”
However, this change did not go down well with India, with several sections protesting the sudden removal. According to a Hindustan Times report, “Indian officials are aghast at the perceived capitulation to pressure from some community groups in Canada”. The report also quoted an Indian official tracing the problem to the presence of several Indian-origin ministers in Canada.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also expressed its displeasure over the decision, news agency PTI reported. Singh protested the Trudeau administration's decision, saying it "succumbed to domestic political pressure".
"The move is a threat to Indian and global security," he said.
Amarinder said the "knee-jerk decision" by the ruling Canadian Liberal Party was aimed at protecting its political interests in an election year. It could have serious consequences for the Indo-Canadian relations in the long run, Singh said.
"Trudeau is playing with fire with his decision to assuage inflamed domestic passions through this ill-considered move," he said.
(With inputs from The Tribune, Hindustan Times, PTI and Global News.)