Pro-Khalistanis in Canada threaten to disrupt routine activities of India’s missions

Toronto: After protests at a routine life certificate camp organised by India’s consulate in Vancouver, pro-Khalistan elements have threatened to disrupt similar activities in the future.

Indo-Canadian pensions at a life certificate camp at the Khalsa Diwan Society gurdwara in Abbotsford, British Columbia, on Monday. (Source: India in Vancouver/X)

On Monday, India’s consulate in Vancouver held a consular camp for issuing life certificate to the Indian government pensioners. The venue was the Khalsa Diwan Society’s gurdwara in Abbotsford in British Columbia.

However, protesters gathered outside the gurdwara and later consulate officials had to be escorted out by local police. That underscored the point made by India earlier about work by its high commission and consulates being impeded by pro-Khalistan groups.

The secessionist group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) has said that “wherever” India officials go, pro-Khalistani elements will attempt to “hold them accountable”.

“Pro-Khalistan Sikhs are going to challenge Indian diplomats since they are setting up spy network under the cover of community programmes,” SFJ’s general-counsel Gurpatwant Pannun said in a statement.

SFJ released posters on Wednesday threatening to “shut down” such camps that are scheduled to be held in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) on November 18 and 19. The venue for one is a gurdwara while the other two are to be held at Hindu temples. A similar poster was also issued for the Metro Vancouver region, where such camps are scheduled on November 19 at two gurdwaras. It lists another camp to be held at a school in Saskatoon, in the province of Saskatchewan.

In fact, a video from the event on Monday shows a pensioner being heckled outside the gurdwara premises even as his younger companion attempts to pick up an Indian flag thrown on the ground by the protesters.

A senior Indian official said between ten and 20 protesters had gathered outside the gurdwara and they “also abused a couple of end-users who came to get consular services”. “There was no problem in the conduct of the camp. Enough police presence was ensured by the organisers,” the official added.

Such camps are routine where there are significant numbers of the Indian diaspora, and are aimed at serving seniors who require the document for various purposes including receiving pension, insurance and banking activity.

Maninder Singh Gill, president of the Surrey, BC-based Friends of India Canada, said he strongly condemned the “cowardly heckling” of the consulate officials.

“The consulate officers made more than 635 life certificates for elderly people who are pensioners of the different government departments in India. If the consulate officers do not go to the door of these pensioners, then these elderly people will have to go to Vancouver, which will lead to great difficulties for them,” he added.

That normal functioning of Indian officials has been impeded was a reason behind India suspending the issuance of visas to Canadian nationals on September 21. Visas issuance was restored in four categories on October 25 but nine others, including tourist and e-visas, still remain indefinitely suspended.

India’s High Commissioner to Ottawa Sanjay Kumar Verma told the Hindustan Times at the time, “Provision of security to key Indian diplomats and consular officials does not necessarily mean that the security environment has improved. It only means that despite threats to their persons, they are able to have restricted physical movement. The situation is still not ideal to conduct normal diplomatic and consular functions by all Indian diplomats and consular officials.”

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Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb. …view detail

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