Following the murder of a prominent Canadian Sikh activist in June, the FBI has issued warnings to several Sikh activists in California, cautioning them about potential threats to their lives. The urgency of these warnings has increased after Canada revealed credible intelligence indicating Indian government involvement in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and advocate for an independent Sikh state. Nijjar was fatally shot outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia.
Pritpal Singh, a US citizen and political activist associated with the American Sikh Caucus Committee, disclosed that he, along with two other Sikh Americans involved in political organizing in California, received visits and calls from the FBI after Nijjar’s killing. The FBI agents did not specify the source of the threat but advised them to exercise caution.
Sikh activists across the US have reportedly received police warnings regarding potential threats, according to Sukhman Dhami, co-director of Ensaaf, a California-based nonprofit focused on human rights in India, particularly in Punjab, a Sikh-majority state. Some community leaders involved in Sikh self-determination politics claim to have been visited by law enforcement and warned of potential risks to their safety.
Canada recently alleged India’s involvement in Nijjar’s killing based on intelligence from signals, human sources, and information from an unnamed partner in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance. Canada’s expulsion of a top Indian diplomat, who was the head of the Indian intelligence agency in the country, further escalated tensions.
India has vehemently denied these allegations and accused Canada of supporting Sikh militant and extremist groups. The US has expressed concern and is cooperating with Canada’s investigation. US national security adviser Jake Sullivan emphasized that India does not have a “special exemption” to carry out extrajudicial killings.
The situation raises concerns about potential consequences for US-India relations, given India’s status as the US’s largest trading partner. Sikh Americans receiving threats emphasize the need for US government support and protection, as they view an increasingly assertive and authoritarian Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a threat to democratic institutions and individual rights.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar had advocated for Sikh independence from India, making him a prominent figure in the diaspora campaign. The Indian government considered him a terrorist involved in various criminal activities and charged him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The circumstances surrounding Nijjar’s killing suggest a connection between his political beliefs and the threat to his life.
The Sikh diaspora includes individuals supporting the Khalistan movement, which seeks an independent Sikh homeland in Punjab, India. While the movement has lost momentum, it remains a contentious issue in Indian politics. Sikh activists have engaged in protests and referendums, leading to occasional confrontations with the Indian government.
Recent suspicious deaths of Sikh activists connected to the Khalistan movement have raised concerns. Canada’s allegation of Indian involvement in Nijjar’s killing has amplified suspicions within the Sikh diaspora that the Indian government is targeting them on foreign soil.
The situation underscores the complexity of international relations and the challenges faced by minority communities in the diaspora with political affiliations tied to their countries of origin.