A Surrey man accused of running a terror training camp has written a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asking for help to clear his name.
Hardeep Nijjar spoke briefly with Black Press Thursday, to say he needs Ottawa’s help to dispel the Indian government’s “fabricated, baseless,” attack against him.
Nijjar allowed his name to be published for this story, although he has not been formally charged with any crime.
On Monday, a story in the Times of India newspaper accused Nijjar of running the camp in Mission, saying he took over as “the operational head of Khalistan Terror Force…and formed a module comprising Sikh youths to carry out the attacks.”
In his June 1 letter, the father of two writes: “I am a Sikh nationalist who believes in and supports Sikhs’ right to self determination and independence of Indian occupied Punjab through a future referendum.
“I have never believed in, supported or been involved in any violent activity,” the letter says. “For the past several years I have been actively highlighting the human rights violations committed against Sikhs in India. Some of my activities include the campaign to recognize 1984 anti-Sikh violence as genocide; raising awareness about torture and extra judicial killing of Sikhs by Indian security forces; and, as noted above, advocacy for Sikhs’ right to self-determination of Indian occupied Punjab.”
He also played a key role in gathering 20,000 signatures in B.C. in 2012 and then flying to Geneva, Switzerland, to submit a United Nations Human Rights Council complaint. It requested an independent investigation of the Indian government for “organizing” the November 1984 anti-Sikh violence in which thousands of Sikhs were killed after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
Jatinder Singh, with the human rights advocacy group Sikhs for Justice, says his colleague is just the latest victim of an Indian government smear campaign.
These allegations against Nijjar, who runs a plumbing firm, have damaged not only his reputation, Singh said, but that of his family and the Sikh community.
Earlier this week, the RCMP said it monitors all potential threats, but would not comment on this specific case.
The federal government hasn’t commented on the allegations either.
NOT THE FIRST ALLEGATION
This isn’t the first time Nijjar or his family have been targeted for his advocacy work.
Nijjar’s letter outlines how his father, a Canadian citizen, was “illegally detained” by Indian police in April of 2015, and that they warned him: “If Nijjar does not stop his anti-India campaign, we will implicate him in criminal cases and confiscate all the landed property of your family in India.”
Another Sikh rights advocate was also recently targeted with very similar allegations, according to Singh.
Parmjit Pamma was detained by police in Portugal during a vacation in December.
Like Nijjar, Pamma was also alleged to have been involved in a bombing in 2007, and the government of Portugal was obligated to hold him because of an Interpol notice.
But Singh said Pamma was released in February when no hard evidence against him was supplied by India to the Portugese government.
Singh also expressed concerns about a doctored image that claims to depict Nijjar holding a firearm.
“It’s very disturbing that they would doctor a photo,” Singh said of the Indian government.
In a letter from lawyer Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Nijjar is described as a “dynamic Sikh activist who has been at the forefont of a Sikh rights campaign” and said the Indian government “fabricated this story in a malicious attempt to suppress the Sikh nationalist movement campaigning for an independent Punjab.”