India could seek extradition of alleged Sikh militant based in Surrey, B.C.
India‘s counter-terrorism law enforcement agency has registered a First Information Report (FIR) against a Surrey, B.C. man accused of plotting to carry out a major terrorist attack in India’s Punjab state.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar is accused of “conspiring and planning to carry out a major terrorist attack in India,” the National Investigation Agency said in its Thursday FIR filing, a key step towards pursuing extradition per India’s extradition treaty with Canada.
Nijjar’s associates in India have been carrying out reconnaissance of gatherings of the hardline Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), “with an intention to target them and strike terror,” states the report.
“He intends to execute the attack at a time and place where there is a large gathering so that there are maximum casualties,” the report concluded.
The RSS has close ties to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, himself a member and former full-time worker with the organization.
Nijjar’s lawyer Gurpatwant Singh Pannun told Global News that he is prepared to fight any attempt to extradite his client to India.
“We will defend Nijjar and thwart Indian government’s attempt of terrorizing Sikh separatists who are raising voices against atrocities committed against the Sikh community while being part of Sikhs’ rights to self determination campaign ‘Referendum 2020,” Pannun said in a statement.
Nijjar is no stranger to the Modi government, which previously filed an FIR against him in 2016 after claiming that he was actively working to “promote disharmony between different groups on grounds of religion and revive terrorism in the state of Punjab.”
He was also accused of running terror camps in B.C., and linked with a 2007 blast that killed six and injured 42 in the city of Ludhiana in Punjab, according to a 2016 report in the Times of India.
Nijjar responded to the 2016 FIR by penning an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in which he admitted to participating in Sikh nationalist activism, but denied being involved in any acts of violence.
He also labelled the Indian government’s allegations as “fabricated, baseless, fictitious and politically motivated,” and accused India of abusing its power to get an INTERPOL red notice issued in his name in 2014.
WATCH: Support mounts for Surrey man Hardeep Singh Nijjar
The INTERPOL notice stated that Nijjar was charged with terrorist acts, and making or keeping explosives with the intent to endanger life or property. It has since been taken down.
Canada’s Department of Justice refused to confirm or deny the existence of an extradition request at the time, citing the “confidential nature of state-to-state communications.”
Nijjar is also accused of being a member of Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), a Sikh militant group implicated in simultaneous explosions in two New Delhi movie theatres in 2005, which left two dead and dozens injured, the Indian Express reported.
The theatres were screening the Bollywood action comedy film “Jo Bole So Nihaal,” which had been heavily protested by some Sikhs over the portrayal of its lead character.
The issue of Sikh separatist activities in Canada was a major flashpoint of Prime Minister Trudeau’s trip to India in February.
Indian media reported that Nijjar’s name was on a list of suspected Khalistan militants given to Trudeau by Punjab’s chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh when the pair met in the city of Amritsar.
Nijjar was reportedly arrested by Surrey RCMP in April but released the next day with no charges filed, according to the Hindustan Times.
Global News has reached out to the Indian High Commission in Ottawa for comment.
— With files from Nick Logan
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