Sikh protesters and activists said they’ve gathered to raise concerns that the Indian government is behind the homicide of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Nijjar was the president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey when he was shot and killed in the parking lot on the evening of June 18, six days ago.
“This act of violence was predictable and was foreseen. It is unacceptable for us,” Jatinder Singh Grewal said, a Sikhs for Justice director.
Homicide investigators believe the shooting was targeted.
When it comes to evidence to back the activist’s claims, Grewal said, “Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a close friend of mine. A week before his (murder)… he advised me that the RCMP and CSIS had advised him about the threat to his life.”
“He advised me, quite clearly, that he had no enemies, he had no disputes or quarrels with anybody else other than his activities for Khalistan. India labeled (him) a terrorist in India, yet presented no evidence to the Canadians that would warrant his extradition. Based on all the circumstantial evidence — it is clear to us who is responsible.”
Global News has reached out to the Consulate General of India in Vancouver for comment, but did not receive a response before publication.
On Monday, Global News spoke with Gurpreet Singh, a radio host with Burnaby’s Spice Radio 1200 AM, who interviewed Nijjar last month. He said Nijjar had been “very vocal” about threats that were being made to him “discreetly.”
“What makes it worse is that he’d been saying publicly he was on a list. We know that law enforcement and CSIS both knew about this hit list and had been in touch with Nijjar for at least a year,” he told Global News. “Enough clearly wasn’t done to save his life.”
According to an Indian media report in 2016, Nijjar was accused of running a terror training camp in Mission to potentially carry out attacks in Punjab. RCMP has said there was no information at the time substantiating any of those claims.
In 2018, India filed a First Information Report against Nijjar, whom it accuses of plotting to carry out a major terrorist attack in Punjab.
Nijjar has repeatedly claimed his innocence and penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling allegations “factually baseless and fabricated.” He previously admitted to speaking out in favour of Sikh separatism but denied being involved in any acts of violence.
Homicide investigators are searching for two suspects in the high-profile killing.
Police said Wednesday that two suspects, “described as heavier-set males wearing face coverings,” fled the scene on foot southbound on 122nd Street through Cougar Creek Park.
“It’s believed that the suspects may have had a vehicle waiting for them in the area of 121st Street and 68th Avenue,” said Sgt. Timothy Pierotti of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT). “It’s believed that the suspects and their vehicle may have been in that area for at least an hour prior to the homicide.”
While no arrests have been made, he attempted to soothe public safety concerns in the aftermath of the killing, particularly among the Sikh community in Surrey.
“We have no reason to believe that the Sikh community is at risk,” he said. “This was a targeted incident where one person was the target.”
Few other details were released Wednesday, but investigators renewed a call for witnesses and dashcam footage, particularly from vehicles stationed in the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara parking lot.
IHIT would not confirm or deny that Nijjar had been threatened prior to his death, but reaffirmed Wednesday it would investigate the reports, leveraging its relationship with other intelligence and law enforcement agencies if needed.
The day after the shooting, the World Sikh Organization of Canada called on Canadian intelligence and law enforcement to fully investigate Nijjar’s killing, including foreign interference, “specifically from India.”
“I would suggest that the police are probably doing all they can to find out who pulled the trigger,” said Balpreet Singh, legal counsel for the World Sikh Organization. “But really, the question that we have is who ordered the hits?”
“I think that’s where you have a president of a gurdwara shot on his own premises, that’s sending a message,” said Singh, legal counsel, in an interview. “I would say there’s definitely apprehension in the Sikh community on whose next.”
IHIT is asking anyone with information, or anyone with dash-camera video who was in the area of 122 Street, in the parking lot of the Gurdwara or in the area of 121 Street and 68 Avenue, between 6 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. on June 18 to contact its information line at 1-877-551-IHIT
Anyone in need of confidential, non-judgmental, 24/7 mental health support can contact Crisis Centre BC at 1-784-2433. Emotional support and information on mental health resources are also available at 310-6789, no area code is needed.
— With files from Global BC’s Elizabeth McSheffery
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