Vancouver police closed Howe Street to all vehicle traffic between West Cordova and West Hastings Street for a number of hours on Monday in anticipation of an upcoming protest.
Members of the Sikh community and supporters of the Khalistan movement showed up in front of the Indian Consulate, waving flags, banging drums and yelling “Khalistan!”
Some protesters ripped up Indian flags before setting them on fire.
There were dozens of protesters, along with around 25 police officers in the area.
This follows the statement last week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that credible evidence exists to substantiate the involvement of agents of the Government of India in the targeted killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
He was shot dead outside a Sikh temple on June 18 in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb with a high Sikh population.
India swiftly denied any role in the killing and described the allegations as “absurd.” The accusations have sparked tensions between the two countries, with each nation expelling diplomats, and New Delhi suspending visas for Canadians.
Canada has also updated its travel advisory for its citizens in India as tensions mount between the two countries.
In a release last week, the president of the World Sikh Organization, Tejinder Singh Sidhu, said: “Peaceful protests are a key democratic right, however, we encourage Sikhs to remain vigilant and alert in the days ahead. We are concerned that attempts may be made during the protests to incite violence and vandalism in order to malign the Sikh community.”
The Khalistan movement dates back to the conflicts over India and Pakistan’s independence in 1947. The idea of a Sikh homeland was pushed for in negotiations preceding the partition of India’s Punjab region between the two new countries.
Sikh separatists demanded a homeland called Khalistan, meaning “the land of the pure,” which they said should be created out of Punjab.
— with files from Reuters and Saba Aziz and Aaron D’Andrea
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