NEW DELHI (AFP): Indian authorities said Sunday they had summoned Canada’s top diplomat in New Delhi after Sikh protesters gathered outside India’s diplomatic mission in Canada.
According to Canadian media reports, hundreds of people gathered outside the Indian consulate in Vancouver on Saturday over India’s hunt for fugitive Sikh separatist Amritpal Singh.
The Indian foreign ministry said it summoned Canada’s high commissioner on Saturday “to convey our strong concern about the actions of separatist and extremist elements against our diplomatic Mission and Consulates in Canada this week”.
“It is expected that the Canadian government will take steps to ensure the safety of our diplomats and security of our diplomatic premises so that they are able to fulfil their normal diplomatic functions,” foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a statement.
A manhunt for Singh, a radical Sikh preacher, has lasted more than a week, with mobile internet cut and gatherings of more than four people banned in parts of the northern state of Punjab. Around 100 people have been arrested.
Singh rose to prominence in recent months demanding the creation of Khalistan, a separate Sikh homeland, and with his hardline interpretation of Sikhism at rallies in rural pockets of Punjab.
Twitter has blocked for Indian users the accounts of several prominent Sikh Canadians who criticised the crackdown, including MP Jagmeet Singh, reportedly following Indian government requests.
The Twitter accounts of several Punjab-based journalists and prominent members of the Sikh community have also been withheld, according to media reports.
India also summoned the most senior British diplomat last week after some Singh supporters entered and vandalised the Indian High Commission in London.
India also registered a “strong protest” with the US State Department, as well as the US embassy in New Delhi, after men smashed doors and windows at the Indian consulate in San Francisco.
Punjab — which is about 58 percent Sikh and 39 percent Hindu — was rocked by a violent separatist movement for Khalistan in the 1980s and early 1990s in which thousands of people died.
India has often complained to foreign governments about the activities of Sikh hardliners among the Indian diaspora who, it says, are trying to revive the insurgency with a massive financial push.