All’s not well for Indians in Canada. The Centre has warned its citizens in the North American nation and students flying to it to remain vigilant about a “sharp increase in hate crimes, sectarian violence and anti-India activities”.
“There has been a sharp increase in incidents of hate crimes, sectarian violence and anti-India activities in Canada. The Ministry of External Affairs and our high commission/consulates-general in Canada have taken up these incidents with the Canadian authorities and requested them to investigate the said crimes and take appropriate action. The perpetrators of these crimes have not been brought to justice so far in Canada,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement, which was posted on Twitter.
The advisory also urged Indians headed to Canada for travel and educational purposes to remain cautious. They have been asked to register with the High Commission of India in Ottawa or the consulates in Toronto and Vancouver through their websites or the Madad portal (madad.gov.in).
What might have prompted the Indian government to issue an advisory? We take a look.
Diplomatic row over Khalistan referendum
The advisory comes amid a diplomatic row over the so-called referendum by “pro-Khalistan” elements in Canada held on 19 September.
Over one lakh Canadian Sikhs voted for the referendum, demanding a separate homeland for Sikhs, in Brampton, Ontario. The vote was organised by the pro-Khalistani group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), which has been banned in India since 2019. The group regularly campaigns for Punjab independence to carve out a separate Khalistan.
The Indian government reportedly warned Canada against the rise of anti-India forces on its soil. However, the Canadian government refused to stop the Sikhs in its country from expressing their views.
It was only on Thursday that India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi described the referendum as a “farcical exercise held by extremist and radical elements”. He also said it was “deeply objectionable” that this was allowed in a friendly country, reports NDTV.
The vandalism of temples
However, the referendum is not India’s only concern. Last week, a prominent Hindu temple was defaced by alleged Canadian Khalistani extremists with anti-India graffiti in an apparent hate crime. The gates of BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Toronto, one of the largest temples in the country, were spray-painted with the words “Khalistan zindabad” and “Hindustan murdabad”.
The High Commission of India condemned the incident and asked Canadian authorities to investigate it and take prompt action against the perpetrators. “We strongly condemn defacing of BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto with anti-India graffiti. Have requested Canadian authorities to investigate the incident and take prompt action on perpetrators,” it tweeted.
However, this is not the first time a temple has been targeted in Canada. Its MP Chandra Arya said last week that antisocial elements in the recent past have engaged in acts of sacrilege and vandalism against Hindu places of worship. “Hindu Canadians are legitimately concerned,” he tweeted.
Arya issued a statement condemning the acts of vandalism in the Canadian parliament, bringing attention to “rising Hinduphobia” in the country. “The increasingly vocal and well-organised anti-India and anti-Hindu groups in Canada have resulted in increasing anti-Hindu sentiments,” he said.
“Hindu-Canadians arrived here from South Asia, Africa, Caribbean but mostly from India. They are the most peaceful and hardworking community and keep a low profile focusing on their families and children’s education,” the MP added.
Between November 2021 and March 2022, there have been several incidents of vandalism in Hindu and Jain temples and gurudwaras.
Attacks on Indians
The advisory comes four days after an Indian national, who was injured in a shooting rampage in Ontario on 12 September, succumbed to the injuries. The deceased was identified as 28-year-old Satwinder Singh, who went there as a student.
In April, 21-year-old Indian student Kartik Vasudev was shot dead in Toronto in what was reported to be a “random attack”. However, the family suspected that it was an incident of hate crime and called for an investigation.
In September 2021, Prabhjot Singh Katri, 23, was found murdered at an apartment in Truro in Canada in another suspected case of a racially motivated hate crime. “My heart goes out to the family and loved ones of Prabhjot Singh Katri who was killed in Truro, NS. This is an unacceptable act of hate,” Sonia Sidhu, member of parliament for Brampton South, had tweeted back then.
In February last year, Hindus in Canada were attacked by alleged Khalistan supporters amid the farmers’ protest in India. The Ministry of External Affairs had intervened and taken up the matter with Canadian authorities of the Indian community facing threats from Khalistani fringe elements.
The rise in hate crimes
Canada, which was once considered an immigrant-friendly county, witnessed a 72 per cent surge in incidents of hate crime between 2019 and 2021, according to Statistics Canada, an official Canadian government agency.
In 2021 alone, hate crimes targeting victims based on their religion soared by 67 per cent, as per the data shared by the agency. The incidents of hate crimes where the victims were targeted based on their race or ethnicity jumped by six per cent.
With inputs from agencies