Nijjar had denounced reports in the Indian media that linked him to last year’s murder of Vancouver businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik. He had also denied the Indian government’s allegations that he was funding terrorism in Punjab. WSO says the assassination is “gravely alarming for Sikhs in Canada.”
HARDEEP Singh Nijjar, President of Surrey’s Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, was shot dead on Sunday night in a parking lot of the gurdwara in the 7000-block of 120 Street.
Surrey RCMP said they were called to a report of the shooting at approximately 8:27 p.m. and found an adult male inside a vehicle suffering from apparent gunshot wounds.
Police provided medical assistance until Emergency Health Services arrived on scene. The man died of his injuries at the scene.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) was called in to work with Surrey RCMP on the case. Police are currently in the evidence gathering phase and will be on scene speaking to witnesses and canvassing for any video and physical evidence.
“At this early stage of the investigation, any possible motives for the shooting are not yet known. Police are still working to determine possible suspect descriptions from multiple witnesses who were in the area,” Surrey RCMP said on Sunday night.
They added: “Surrey RCMP is aware of social media posts that are speculating on the identity of the victim, but are not in a position to confirm the victim’s identity at this very early time.”
However, the community already knew that the victim was Nijjar, a high-profile member. Well-known Punjabi journalist Gurpreet Singh Sahota identified him within minutes of his murder in a tweet. A large crowd gathered at the scene and protested the brazen murder as police officers stood behind the police tape.
On Monday (June 19), IHIT confirmed that the victim was Nijjar, 45.
Just last October, Nijjar had been acclaimed as the President of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Society for a second time in a row.
IHIT Sgt. Timothy Pierotti told the media on Monday: “We are in the early stages of our investigation. We understand there is a lot of speculation regarding the motive of this homicide, but we are dedicated to learning the facts and letting the evidence lead our investigation.”
He added: “We are aware that many people were present at the time of the shooting. It’s important that investigators speak to each person. Anyone who has yet to speak to police is asked to please contact IHIT immediately.”
Police are also trying to determine whether a vehicle that was set on fire in Coquitlam after Nijjar’s murder is related to the crime.
IHIT is asking anyone with information regarding the investigation, or anyone with dash-camera video who was in the area of 122 Street or who was in the parking lot of the gurdwara, to contact the IHIT Information Line at 1-877-551-IHIT (4448) or by email at email@example.com.
On Tuesday (June 20), NDP MLAs Ravi Kahlon, Harry Bains, Rachna Singh, Bruce Ralston, Jinny Sims, Garry Begg, Mike Starchuk and Jagrup Brar (all from Surrey), Ravi Kahlon (Delta North) and Aman Singh (Richmond-Queensborough) said in a joint statement: “Like everyone in our community, we are deeply shocked by the horrific killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. We mourn with his family and loved ones.
“This was an abhorrent act of violence, made even more disturbing by its presence at a place of worship where people go to find peace. We must all stand against it as a community.
“Law enforcement authorities are actively investigating. They have our full support as they work to bring those responsible to justice.”
Surrey Newton MP Sukh Dhaliwal tweeted: “Appalled and disheartened at what took place on Sunday at Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara. I met with the congregation yesterday and will continue to sit with Gurdwara leadership in the days ahead. While a police investigation is ongoing, anyone with information should contact the RCMP.”
Surrey Central MP Randeep Sarai tweeted: “Saddened and shocked to see what happened at Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey this Sunday. While this is an active RCMP investigation, I encourage anyone that knows anything about it to contact the RCMP as they take steps to ensure those responsible are brought to justice.”
VANCOUVER businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik, 75, who had been acquitted in the 1985 Air India bombing case in 2005, was shot dead in Surrey last year on July 14 just outside his family business at 8236 128 Street.
Sources told The VOICE at the time that Malik may have been targeted because he reportedly wrote a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing his “deep heartfelt gratitude” for the unprecedented positive steps taken by his government for the Sikh community, as reported by the Hindustan Times newspaper of India on January 18. That had evidently made some very nervous about what all information Malik might have or could provide to the Indian government.
As rumours circulated in the community, Hardeep Singh Nijjar denounced reports in the Indian media that linked him to Malik’s murder. The BC Sikh Gurdwara Council wrote to Canada’s Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino “to investigate foreign interference” in Malik’s murder.
On July 27, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) announced that charges of first-degree murder were approved against 21-year-old Tanner Fox and 23-year-old Jose Lopez in connection to Malik’s murder. The two had been arrested from their residences a day earlier. Fox is from Abbotsford and Lopez is from New Westminster.
Sources told The VOICE that neither of the two has known gang affiliations and it seems that the two were hired to kill Malik. Both of them have a history of run-ins with police.
So the question remains: Who hired these two killers?
Unproven rumours continue to circulate in the community.
NIJJAR had been involved for many years in a bitter controversy with the Indian government that accused him of being involved in terrorist activities in Punjab. He vehemently denied any involvement, claiming that he was being targeted because of exercising his democratic right of free speech.
In a June 2016 report in The VOICE — “Are pro-Khalistan “terrorists” running a camp in B.C.? Hardeep Nijjar strongly denies allegations, writes to Trudeau” — we wrote: “A report in the prestigious Indian newspaper The Times of India … claimed that India’s intelligence agencies have reportedly told Canada that pro-Khalistan “terrorists” are running a camp near Mission in B.C. with a mission to carry out strikes in Punjab.
“Punjab intelligence agents alleged that Hardeep Nijjar, a Canadian, has taken over as the operational head of Khalistan Terror Force (KTF) and formed a unit of Sikh youths to carry out the attacks.
“The Punjab government has already submitted the report to India’s Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs to seek Nijjar’s extradition, The Times of India report said.
“However, Nijjar strongly denied the allegations to Canadian media, noting that he has been running his own plumbing business.
“… He wrote a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking that his name be cleared as he has never been investigated or charged with any crime. He alleged that the Indian government was trying to defame him because he was fighting against injustices against Sikhs in India.
“He appealed to Trudeau: “I urge your administration to dispel the Indian government’s fabricated, baseless, fictitious and politically motivated allegations against me, which are being used to label me as a “terrorist” and smear the Sikh nationalist campaign in Canada.””
The report added: “After mentioning the protests he has been involved in since 2012, Nijjar said that in retaliation, “in April 2015, Indian police illegally detained my father who is a resident of Canada and my brother who is a Citizen of the U.K. During their detention the police warned them: “If Nijjar does not stop his anti-India campaign, we will implicate him in criminal cases and confiscate all the landed property of your family in India.””
In May 2018, Indian media reported that India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) had registered another case (what is known in India as a First Information Report or FIR) against Nijjar.
The Indian agency alleged that Nijjar was a top Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) militant based in Canada.
The Sikhs for Justice organization in North America said that lawyer Gurpatwant S Pannun would defend Nijjar. Pannun tweeted: “SFJ To Defend – Nijjar is termed as “terrorist” and framed in false criminal cases only because he is engaged in a political campaign for a referendum in Indian occupied Punjab. “We will defend Nijjar against any attempt to extradite him to India.””
According to the Indian Express newspaper, the agency sent a communication to the special NIA judge in Mohali in Punjab and it would now try for extradition of Nijjar, “who is wanted in several terror-related cases in Punjab.”
This was the second FIR the agency has lodged against Nijjar that year. An FIR had also been registered against him on April 14, according to the Indian Express.
The newspaper repeated what had already been reported that Nijjar’s name figured in the list of wanted persons handed over to Trudeau by then-Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh when the two had met in Amritsar in February.
The Indian Express reported that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) officials said the issues raised by Amarinder Singh were examined, and based on intelligence reports it was ascertained that Nijjar had “some associates in India who have conducted reconnaissance of gatherings of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh at certain places, including Punjab, with an intention to target them and strike terror in a section of the people in India”.
Officials said the MHA’s move came days after Nijjar was released in Canada. He was arrested by the Canadian law enforcement agencies in mid-April and released within 24 hours without any charges being filed, an Indian official told the Indian Express.
In September 2020, the Indian media reported that the Indian government had ordered the attachment of immovable properties owned by “designated terrorists” Nijjar in Jalandhar and Pannu in Amritsar.
The Tribune newspaper reported that while Pannu heads the banned Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), Nijjar was the chief of the Khalistan Tiger Force (something that Nijjar denied).
A senior National Investigation Agency (NIA) official said the orders for attaching the properties were issued in accordance with the powers conferred on the anti-terror probe body under Section 51A of the UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act), 1967. Pannu owns land in Khankot village and in Bhainiwal under Sultanwind Suburban in Amritsar district. Nijjar had land at Bhar Singhpura village in Phillaur, Jalandhar.
In November 2021, the NIA filed a “chargesheet” against Nijjar, who was a former resident of Jalandhar in Punjab, under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act before the NIA Special Court in New Delhi.
The NIA alleged that Nijjar used to send funds to India through various Money Transfer Service Scheme (MTSS) services and hawala channels for developing a network of sympathizers for undertaking targeted killings in Punjab and was trying to arrange arms and ammunition from his Pakistan-based associates for executing his plans. He was also associated with Sikhs For Justice and had been trying to radicalize the Sikh community across the world in favour of the creation of ‘Khalistan’.
He was designated a ‘terrorist’ under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the probe agency said.
According to The Tribune, an official said: “The orders have been issued as part of the NIA investigation into a concerted campaign by secessionist SFJ under the banner of Sikh Referendum 2020 for creation of Khalistan.” The outfit was also trying to hold meetings at certain places in the US and other countries to instigate and mobilise the diaspora for its illegal activities, the official added.
In July 2022, the NIA announced a reward of Rs 1 million for the “arrest or apprehension” of Nijjar in connection with a case pertaining to the killing of a Hindu priest in Punjab’s Jalandhar in January 2021.
“Any information pertaining to the above absconding accused leading to his arrest or apprehension, may be shared with us,” an NIA official said.
The case pertained to the attack on priest Kamaldeep Sharma at village Bhar Singh Pura, Phillaur, Jalandhar, by Kamaljeet Sharma alias Kamal and Ram Singh alias Sona allegedly on the direction of Nijjar and another Canada-based person.
The case was initially registered on January 31, 2021, by Punjab Police and the probe was taken over by the NIA on October 8, 2021.
In view of all this, it is quite evident that many will blame the Indian government for being somehow involved in Nijjar’s murder.
WORLD Sikh Organization of Canada’s President Tejinder Singh Sidhu said on Monday: “The assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar is gravely alarming for Sikhs in Canada. Nijjar openly and repeatedly stated that he would be targeted by Indian intelligence and this was made known to CSIS and law enforcement. CSIS has known that Nijjar faced an imminent threat to his life for months. The fact that he was assassinated in this manner is a failure of these bodies to provide protection to someone they knew would be targeted.
“The role of foreign interference from India must be thoroughly investigated and those responsible for this crime must be brought to justice.
“Thousands of Sikhs have fled India due to human rights abuses and oppression. India has a long track record of extra-judicially murdering individuals it accuses of being ‘anti-national’, but seeing this happen in Canada is deeply concerning for our community and should be a wake-up call for all Canadians, our government, and security-intelligence bodies.
“While this killing may have had the intention of striking fear into the hearts of Sikhs, it will have the opposite effect. Sikhs will continue to fearlessly advocate for Khalistan and against Indian human rights abuses, as they have the right to do.”
Photos: Gurpreet Singh Sahota’s twitter
ON Monday night, there was a mammoth gathering at Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara and journalist Gurpreet Singh Sahota reported that tempers ran high and speakers demanded that Canadian politicians tackle “Indian foreign interference.”