After a shooting Thursday targeted the home of an associate of Hardeep Nijjar, a group advocating for Sikh independence says it’s concerned a lack of protection from Canadian authorities could see members of B.C.’s Sikh community take matters into their own hands.
Surrey RCMP said the isolated shooting on Feb. 1 at 1:21 a.m. occurred when an unknown suspect fired at the home in the 2800 block of 154th Street.
“We are working to determine the motive,” Sgt. Tammy Lobb said in a statement Friday.
Members of Surrey’s Sikh community believe the shooting is linked to Indian foreign interference because the targeted home belongs to Nijjar’s close friend Simranjeet Singh, according to Moninder Singh, spokesman of the B.C. Gurdwaras Council.
Nijjar was president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara and had been organizing an unofficial referendum for an independent Sikh state in India’s Punjab province when he was gunned down in the parking lot of the gurdwara June 18. The federal government believes Nijjar’s assassination was carried out by agents of the Indian government, although India denies involvement.
“Simranjeet has no criminal record or anything but is known for the pro-Khalistani activism work he does and for being a close friend of Nijjar’s. He is a volunteer at the same Surrey gurdwara,” Moninder Singh said.
At the time of Thursday’s shooting, Simranjeet Singh — a young father — had just arrived home.
Moninder Singh said Simranjeet’s six-year-old son was asleep in his bed when the shots fired into the home narrowly missed the youngster.
“The shots went through his son’s headboard … it just brings back the reality that some Sikhs are in danger.”
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a lawyer with Sikhs For Justice, said he fears Sikhs may decide to take it upon themselves to defend their community.
“They should not answer or respond with violence — at all,” said Pannun. “However, whenever Sikhs are attacked, they have a history of defending their community and faith, fighting tooth and nail.”
Pannun said the Sikh associates of Nijjar are being handed “duty to warn” letters by Canadian intelligence officers.
Pannun is critical of such notices.
“The government has a constitutional duty to protect the life of all citizens, issuing notices to possible victims is just not enough,” he said.
One of Nijjar’s two sons, Balraj, said that in the months before Nijjar was murdered, Canadian intelligence officers warned his father to avoid being seen in public and attending the gurdwara.
After Nijjar’s assassination, Premier David Eby assured citizens the province would participate in the murder investigation, and that if any other citizens were found to be under threat they would be protected.
In June, Eby called on the federal government to provide all information related to foreign interference and “transnational organized crime threats,” so the province can protect citizens at risk.
Anyone with more information, including dashcam or CCTV footage, is asked to call police at 604-599-0502.
— With files from the Canadian Press
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