The son of Sikh community leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar said his father met regularly with Canadian intelligence officials in the months before he was gunned down in British Columbia, in a killing that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said was justified. -belief associated with India.
Balraj Nijjar said in an interview that his father was meeting with Canadian Security Intelligence Service officials “once or twice a week,” including a day or two before the June 18 murder, with another meeting scheduled for two days after his death.
Balraj Nijjar said he also attended a meeting between his father and the RCMP last year where they were told about threats to his father’s life, and he was advised to “stay home.”
Hardeep Nijjar — a vocal supporter of the Khalistan movement advocating for a separate Sikh homeland in Punjab — was killed by two masked men in the parking lot of Surrey’s Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, where he was president .
Trudeau announced in Parliament on Monday that intelligence services were investigating “credible” information about “a potential link” between the Indian government and the murder.
The Indian government has dismissed the accusation as “absurd and unmotivated.”
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a US-based spokesman for the group Sikhs for Justice and a close associate of Nijjar, said Nijjar asked Canadian authorities if he should wear a bulletproof vest in the weeks before he was shot.
The New York-based attorney said Nijjar asked about the vest in April or May, and the agencies responded to the effect that they could not provide it.
Pannun said Nijjar also told him last year, around July 2022, that Canadian authorities had told him about a threat to his life.
He said they told Nijjar that he should not go to his gurdwara during his usual hours and that he should avoid being seen in public.
But Balraj Nijjar said neither he nor his father wanted to hide.
“We’re not worried about safety because we’re not doing anything wrong. We’re just exercising freedom of speech,” he said.
India had earlier accused Hardeep Nijjar of terrorism and separatism. He was a major proponent of Sikh independence and helped organize an unofficial referendum on Sikh independence in India.
Pannun said he believes Nijjar chose to go about his daily life despite warnings from Canadian authorities because his campaigning in Canada was peaceful.
“Because the Khalistan referendum was a peaceful and a democratic process, and he is in Canada, where freedom of speech and expression is inherently a democratic, fundamental right,” he said.
A media officer for the RCMP in BC said a request for a response has been forwarded to RCMP national headquarters. CSIS did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 19, 2023.