PM Harper: Advocating for a Khalistan Homeland in Punjab

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Old 09-Nov-2012
Yaar Punjabi
PM Harper: Advocating for a Khalistan Homeland in Punjab

PM Harper: Advocating for a Khalistan Homeland in Punjab Is not a crime

By: The Globe and Mail

BANGALORE, India (November 8, 2012)–Stephen Harper is pushing back at suggestions that Ottawa needs to do more about Sikh separatist activity in Canada, saying his government already keeps a sharp lookout for terrorist threats and that merely advocating for a Khalistan homeland in the Punjab is not a crime.

He said violence and terrorism can’t be confused with the right of Canadians to hold and promote their political views.

“It may be a political position that both the government of Canada and the government of India disagree with,” the Prime Minister said during a visit to the southern Indian city of Bangalore Thursday.
But “we can’t interfere with the right of political freedom of expression.”

The Prime Minister found himself pressed by the Indian government minister during his six-day trade visit to the south Asian country on what New Delhi calls a revival of “anti-India” voices in Canada. That’s code for Sikh extremists who want to carve a separate homeland out of India.

Speaking near the end of his India visit, Mr. Harper first made it clear that Canada unequivocally backs a united India.

“The government of Canada, and I believe the vast majority of Canadian people, including the vast majority of Indo-Canadians have no desire to see the revival of old hostilities in this great country,” the Prime Minister told reporters in the southern city of Bangalore, where he announced Ottawa would open a new consulate.

Mr. Harper had been asked what he was doing to tackle Sikh extremism in Canada.

He replied that the Canadian government closely watched “extremist developments – those who may embrace violence or threats of violence or terrorism.”

But he said his government does not consider it a crime to argue or promote a Sikh homeland.

“It may be a political position that both the goverment of Canada and he government of India disagree with,” he said.

But “we can’t interfere with the right of political freedom of expression.”

Mr. Harper said he believes other political parties in Canada agree with him and declared that he won’t be moved on this matter.

“The government of Canada’s policy positions on these matters are extremely well known,” he told journalists.

“I believe they are shared across the political spectrum –and they’re not going to change.

Mr. Harper has found himself walking a fine line during his India visit this week, fielding pressure from New Delhi to crack down on Sikh separatists in Canada but then journeying to one of this religion’s most sacred spots to show Punjabi voters he’s not tarring them as extremist.
On Wednesday, Mr. Harper journeyed by plane and helicopter to the Sikh faith’s second holiest city in northern India Wednesday.
About half of Indian immigrants to Canada trace their roots to the Punjab region, Mr. Harper’s latest stop on a six-day tour of India. It’s not a place he can afford to skip given the sizeable role that Indo-Canadian voters played in helping the Conservatives win Greater Toronto Area seats.

After landing in the Punjab capital of Chandigarh Wednesday, the Prime Minister flew by helicopter to Anandpur Sahib, a city revered by Sikh adherents, where he visited the Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex. The recently-opened museum, designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie traces the history of the Sikh religion.
It was just Tuesday that India’s junior foreign minister used a meeting with Mr. Harper to voice her country’s continued anxiety about what it considers resurgent support in Canada for a separatist Sikh state – Khalistan – in the Punjab region.

“Prime Minister, there was another area of great concern for us, which was the revival of anti-India rhetoric in Canada,” Preneet Kaur, Minister of State of External Affairs, told Mr. Harper during his stop in New Delhi.

“We have after very hard times got a good situation of peace and progress back in Punjab and in India and we would like that to continue – so it does concern us,” Ms. Kaur said.

In recent years former Liberal cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh, a Sikh, has warned more than two years ago that he believed Sikh extremism was on the rise in Canada.

“It’s more entrenched, it’s more sophisticated and sometimes it’s double-faced,” he told Agence France-Presse in a 2010 interview.
In 2010 Mr. Dosanjh and another Sikh politician were publicly advised by the organizer of a Sikh parade in British Columbia that their safety could not be guaranteed if they chose to attend. Mr. Dosanjh, an outspoken moderate, had previously complained about a parade float that featured a picture of the alleged mastermind of the Air India Flight 182 bombing.

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