Here's why Canada's Sikh community is sounding the alarm on India's police crackdown

Mar 23 2023, 9:17 pm

Tensions between India’s government and its Sikh community have trickled into the True North following an aggressive government-led chase for Sikh activist Amritpal Singh.

Over the last week, Canadian politicians and activists saw their social media accounts being blocked due to speaking on the subject and criticizing India’s suppression of rights and information in the Sikh-majority state of Punjab.

Since the search began, reports about internet service disruptions in Punjab have been coming in. In addition, the state police have also reportedly limited the number of people allowed to assemble in public.

Prominent human rights groups are finding all of this very concerning and fear that these tensions may be used to accelerate an all-out attack on Sikhs.

New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh and renowned Sikh Canadian poet Rupi Kaur had their Twitter accounts withheld in India following legal orders.

It isn’t only liberal or left-leaning Canadians who are sounding the alarm.

Conservative MP Tim Uppal also made a statement on Monday, saying he’s worried about Canadian Sikhs visiting India.

“We raised this as a concern, and the response was quite harsh,” he said in an interview. “A number of threats in there as well, and by people who have a very large following.”

On March 19, Uppal complained to Twitter about one of his tweets on the subject being taken down. However, it is unclear if the tweet was withheld regionally in India, as the original tweet can still be viewed in Canada.

Who is Amritpal Singh?

Amritpal Singh is a 30-year-old Sikh man who, according to several Indian media sources, swarmed a police station close to Punjab’s second-largest city, Amritsar, on February 24.

Indian government officials say Amritpal was stockpiling illegally sourced weapons from Pakistan to create an armed group. Allegedly, swords and guns were seen at the police station attack.

Local news channel NDTV reports that the goal of the police station swarming was to protest the detention of Lovepreet Singh, a Sikh rights activist arrested for assault just days prior. He was released as a result of the siege.

This infuriated the ruling right-wing Indian government and state police, and an all-out chase for Amritpal followed.

Sikh rights groups in other countries have voiced concern and are trying to bring up the matter with their leaders to protect community members.

World Sikh Organization (WSO) board member Jaskaran Sandhu’s Twitter account was also withheld in India in response to a “legal demand,” as was the Sikh news organization Baaz’s account.

Amid the chaos, Twitter has been responding to all press queries with just the poop emoji. Indian website Newslaundry’s reporter Tanishka Sodhi shared a screenshot of Twitter’s response to her questions about withheld accounts.

The WSO has drawn attention to arrests of Sikh activists and journalists in India under the country’s National Security Act (NSA).

“NSA is an oppressive law from colonial times which allows for the detention without charge of individuals for 12 months,” the WSO tweeted on Monday.

“This period can be extended indefinitely if there is ‘fresh evidence’ presented by the government. The NSA gives blanket immunity to the government. It cannot be legally challenged for any act intended to be in good faith in pursuance of the Act.”

Sikh Canadians and their allies have called on the Liberal government to take action ahead of G20 meetings. The conference will draw in many world leaders and is being held in India.

National Trending StaffNational Trending Staff

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