Punjab leader told not to come to B.C. because of significant risk by Sikh radicals

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Punjab state Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal (R) visit the Sikh shrine the Golden Temple in Amritsar on November 18, 2009. NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images

HINDUSTAN TIMES

Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has  put off his September visit to Canada after India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) suggested there was significant risk to the Akali leader, especially from Sikh radicals.

A statement from Punjab chief secretary and MEA joint secretary, Rakesh Singh,  said  since Canadian policies permit protests, it could not guarantee Badal’s safety, citing the possibility of protesters shouting slogans, heckling and generating negative publicity to embarrass the deputy chief minister.

The ministry also claimed the Canadian government expressed its inability to provide adequate security cover to Badal during his 10-day stay,which was supposed to start September 13.

During the visit, Badal was scheduled to meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa as well as British Columbia Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford. The deputy chief minister was also supposed to visit business and educational centres and meet with people of Indian origin, especially those from Punjab.

These public events were believed to be targeted by Canadian Sikh radical groups and according to the Canadian authorities, the main security concerns  revolved around Badal visiting local gurdwaras in the Greater Toronto Area since most are controlled by radical groups.

So after a series of meetings with Canadian authorities and officials of the Indian mission and consulates in Canada, the MEA decided to abstain from the Canadian trip.

The MEA told the state government that even if security were provided, the Canadian police authorities would not intervene in preventing protesters from displaying black flags and placards at places where the dignitaries were present.

Similar protests erupted during the visit of a senior union cabinet minister in March 2010, specifically focusing on issues relating to the troubled days of Punjab.

On Badal’s proposed meetings with the people of Indian origin, especially with the youth community, the Canadian authorities said, “the radical organisations have recruited Punjabi youth in particular, focusing on the troubled days in Punjab’s recent history.”

The Canadian authorities also informed the MEA that they had specific inputs in the past about the plans by ‘Sikhs for Justice’ to file a criminal case against the deputy chief minister of Punjab in case he visited Canada.

In its assessment to the Punjab government, the MEA said the proposed visit was not without significant risks to the dignity and legal standing of the deputy CM.

The MEA urged the Punjab government to take due caution in this account, measuring the advantages and disadvantages of such a visit, including the probability of there being negative publicity that might dilute the useful outcomes that were being sought from such an important visit.

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