WASHINGTON: Pro-Khalistan activists heckled the Indian ambassador to the United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, during his visit to a gurdwara in New York, forcing him to leave.
Viral videos showed activists confronting Ambassador Sandhu and making statements about attacks on Sikh activists Hardeep Singh Nijjar and Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.
Mr Sandhu visited the Gurunanak Darbar Gurdwara in Long Island, New York, on Sunday to participate in Gurpurab celebrations — the most important festival for the followers of the religion of Sikhism.
Nijjar was assassinated in the parking lot of a Sikh temple in British Columbia on June 18, 2023. In September, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blamed India for the assassination.
Last week, the Financial Times reported that Washington recently thwarted another Indian plot to assassinate Pannun as well.
On Wednesday, the White House announced it was treating the reported assassination attempt on American soil “with utmost seriousness” and has raised the issue with the Indian government “at the senior-most levels”.
Videos from the Gurdwara show protesters chanting slogans against India’s attempt to suppress the Sikh movement. One protester can also be seen raising the Khalistani flag as the ambassador was leaving the Gurdwara.
“Ambassador Sandhu aborted his visit and fled the Hicksville Gurdwara in haste, embarrassed and without answering the questions raised by the pro-Khalistan Sikhs about his role in the assassination attempts,” Mr Pannun said in a statement.
“From the incoherent answers of… the fleeing ambassador” it was obvious that India was “using mercenaries to stop the Khalistan referendum voting,” he added.
“Despite India’s attempt to assassinate me, Khalistan referendum voting will continue, and the American phase is going to start from January 28, 2024, in San Francisco, California,” he said.
The activists asked the Indian ambassador if he was also involved in the failed bid to assassinate Pannun.
Himmat Singh, who leads pro-Khalistan Sikhs at the Gurdwara, claimed that New Delhi had assassinated Mr Nijjar. The slain Sikh leader was the president of Surrey Gurdwara in Canada and the coordinator for the Canadian chapter of Khalistan Referendum.
“I only wanted answers from Ambassador Sandhu as to why India is using violence to stop the global Khalistan Referendum voting,” said Himmat Singh, who heads the East Coast Coordination Committee.
Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2023