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Stricter Visa Norms for Sikh Radicals in Canada

The move comes hot on the heels of US, Australia and Canadian Gurudwaras banning entry of Indian officials and diplomats.

The Indian government is reportedly considering stricter visa norms for Canadian Sikh radicals living.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs is said to be preparing the particulars of the visa norms to be implemented against those engaging “anti-India propaganda from foreign soil.”

Last year, the Canadian Sikh diaspora spearheaded a ban on entry of Indian officials and diplomats in gurudwaras, which was later followed out by Sikh groups in the United States and the United Kingdom.

While it is not clear whether the banning decision was taken by the gurudwara managements committees or by lobby groups formed from within the devotee bases; however, these groups reportedly claimed that the Indian government was interfering with the affairs of the community in these countries including US, Canada and Australia.

The Tribune reported that up to thirty gurdwaras in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta in Canada and 96 gurdwaras in the United States banned the entry of Indian diplomats and officials.

Gurudwaras in United States not only passed a resolution to ban the entry of Indian officials but also banned any representatives of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Shiv Sena.

Sikh Coordination Committee East Coast (SCCEC) and American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (APGC), who claim to be the largest organizations of Sikh temples in the US, made this announcement with the support of US-based group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ).

SFJ Legal adviser Gurpatwant Singh Pannun told TOI, “We will also initiate legal proceedings against those Indian diplomats who will try to defy this ban.”

Following from that, several gurudwaras in Melbourne also took a decision to ban entry of Indian officials and office-bearers of “anti-Sikh organizations” like the RSS, Shiv Sena and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).

The ban will apply to nagar kirtans, or religious processions, as well.

On Sunday, January 28, representatives of 20 gurudwaras and 15 other Sikh organizations reportedly gathered at Gurdwara Miri Piri in Albanvale and decided to join the ban according to a TOI report.

In November last year, in a very public display here in Tarneit, Melbourne’s West, A M Gondane, Indian High Commissioner to Australia, was stopped at the entrance of the Gurudwara by pro-Khalistani protesters, who argued with him for a long time and agitatedly complained about alleged atrocities meted out by Indian government against Sikhs.

Mr Gondane was on an official visit to Melbourne when the protestors told him that they “were not Indians anymore”.

They warned the Indian government to keep away from matters of Sikh religion and all places of worship, in Melbourne.

However, Gunwant Kaur, the Secretary of the Gurudwara management committee then speaking to the media said that it “was an extremely unfortunate incident” caused by a group of about 25-30 protestors.

“They were very loud and aggressive, and… created quite a scene and crossed all limits,” she said, adding that they “were extremely disruptive and were trying to intimidate the Gurudwara committee members as well.”

Ms Kaur also said that there are much better ways to protest.

“These people didn’t behave like Sikhs are meant to, and have brought a bad name to the entire community.”

Similarly, Manjit Singh Sidhu, president of Victorian Sikh Association Inc. Australia does not support the current ban.

“I have got no issues with any politicians coming to Gurudwaras. We all should live in Harmony. I do not support this move,” says Singh.

Ontario Gurudwara Committee’s move to bar Indian officials also did not receive unanimous support.

Council member Harbans Singh Jandali told the Hindustan Times, “We have not imposed any ban because this is not an issue for us.”

The Tribune reported that Indian officials in Canada are preparing a list of Sikh radicals linked to the gurudwara ban. Apparently those supporting the ban are due to face stricter visa norms, according to sources.

They could be also be denied entry upon arrival in India even if they received a visa, the report added.

The Indian government will also be seeking extradition of NRIs who could have been used money trafficking to hired killers.

However the Sikh Federation UK does not agree with the contention.

“Indian authorities disgracefully creating new blacklists for those running gurudwaras for simply exercising their right to decide who they allow to speak from gurudwara stages and who they recognize from the stage,” they said in a Facebook post about the alleged stricter visa norms.

Shalini Singh

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