Indian Intel & Cops Bid to Nail Canadian Sikh in Acts of Terror Raises Serious Questions

In the light of recent controversy over an alleged terror camp in British Columbia (BC), there is a need to reexamine a decade old blast case for which the Indian police are trying to nail a Canadian Sikh man.

Hardeep Nijjar

Hardeep Singh Nijjar is a Surrey resident, who was recently accused by the Indian intelligence of running a terrorist training camp in Mission in BC. The story was widely reported in the Indian press and subsequently picked up by the Canadian media. Based on inputs from Indian intelligence, Indian newspapers reported that Nijjar is a supporter of Khalistan, a separate Sikh homeland to be carved out of the northern Indian state of Punjab and is wanted in connection with a bomb blast that left six people dead, there, in 2007.

Nijjar’s photograph and information also appeared on the Interpol list of most wanted.  Nijjar has not only denied these allegations, but has also written a letter to the Canadian Prime Minister seeking his intervention. An advocacy group Sikhs For Justice has taken up his case and has described these charges as baseless. Most importantly, Canadian officials have also rebuffed the reports of a terror camp in BC.

The whole episode has once again brought into focus the 2007 bombing incident. The bomb blast had rocked a packed cinema hall in Ludhiana, Punjab on October 14, 2007 killing six innocent people. More than two dozen people got injured in the crime. The Punjab police, had, back then claimed that this could be the handiwork of either Sikh of Islamic extremists. To be precise, they had looked into the possibility of this being the handiwork of either a pro Khalistan Babbar Khalsa group or the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami.

It is pertinent to mention that a significant number of those watch who had gone to watch a Bhojpuri film at the Shingar cinema, when the blasts went off, were Muslims . And the occasion was the Eid festival. Fearing sectarian backlash police had beefed up security in the city, especially in the Muslim dominated areas, according to a report that was published by The Tribune

One can see that it was Muslims who were the potential targets. At least two among the dead who were instantly identified had Muslim names – Naushad and Shahub-ud-din. (Four of the six dead in the Shingar bomb blast who were instantly identified as Naushad, Narinder, Hiral Lal and Shahub-ud-din).

(Among those reported missing, who had in all probability gone to watch the movie, were 10 youths from Meharban village, who were working in Bhandari Hosiery, had gone to watch the movie but they did not come back. The missing youths include Mushtaq (22), Rasheed (24), Mehroz (18), Feroze (24), Afzal(24), Ahmed (24), Nauroze (21) and Jaool (21), all from Meharban and Azam (24) from Ganesh Nagar and Basheer (31) from Basti Jodhewal. Others reported missing were Ram Prakash, Rakesh, Kallu, Manzar had also gone to watch the Bhojpuri movie.)

It seems that most of these people were migratory labourers from Uttar Pradesh. The cinema hall was screening a Bhojpuri film, Janam Janam Ka Saath at that time. Bhojpuri is a dialect widely spoken in Uttar Pradesh.

The blast had happened 72 hours after a similar attack in Ajmer, Rajasthan on a Muslim shrine on October 11. That blast had left three people dead and 17 injured.

Though in both cases, the prime targets were the followers of Islam, the Indian authorities had started looking into the possibility of these attacks originating from Islamic republic of Pakistan. The two countries have always had hostile relations and have fought two major wars. Indian intelligence has time and again accused the Pakistani spy agency, ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) of sponsoring subversive activities from across the border. Pakistan is also often blamed for giving refuge to both Islamic and Sikh extremists.

To the embarrassment of the Indian government, it was later revealed, through investigations, that the Ajmer blast was carried out by those seeking to turn India into a Hindu theocracy and that Muslim extremists were wrongly blamed. Thanks to an honest investigation conducted by some professionally upright police officers, the Hindu supremacists involved in the Ajmer blast and other explosions targeting Muslims across India were identified and arrested.

Nevertheless, with regards to the cinema blast case of Ludhiana, the scope of the investigation was never enlarged enough to even include, or examine the possibility of Hindu supremacists as potential suspects. This may be partly because the Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a partner in the Punjab government or partly due to the prejudices within the Indian police which has always seen extremists from the minority communities as suspects in such incidents.  After all, Punjab has witnessed a decade long Sikh militancy from mid 1980s to mid-1990s.

The fundamental question is whether the police investigation in Ludhiana cinema blast was on the right track or not. If the acquittal of three Sikh men in the case is any indication, one thing is definite that the police theory was flawed and weak. The police had charged four Sikh men for the incident. Out of these four, one had died while being in jail, while all the remaining three were acquitted by the court in December 2014. The court ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove its case.

This is not to suggest that the Sikh or the Muslim extremists have never been involved in terrorist activities. They have been targeting Hindus one way or the other, but in this particular case the targets were mainly Muslims and the day picked was an auspicious day for the Muslim community. So why would Jehadi extremists target their own compatriots and why for that matter did Sikh separatists, who according to Indian intelligence are being patronised by Pakistan target Muslims?

For the record, the Babbar Khalsa had not only denied its involvement in the incident, but had also condemned it. No group had actually claimed responsibility for the attack. So why were only Sikh and Muslim extremist groups seen as potential suspects? Why were Hindu extremists not even considered as suspects?

The year 2007 witnessed a series of attacks on Muslims across India. These include the bombing of Samjhauta Rail express that runs between India and Pakistan. The train was bombed in February 2007 killing dozens of people, mostly Pakistani Muslims. Now, when investigations have well nigh established that the Hindu extremists were involved in these attacks, and the police theory in Ludhiana blast case has been proven wrong, it would be most appropriate to reexamine the whole episode from all angles, including the involvement of ultra-Hindu nationalists that should be considered.

Unfortunately, under the present, BJP government this may not happen but the pressure must be built. For those really concerned about terrorism and religious extremism, they must shed their selective approach towards the problem. It’s a shame that the voices which have been very vocal against Sikh and Islamic extremism in the name of national unity and security are now silent over the existence of Hindu extremism and the legitimacy it is getting under the present BJP government.

No outrage has been displayed by these self-styled patriots over the reports of Hindu extremists charged for terrorism getting bail and a back door amnesty under the current government. If the law is same for everyone, why have the police and intelligence never been cognizant of the involvement of Hindu extremists in committing acts of terror? Why have their groups have never been banned or included in the list of declared terror groups? Why, for that matter, do they never get killed in staged police shootouts which has been a common occurrence in instances where Sikh and Muslim extremists have been involved in armed struggles?  



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