Canadian minister should clarify Khalistan stand, demand Congress MLAs

Indo Asian News Service

Chandigarh, April 14 (IANS) Amid a political-cum-diplomatic ontroversy over the Punjab Chief Minister's refusal to meet Canada's Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan during his visit to the state, three Congress MLAs on Friday asked the foreign dignitary to clarify his stand on the Khalistan issue.

"It is important, and in the interest of good and friendly relationship between India and Canada, that Sajjan clarify his stand on this sensitive issue," Congress leaders and MLAs Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Sukh Sarkaria and Navtej Cheema said in a joint statement here.

The Congress leaders strongly supported the Chief Minister's stand in refusing to meet Sajjan.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday reiterated his stand that he will not meet "Khalistani sympathisers" like Sajjan, even as he said that Canada's Sikh Minister will be accorded full protocol and security during his state visit later this month.

Sajjan, the first Sikh to become a high-ranking Minister in the Canadian government, is scheduled to visit India from April 17. Sajjan's family has roots in Punjab.

The three Congress leaders also objected to the Canadian High Commission's statement on the matter, saying "it had tried to hide more than clarifying anything".

"It is surprising that the High Commission has preferred to remain quiet on the specific issue that is of serious concern and consequences for the peace-loving Punjabis," they said, adding that instead of clarifying the issue, the High Commission tried to cover it up and put up a vague defence.

The Congress legislators advised the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal and Aam Aadmi Party leaders not to defend Sajjan "when he himself had preferred not to deny his association with Khalistan sympathisers and supporters".

They said the Canadian Minister and some of his ministerial and MP colleagues there had known affiliation with anti-India and pro-Khalistan forces.

The Khalistan movement was backed by Sikh radicals in 1980s to seek a separate, independent Sikh state of 'Khalistan' (land of the pure) by breaking from India. Punjab, the Sikh dominated state, saw militancy for over a decade which resulted in nearly 35,000 deaths.

"None of them have denied these charges (of Khalistani links), while leaders like Sukhbir Badal, Sukhpal Khaira and H.S. Phoolka have gone overboard in defending them for reasons best known to them," the Congress leaders said.

"There is no question of insulting a Punjabi or a Sikh in stating a fact about political leanings and inclinations of a particular leader just because he happens to be a Punjabi or a Sikh," they added.

Amarinder Singh had to cancel his Canada trip in April last year after being told by the Canadian authorities that he could not be allowed to visit that country for holding political rallies and meetings. The visit was aimed at wooing the influential Non-Resident Indian groups in Canada.

Amarinder Singh had then shot of an angry letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau against the "gag order".

--IANS

js/tsb/dg