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Who was Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the Khalistani separatist shot dead in Canada?

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, head of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Surrey, Canada, was killed on Sunday (June 18) evening. He was the chief of the separatist organisation Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF).

Nijjar, who was 46, was shot dead by two unidentified men on the premises of the gurdwara at 8.27 pm local time (around 9 am in India on Monday), as he headed home for the day.

What is known about Nijjar’s life in Canada?

Surrey, where Nijjar lived, is about 30 km to the southeast of Vancouver, the largest city in the western Canadian province of British Columbia.

Nijjar had moved from Punjab to Canada in 1997, where he worked as a plumber. He got married in the North American country and had two sons. He had been the president of the Surrey gurdwara body since 2020.

Nijjar belonged to village Bhar Singh Pura in Phillaur subdivision of Jalandhar district. His parents had visited the village before the first Covid-19 lockdown.

What was Nijjar’s connection with the KTF?

According to the Indian government, as the leader of the KTF, Nijjar was actively involved in the operationalisation and networking of the organisation, and the training and financing of its members.

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He allegedly visited Pakistan in 2013-14 to meet with Jagtar Singh Tara, who is currently serving a life sentence in India for his involvement in the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh. Tara had escaped from jail in 2004, but was rearrested in Thailand in 2015 and brought to India.

Nijjar was also friendly with Dal Khalsa leader Gajinder Singh, one of the five hijackers of an Indian Airlines flight in 1981. Gajinder Singh is currently in Pakistan.

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“Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a dedicated Khalistani until the end. He was like a son to me. He met me a few years ago and solidified the bond of love and thoughts. He was a true Khalistani at heart,” Gajinder Singh said in a statement following Nijjar’s murder.

What were the allegations against Nijjar?

The NIA had declared a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh for Nijjar.

His name was on the wanted list that former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh handed over to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the latter’s visit to India in 2018.

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Nijjar was named in the FIR that the NIA registered in December 2020 when farmers were protesting against the three farm laws in Delhi. Nijjar, along with Gurpatwant Singh Pannun and Paramjit Singh Pamma, were accused of conspiring to create an atmosphere of fear and lawlessness, causing disaffection among people, and inciting them to rise in rebellion against the Government of India.

Nijjar was also associated with Sikhs For Justice, a separatist organisation that is banned in India. He was seen in Australia during the voting for the so-called Khalistan Referendum there.

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His properties in Punjab were attached in 2020 in relation to a case against Sikhs for Justice for their online campaign for the so-called referendum.

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