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Pro-Khalistan activists heckle India envoy to US at New York gurdwara

The protesters accused Taranjit Singh Sandhu of playing a role in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and plotting to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

Indian ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu speaks at a gurdwara in New York on Sunday, November 26, 2023. (ANI Photo)

By: Shubham Ghosh

THE Indian ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, on Sunday (26) faced an unpleasant experience as he was confronted by a group of Khalistani protesters at a gurdwara in New York, US.

The incident happened when the veteran diplomat went to Hicksville Gurdwara in Long Island on the occasion of Gurupurab (celebrated on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the first Sikh guru) when the protesters shouted at him after surrounding him.

The 60-year-old Sandhu was accused of plotting the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada in June this year and also conspiring to eliminate another leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who resides in the US.

A video of Sandhu exchanging words with the protesters went viral on social media. It began with the Indian envoy saying that he is visiting the gurdwara for seva (service).

One protester was heard shouting in the video in Punjabi, “You are responsible for the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. You plotted to kill Pannun.” The protesters were also seen following the diplomat and forcing him to give a response.

People present on the occasion were seen trying to defuse the situation.

In September, the Indian high commissioner in the UK, Vikram Doraiswami, was stopped from entering a gurdwara in Glasgow in Scotland by a few people, allegedly pro-Khalistan activists. A video also went viral on that occasion showing a man trying to forcefully open the door of the diplomat’s office before it drove away.

Indian diplomats in the UK and Canada have also faced backlash from pro-Khalistan activists who have accused them of orchestrating the killing Nijjar in the last few months.

The latest incident involving Sandhu drew condemnation from leaders of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In a video post on the incident on X, its national spokesperson RP Singh said, “Khalistanies tried to heckle Indian Ambassador @SandhuTaranjitS with baseless Questions for his role in the failed plot to assassinate Gurpatwant, (SFJ) and Khalistan Referendum campaign.”

He said the protest was led by a person named Himmat Singh and tagged US president Joe Biden, the Indian prime minister’s office and the Indian ministry of external affairs.

“Himmat Singh who led the pro Khalistanies at Hicksville Gurdwara in New York also accused ambassador Sandhu for India’s role in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was President of Surrey Gurdwara and the coordinator for Canadian Chapter of the Khalistan Referendum,” he added.

Manjinder Singh Sirsa, another BJP leader, said, “As far as Taranjit Singh Sandhu is concerned, he has got a legacy. His father was Teja Singh Samundari who fought for Chabi wala Morcha for Gurudwara, before independence. I believe that this kind of heckling of him is not justified at all. I condemn this…”

 

Sandhu posted about his visit to the gurdwara on X but did not mention the heckling he faced.

“Privileged to join the local Sangat, including from Afghanistan, at Guru Nanak Darbar of Long Island in celebrating Gurpurab- listened to Kirtan, spoke about Guru Nanak’s everlasting message of togetherness, unity, and equality, partook langar, and sought blessings for all,” he wrote on the social media platform.

A major diplomatic row started between India and Canada following the death of Nijjar as Ottawa suspected New Delhi’s role in the assassination outside a gurdwara. India hit back saying the allegations were “absurd” and “motivated” and also temporarily suspended issuing visas to Canadians which it resumed recently. However, things were far from being normal between the two democracies yet.

Earlier in November, the Financial Times reported that authorities in Washington had thwarted a conspiracy to kill Pannun, leader of Khalistan organisation Sikhs for Justice, on American soil.

When asked about the report, the White House said the US is “treating a reported plot to kill a Sikh separatist on American soil with utmost seriousness” and has raised the issue with the Narendra Modi government “at the senior-most levels”.

White House spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the Indian officials had “expressed surprise and concern” in the matter and “stated that activity of this nature was not their policy”.

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