India is warning its citizens about Canadian ‘hate crimes, sectarian violence’

The Indian government has issued a safety advisory to its citizens and foreign students in Canada, warning about what it describes as an increased risk of hate crimes, sectarian violence and “anti-India activities.”

Indian nationals in Canada should “exercise due caution and be vigilant,” the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement Friday.

“The perpetrators of these crimes have not been brought to justice so far in Canada.”

The Indian government statement did not specify which specific incidents had prompted the warning, but the warning comes after a referendum last Sunday by Sikh separatists on the creation of a separate homeland.

Reports said that 100,000 people turned out in Brampton for the vote, which was held at the Gore Meadows Community Center and organized by Sikhs for Justice, a group with offices in Washington, Toronto and London, England that is considered a banned terrorist group in India .

A call placed to Sikhs for Justice’s central offices in Washington was not immediately returned.

Social media accounts have also drawn attention to an incident at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Temple in Toronto in which pro-independence graffiti and anti-India slogans were spraypainted on the walls.

On Sept. 15, temple officials issued a statement saying they were “shocked and saddened by anti-India graffiti at the gates” of the temple “by anti-social elements.”

“The BAPS temple in Toronto, like all temples of BAPS worldwide, is an abode of peace, harmony, equality, selfless service, and universal Hindu values,” the statement read.

“We are thankful to the appropriate authorities, including the governments of India and Canada, for their continued support and sympathy.”

An employee at the temple told the star that the police had been contacted about the graffiti and were investigating.

Balpreet Singh, legal counsel and spokesperson for the World Sikh Organization of Canada, told the star that the Indian government’s safety advisory was “completely political” and “frankly unfounded.”

While aware of the temple graffiti incident, which he said his organization condemned, Singh said it’s not clear who was responsible.

“There is no other incident they can point to in terms of sectarian violence or anything else,” he said.

“There is no targeting of Hindus, no targeting of Indians — nothing of the sort.”

Singh said the Indian government’s safety warning was an expression of the country’s frustration about the ongoing Sikh referendums, which are organized by the US-based Punjab Referendum Commission and have been held so far in London, England, in Brescia, Italy and in Brampton.

The next vote is to be held in New York, while voters in Calgary and Vancouver will be able to cast their ballot at later dates.

“India demanded that this referendum not be allowed to take place,” Singh said.

“India has consistently tried to marginalize and silence voices that support Khalistan. One of the talking points that India has used is that this is a fringe movement not supported by the Sikh community and that those individuals who show up at Sikh parades or at gurudwaras … are extremists and fringe.”

A spokesperson from the Indian High Commission in Canada did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Singh said the turnout at the referendum vote last weekend in Brampton showed strong support for the creation of an independent Sikh homeland. Results have not been released and will not be released until all the votes have been cast and tallied.

An anti-independence protester who was present at the Brampton community centre, Devanshu Narang, wrote in the Times of India afterwards that he was “heckled, abused and called names and many slurs were thrown at me by passersby … but the volunteers moderated them and asked them to allow me to continue protesting in peace.”

“The volunteers ensured that no one came near me and the moment the general public started abusing me, they tried to intervene,” he wrote. “The volunteers even offered me langar food that they were eating and as they too are our brothers, even though misguided, I thanked them for the same and ate standing there.”

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