Canadian MPs get ‘strong’ response for raising concern over Internet crackdown in Punjab – National
A cross-section of Canadian lawmakers is calling for Indian government action in the state of Punjab, and critics of internet restrictions are receiving threatening responses online.
For at least three days, authorities in Punjab have restricted communication and the size of gatherings as authorities search for Sikh separatist leader Amritpal Singh. The manhunt comes a month after he led a violent storm on a police station, according to international media reports.
“As a member of Parliament for Canada, we’re trying to make sure there’s some protection for Canadians who come over there,” Tim Uppal, deputy leader of the Conservative Party, said in an interview on Monday.
“We raised this as a concern. And the response was pretty harsh – there were a lot of threats, too, and by people who have huge followings.
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The Edmonton MP was one of a handful of lawmakers across party lines who have voiced their concerns online this week – even as millions in Punjab were reportedly denied access to the internet.
His colleague, Conservative MP Jasraj Singh Hallan, who is the party’s high-profile finance critic, said he was “following the situation closely.”
Trudeau’s cabinet has opted out of comment on the situation, the office of Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Jolie cited Global Affairs Canada
“We are monitoring the situation closely and are in contact with the High Commission of Canada in Delhi and the High Commission of India in Ottawa,” wrote departmental spokesperson Marilyn Guevremont.
Emotions run high in Punjab over action
Yet at least two Liberal MPs from the Toronto-area with a large Sikh population have publicly expressed concern.
“I am getting calls from my residents and I am very concerned,” Sonia Sidhu said on Twitter earlier this week. “I hope the situation is resolved soon (and) Canadians traveling to the area will be able to reconnect with their families and friends in Canada.”
Greater Toronto Area MP Ikvinder Gahir also said constituents had reached out with concern. In a message shared by another Liberal MP, Gary Anandsangari, Gahir tweeted, “Civil rights and liberties must be upheld in a democracy.”
For his part, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet by phone with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “to express concern about the suspension of civil liberties and the safety of Canadians abroad.” ,” he wrote on Twitter.
India denied Singh a visitor visa a decade ago, in what many saw as a response to his advocacy for Sikhs. He wrote on Twitter that the communication restrictions echo a dark past in India.
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Singh wrote, “These draconian measures are untenable to many given their historical use to carry out extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances during the 1984 Sikh genocide.”
He was referring to the riots that Canada has not officially recognized as a genocide, in which some 3,000 Sikhs were killed following the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards.
The World Sikh Organization said several MPs who have raised concerns have faced abuse online from accounts that identify themselves as supporters of Modi.
The politics behind the strictness of the Government of India in Punjab
One such account called for people to “teach (Gahir) a lesson”, while another suggested that people “drag the likes of (Jagmeet Singh) to India and teach them something about Indian laws.”
The Indian High Commission in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment.
For decades, India has been critical of governments of various stripes in Canada in response to the activities of Sikh separatists who want an independent country called Khalistan.
Ottawa has insisted that the idea is not part of Canadian foreign policy and that free speech allows Canadians to advocate for a variety of causes.
Concern has increased about the action in Punjab
Meanwhile, a year after Human Rights Watch called out the Modi government for “serious regressions in human rights and constitutional protections,” the NDP is pushing liberals to condemn India’s treatment of its minorities.
The New Democrats on Tuesday also cited India as a source of potential foreign interference in Canada, along with China and Russia.
The Trudeau government announced its intention to forge deeper ties with India last November as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy, and ministers are likely to visit India through this year as it hosts the G20 presidency. does.
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