'And when the floats go by in the parade garlanded and decorated with the posters of gun toting assassins and murderers and martyrs, you look the other way.'
'And in return we will bring you 10,000 votes because the people of the gurdwaras will vote as we tell them to vote.'
"Nijjar and Parmar are the current heroes. This helps the Khalistan movement in Canada, but I believe it will make no difference worldwide. It will make no difference in Punjab," Terry Milewski -- author of Blood for Blood: Fifty Years of the Global Khalistan Project -- tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.comin the second part of a multi-part interview.
- Part 1 of the Interview: 'Can Modi Show That Trudeau Is Wrong'
As someone who has closely observed the Khalistani movement, how badly or otherwise will Nijjar's murder impact the Khalistani movement, if at all anything is left of it right now?
There's practically nothing left (of the Khalistani movement) in Punjab.
In the last (assembly) election, the separatists under Simranjit Singh Mann (Sangrur Lok Sabha MP and president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar)), their little splinter group, they got two-and-a-half percent of the vote. It's pathetic, a pitiful performance. And that was a good year for them. The election in 2017 in Punjab, they got 0.3 per cent of the vote. And this is in a Sikh majority state.
NOTA, None Of The Above, did better than the separatists in Punjab. The movement has been going nowhere for 30 years in Punjab. There's no support for it. It's only in the diaspora that it has any hope at all. And they represent what?
Worldwide, there may be maybe 2 million Sikhs in the global diaspora, three quarters of a million of them in Canada. That's the largest share. But it's only in the diaspora that the idea of Khalistan still burns strongly.
It's a very small minority movement. But I don't believe that the death of Mr Nijjar, to answer your question directly, does anything but improve their (of those seeking a separate Khalistan) chances in Canada. It gives them a new martyr. They like having martyrs.
They put pictures of these leaders; life-sized posters of their martyrs are everywhere, including even the Air India bomber, the Kanishka bomber, Talwinder Parmar, a Canadian citizen, and it's in his name that the referendum campaign currently is being run.
He was held up as a hero and a model for Sikh youth, a martyr of the Sikh nation. And the guy on the other end of the posters, at the temple (gurdwara) in Surrey where Nijjar was killed, is Nijjar.
So Nijjar and Parmar are the current heroes. This helps the Khalistan movement in Canada, but I believe it will make no difference worldwide. It will make no difference in Punjab.
The movement in India is basically dead.
In many of your interviews you've been underlining the fact that it's just not the Liberal Party but even the Conservatives in Canada, historically, who have always supported the Khalistani movement?
Where do the Khalistanis in Canada get their power from? Why haven't the Canadian governments of all colours taken a firm stand against those who promote and fund terrorism from Canadian soil?
Well, the short answer is that you have exaggerated what's going on. I don't believe that it's fair to say that Canadian politicians of all parties support terrorism or the Khalistan movement. They simply have agreed to look the other way and to say nothing in return to votes. That's not the same thing.
It's trying to get away with it without getting their hands dirty. They have a nice little arrangement whereby if the Khalistanis say to them, you come to our Vaisaki (Baisakhi) parade (the Surrey Baisakhi parade takes place every year on April 22; Surrey, in British Columbia, is a hub of the Khalistani supporters), you smile and wave and you hustle for votes.
And when the floats go by in the parade garlanded and decorated with the posters of gun toting assassins and murderers and martyrs, you look the other way.
You say nothing and that's all you have to do. And in return we will bring you 10,000 votes because the people of the (local) gurdwaras will vote as we tell them to vote.
And if you object, if you say, hey, I'm not going to your parade on Vaisaki, if you're going to be showing those posters and making these people out to be heroes, I won't be there then we will take our votes somewhere else. We will take them to the other party.
Now you can say that's a sleazy, dirty deal and I would agree with you. But I simply tell you that you're exaggerating a bit. With great respect, if you think that means that they support Khalistan and that they support terrorism. No, they are just doing what they need to do to get elected.
In this context would you think that Canada, unwittingly, is creating a Frankenstein's monster?
That has already happened. Now we have a situation where it has been normalised to have these posters everywhere and the Khalistanis have accepted that and expanded their territory.
They started out with maybe just a picture in the langar (a place where devotees have meal in a gurdwara) hall. Then they put life size posters on the outside of the gurdwara. Then the next year well, we got away with that; nobody said anything.
So now we're going to have a reenactment of the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Life size figures of Mrs Gandhi's sari covered in red paint to make sure that kids get the idea that this is a bloody affair and we're proud of it. We think this is a great thing to celebrate the assassination of Mrs Gandhi.
Is that a proper way to express freedom of speech? Why can't the Canadian government or the Canadian police stop such open display of violence, or, celebration of violence?
Well number one, it's not actual violence. Number two, the Canadian legislation is very backward. It needs to be updated. And here's the problem. For example, the British government, which have a lot of experience with demonstrations, and demonstrations that go too far, and has large immigrant communities.
The British government in 2006 introduced a New Terrorism Act, which makes the glorification of terrorism a criminal offense because they recognised that when you cross the line into inciting violence, when you glorify terrorism, you are doing something more than just ordinary freedom of speech. You are inciting violence and that should be stopped.
Now, probably 30 countries in Europe have similar legislation now, 17 years after the British made that move and Canada has still not made that a crime.
So you have a hard time finding how a Canadian prosecutor would be able to prosecute somebody for driving a truck through downtown Toronto with a celebration of Mrs Gandhi's assassination upon it. That's a real problem.
If a Canadian prime minister, conservative, liberal, whoever if they were able to do what (British) Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in New Delhi at the G20, that we're not going to allow any space for extremism of this kind from the Khalistanis, then the Canadian prime minister would be finally doing something as opposed to saying something, but doing something to address Indian concerns about the pandering and indulgence of Khalistanis in Canada.
- Part 3 of the Interview: Who Really Killed Hardeep Singh Nijjar?