The Indian government says there has been a rise in “hate crimes, sectarian violence and anti-Indian activities” in Canada and is warning Indians in the country, including students, to be vigilant.
A press release issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs on Friday did not say what prompted the warning. It said the minister and Indian politicians had brought several incidents to the attention of Canadian authorities. It also said that the suspects have not been arrested.
“Due to the increase in crime incidents as described above, Indian nationals and students from India in Canada and those proceeding to Canada to study/study are advised to be vigilant and remain vigilant,” the release said.
The release also did not point to any data or evidence of an increase in hate crimes.
CBC News contacted India’s Ministry of External Affairs for more information but did not receive a response. Several Canadian federal government departments also did not respond to CBC’s inquiries.
Earlier this week, Sikh organizers held what they called a referendum in Brampton, Ont. about whether there should be an independent Sikh state in northern India called Khalistan.
Supporters of Khalistan want to establish a Sikh state in the Indian state of Punjab. The organization’s activities in Canada have caused tension between the Canadian and Indian governments, and within the Liberal caucus.
Capt. Amarinder Singh, the former chief minister of Punjab, has even accused senior ministers in the Trudeau government of sympathizing with the movement – allegations they deny.
The advice was issued a day after an Indian government official criticized Brampton’s vote at a press conference.
Arindam Bagchi, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, called it an “exercise” and said it was targeting “extremists and radical elements.”
Bagchi added that the issue was raised with the Canadian government through diplomatic channels.
“The Canadian government has emphasized that it respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India, and that they will not recognize the so-called referendum,” said Bagchi.
Statistics Canada said in a report earlier this year that there were 119 police-reported hate crimes in Canada targeting South Asians in 2020 — an increase of 38 incidents in 2019.
Police are investigating incidents of vandalism
Earlier this week, a Hindu temple in Toronto was vandalized with the words “Khalistan” and “Death to India” in Urdu.
A Toronto police spokesperson told CBC News on Friday that the investigation is ongoing and they have not yet identified a suspect.
“The Hate Crime Unit has not seen any noticeable trend in hate crimes against Indians/South Asians,” the spokesperson said.
“We understand that the underreporting of hate crimes is a challenge and that the reported numbers may not accurately reflect what is happening in our city.”
In July, vandals defaced a statue of Indian human rights activist Mahatma Gandhi on Richmond Hill — again, with the name “Khalistan.” York County Police say they are investigating the vandalism as a hate crime.
A York police spokesperson told CBC News Friday that they have not yet identified the suspects.
The statement is scaremongering, said the expert
Chinnaiah Jangam, a professor of history at Carleton University who works in South Asia, said the threat to the people of India accused of the advice is exaggerated.
“Although there are right-wing fanatics who are assertive [itself in Canada]I don’t think there is any threat to any minority here,” Jangam told CBC News.
He said the target audience for the advisory may not be Indians in Canada but supporters of the ruling Hindu party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – and critics of the BJP and Modi abroad.
“Most importantly, the issue of this statement has domestic implications for Indian politics,” Jangam said.
“It will be used [Modi’s] his vote base in India, and to basically suppress any form of anti-Indian dissent in North America.”
Jangam has reported being the target of harassment and threats for his criticism of the Modi government and the BJP.
Tensions between local Hindus and Muslims in Leicester, UK, sparked riots last week. The BBC reports that authorities have arrested 47 people about the incident.
Jangam said it is possible that Indian government officials are responding to the events in Leicester by looking to suppress criticism of the Indian government’s handling of minorities.
“They’re preparing some kind of platform,” he said. “It’s very worrying.”