New Delhi: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's India visit plunged into a controversy on Thursday over a dinner invitation to convicted 'Khalistani terrorist' Jaspal Atwal by the Canadian High Commissioner to India.
However, swiftly moving to control damage, High Commissioner Nadir Patel cancelled the invite for the dinner, hosted on Thursday night for Trudeau, while the External Affairs Ministry said it will "ascertain" how Atwal entered India.
"The High Commission has rescinded Mr Atwal’s invitation. We do not comment on matters relating to the PM's security," the Canadian mission said in a statement.
Atwal was convicted for trying to kill the then Punjab minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu in Vancouver in 1986. He was also charged in a 1985 near-fatal attack on Ujjal Dosanjh, a member of Trudeau's Liberal Party, but was not convicted.
Dosanjh, who later became the premier of British Columbia, spoke exclusively to WION on the Canadian PM's visit and the controversy over the invitation to Atwal.
Following are excerpts from the interview:
"It is troubling to know that a man who was convicted for an assassination attempt is in the delegation led by Canadian PM. He was invited to the official dinner in PM Trudeau's honour by the Canadian high commission. Therefore, I assume that he is somewhat known to the PM's delegation as well as the high commissioner... one is baffled by the fact that Atwal, who had attacked someone like me back in the '80s, is included in the high commissioner's dinner. He was acquitted of the charges but then he again tried to kill the visiting Punjab cabinet minister (Malkiat Singh Sidhu) and I believe that kind of man who served time in jail as a result of that conviction ought to have been known to the Prime Minister's Office," he said.
On being asked as to whether Atwal attacked him because he espoused the cause of 'united India', Dosanjh said, "That was the reason. I was one of the very few people in Canada who spoke up at that time and I spoke up for two reasons - one for the unity and integrity of India and more importantly for the unity of the Indian community."
Regarding the attack on Malkiat Singh Sidhu, he said, "He attacked me first and he, of course, denied the attack. He was acquitted on technicalities by the judge... but then he went on to attack the visiting Punjab Cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu on Vancouver Island and for that, he was convicted..."
On what the Canadian government could do to make things better, Dosanjh told WION, "It encourages them indirectly by appearing in their events, by appearing on their stages, by appearing in parades where some of the mass murderers like Talvinder Parmar - who bombed Air India - where their portraits are glorified... It is alright for PM of Canada to say that we won't support Khalistan but what really needs to be done and where I think Indian politicians have been absolutely inept is the framing of the question. The question ought not to be framed by politicians like 'Mr Trudeau do something about these people in Canada' that's not the issue because Canada will simply say to you we are a free country, people are free to express their views so is India. The question is not whether you express or they express their views, the question is whether the government, the cabinet ministers, the Prime Minister and other politicians in this country associate themselves with the Khalistanis in their functions, their parades."
"When these terrorists pray in those parades openly and shout Khalistan slogans and glorify those murderers, it is then that politicians shouldn't adorn those stages, that is what's wrong. Politicians must cease and desist from doing that and if they understand this, the Khalistan problem in Canada will disappear and that's what the government of India needs to say to Canadian politicians," he further said.