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Khalistani militant Jaspal Atwal's invite to Justin Trudeau event rescinded after furore; India says matter being probed

Amid the row over the presence of Khalistani sympathisers in Canada's Cabinet, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that Jaspal Atwal should "never have received an invitation" to his event, even as India said it is ascertaining details on how the convicted militant obtained a visa.

Addressing the controversy, Trudeau said the dinner invitation to Atwal, who was once active in the International Sikh Youth Federation, was rescinded as soon as the Canadian government received the information about him, ANI reported.

"Canada and India are countries committed to pursuing and upholding democracy. We are the two largest democracies in the world, one by size and one by population," ANI quoted Trudeau as saying. At a press briefing, external affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Thursday that an investigation by the ministry is underway.

A controversy erupted on Thursday after Canadian high commissioner Nadir Patel invited Atwal for a dinner which he was hosting for the visiting Trudeau and his delegation. Canadian media reports said Atwal was photographed with Trudeau's wife Sophie and Canadian minister Amarjeet Sohi at an event in Mumbai on 20 February.

However, after uproar in the Canadian media, the invite was cancelled. "The high commission has rescinded Atwal’s invitation. We do not comment of matters relating to the prime minister's security," the Canadian high commission was quoted by PTI as saying.

Atwal denied claims that he was part of Trudeau's official entourage, adding that he has been on a private business tour since 11 February. Atwal also told Postmedia, a Canadian publication, that he won't be attending Thursday's dinner as he is currently in Mumbai.

The International Sikh Youth Federation, which was founded by Amrik Singh, the nephew of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, is led by Lakhbir Singh Rode, who is believed to be hiding in Lahore. The Khalistani outfit is currently banned in India, the United States, Japan and Canada.

Jaspal Atwal with Sophie Trudeau at the Mumbai event. News18

Jaspal Atwal with Sophie Trudeau at the Mumbai event. News18

In 1986, Atwal and three others attempted to kill Malkiat Singh Sidhu, a former Punjab cabinet minister, in Vancouver, Vancouver Sun reported. Sidhu was in Canada to attend his nephew's wedding. He survived after being shot five times but was assassinated in 1991 by Sikh terrorists in Punjab's Moga.

Atwal and three others were convicted and sentenced to 20 years in jail for the attempted murder. However, Toronto Sun reported that no one served any jail time as authorities found that evidences against them were collected through an "improperly obtained warrant".

Even before the 1986 attack, Atwal gained notoriety for allegedly beating up Ujjal Dossanjh, the former leader of British Columbia. Atwal was tried but acquitted.

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Atwal later became a businessman in Surrey, a town in British Columbia. But controversy was never far behind. In 2010, Atwal and one of his associates, allegedly threatened a local Indian-origin radio operator for calling them "Khalistani rascals". In 2012, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia won a CAD 28,000 (approximately $22,000) judgment against Atwal, for running a car-stealing ring along with a dozen other people.

That same year, Atwal, an active Liberal politician, was invited to the budget day festivities in British Columbia, National Post reported. He sat in the public gallery of the provincial Assembly hall. This led to a huge furore in the political circles in the province, leading to the resignation of a senior official from a key position in the Liberal Party for the "goof up". Amid political backlash, the then premier of the Liberal province had to issue a clarification for the incident.


Updated Date: Feb 22, 2018 17:05 PM

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