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Who is Jaspal Atwal? Khalistani militant convicted of trying to kill Punjab minister roils India-Canada relations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's efforts to reassure India that Canada does not support any separatist movement received a setback Thursday with the revelation that a Canadian Sikh convicted of trying to assassinate a Punjab cabinet minister in 1986 was invited to a dinner honouring Trudeau.

Jaspal Atwal with Candian prime minister's wife Sophie Trudeau at the Mumbai event. CNN News18

Jaspal Atwal with Candian prime minister's wife Sophie Trudeau at the Mumbai event. CNN News18

According to a report in CBCnewsJaspal Atwal, the man at the centre of the controversy, is a former member of the terrorist organisation International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) founded by Amrik Singh, the nephew of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a slain Sikh militant who advocated for a separate Sikh state of 'Khalistan'.

According to PTI, Atwal was convicted for attempting to kill the then Punjab minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu in Vancouver in 1986. 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.

After being found guilty, Atwal, along with three other convicts, was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, according to India Today. The judge called it "an act of terrorism" while pronouncing the verdict, according to the report.

However according to Toronto Sun, none of the convicts served the jail term because the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was found to have collected evidence through an improperly obtained warrant.

Atwal was also accused of beating Ujjal Dosanjh, the former leader of British Columbia before the 1986 attack, reported Vancouver Sun. However, he was acquitted.

Atwal later moved to Surrey, a town in British Columbia where he is associated with Media Wave Communications, which runs a Surrey-based online radio station, ABP News reported.

In 2012, Atwal was invited for budget day festivals in British Columbia, causing a huge uproar which led to the resignation of a senior official from a key position in the Liberal Party for the "goof up", National Post reported.

'Should have never received an invitation'

Atwal was invited by Canadian high commissioner Nadir Patel for a dinner which he was hosting for the visiting Canadian prime minister and his delegation on Thursday.

However, the dinner invite was cancelled after an uproar.

"Obviously, we take this extremely seriously. He should never have received an invitation. As soon as we received the information we rescinded it, a Member of Parliament had included this individual", ANI quoted Trudeau as saying.

India's battle with Sikh separatists

In June 1984, the Indian Army  launched Operation Blue Star to remove Bhindranwale and his armed followers from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Members of the banned Sikh separatists outfit are also accused of plotting the 1985 Air India bombing that took 329 lives.

According to a report in The Hindu, India declared the ISYF as a terrorist outfit and banned it under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 2001. The outfit is also banned in Canada, United Kingdom and USA

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Feb 22, 2018 19:53 PM

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