Darshan Singh Dhaliwal, the recipient of this year’s Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, the highest honour for overseas Indians, expressed his belief that India was justified in dismissing the allegations made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Canadian parliament without any substantiated evidence.
“It is very hard to believe that the Prime Minister of a country would level such allegations in parliament without any evidence. No solid proof has emerged so far,” Dhaliwal told The Indian Express over the phone when asked for his views on the diplomatic dispute between India and Canada and its potential impact on the Sikh and Punjabi diaspora and those living in Punjab.
The diplomatic rift began after Trudeau linked the killing of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada to “agents of India.” Dhaliwal added, “Just making allegations without evidence doesn’t benefit anyone.”
Regarding the likely impact and the suspension of visa services for Canadian nationals by India, Dhaliwal remarked, “I am in America, and I feel concerned for people on both sides. People are quite worried about it, that’s all I can say.”
He further noted, “Festivals and the marriage season are underway. Those who require visas [to travel to Punjab] will be affected by this suspension of visa services. This is a matter of concern and is not a positive development.”
Before receiving the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award in January this year, Milwaukee-based Dhaliwal made headlines when he was sent back to the US from Delhi’s airport on the night of October 23-24, 2021, allegedly due to his involvement in the farmers’ agitation at the national capital’s borders.
Meanwhile, Amritsar-based businessman Gunbir Singh commented, “The suspension of visa services is affecting those from Punjab who have obtained Canadian citizenship, and there is indeed a significant number of such individuals. The majority of them have no connection to Khalistan, an issue that is repeatedly raised.”
Sikh scholar Gurpreet Singh emphasized, “It is unfair to paint all Sikhs with the same brush, as the Khalistan issue is being brought up without cause. Who is demanding Khalistan here in Punjab? Undoubtedly, there is a sense of injustice among Sikhs who went abroad in the 1980s. They still hold that grievance since there has been no justice or resolution for what occurred at that time.”
He added, “Our concern is that Sikhs in Punjab should not be implicated in all of this. If you (referring to India) have a dispute with Canada, why involve the Sikhs of Punjab? Sikhs have made significant sacrifices in the past and do not need to prove their patriotism.”