Many Sikhs across Metro Vancouver took to the streets to hold an unprecedented series of demonstrations in 2020 and 2021 against Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's BJP government.
They were primarily motivated by the Modi regime passing farm laws that tilted the deck in favour of corporations in their dealings with agricultural producers, including many Sikhs with farms in the northwestern state of Punjab.
After a yearlong series of demonstrations in Delhi and in cities around the world with large Sikh populations, Modi relented.
Other Sikhs in Metro Vancouver remain irate over rising attacks on minorities in India since Modi's Hindu nationalist party came to power in 2014.
But one high-profile Sikh in Metro Vancouver is now singing Modi's praises. And it's come just over a month before residents of Punjab go to the polls in the state assembly elections.
In a letter to the prime minister, Ripudaman Singh Malik has expressed his "heartfelt gratitude for the unprecedented positive steps taken by yourself to redress long-reading Sikh demands and grievances including elimination of blacklists that restricted visit to India of thousands of Sikhs living abroad, grant of passports and visas to asylees and their families, reopening of hundreds of 1984-riots closed cases leading to conviction and jail term for some, declaring 1984-riots as ‘genocide’ by then Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh on the floor of the House, giving compensation or Rs. 5.00 lakh per family of the anti-Sikh genocide victims, [and] opening of Sri Kartarpur Saheb Corridor facilitating pilgrims from India to visit the revered place of our first Master Guru Nanak Dev Ji".
The existence of Malik's letter was revealed in the Hindustan Times.
In 2000, Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri were charged with 329 counts of first-degree murder in connection with a suitcase bomb going off on an Air India jet over the coast of Ireland on June 23, 1985.
In March 2005, the two men were acquitted after a lengthy trial when the judge questioned the credibility of several Crown witnesses.
Malik is a director of the Khalsa School and a former director of the Khalsa Credit Union in B.C.
In 2019, the Modi government approved a visa to Malik so that he could travel to India. Malik's brother told a Punjabi TV channel at the time that the visa was granted thanks to Samant Goel, head of India's foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing.
There are some Sikhs in Canada who believe that Indian intelligence operatives may have played a role in promoting a group called Babbar Khalsa, which is believed to have carried out the bombing of Air India Flight 182.
According to this theory, which was explored in the book Soft Target: India's Intelligence Service and Its Role in the Air India Disaster, the Congress-led government wanted a radical counterfoil to a charismatic and fiery preacher, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was leading an armed struggle for an independent Sikh nation called Khalistan.
Bhindranwale had previously proved useful to the then ruling Congress Party to keep a Sikh-centric party called the Akali Dal from succeeding in state elections.
"The party's strategy can be loosely compared to the setting of a controlled forest fire in order to check the spread of a greater fire—in this case the political opponents of the Congress Party," authors Zuhair Kashmeri and Brian McAndrew wrote in Soft Target. "But the scheme ran into problems. The deliberately set fire took on a life of its own. Bhindranwale carried on with his mission even after the Congress Party won Punjab."
A former Congressman from New York, Edophus Towns, also alleged that Babbar Khalsa had ties to the Indian government in a speech in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 23, 2007. The government of India and its many supporters in Canada have vehemently rejected this claim.
This issue was not explored at the Canadian government's public inquiry into the Air India bombing, in part because the commissioner, former Supreme Court of Canada justice John Major, denied an application by the World Sikh Organization to allow Kashmeri to testify.