Who is Jaspal Atwal, the new thorn in Indo-Canadian ties?

Clearing the air: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meeting Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh in Amritsar on Wednesday. Special Arrangement  

Jaspal Atwal, an Indian-origin businessman with ties to the Khalistan movement, has become the new thorn in the relationship between India and Canada. Photographs of Mr. Atwal with Canadian Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rekindled the debate on Mr. Trudeau's stand on the pro-Khalistan movement.

Currently, Mr. Atwal is associated with Media Wave Communications that runs a Surrey-based online radio station. But he was formerly associated with the banned Sikh separatists outfit International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), notorious for the 1985 Air India bombing. The ISYF seeks to establish a separate country for the Sikhs of India called Khalistan. 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, which have sizeable Sikh populations.

Jaspal Atwal seen with Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau at an event in Mumbai. Photo courtesy: CBC News

Jaspal Atwal seen with Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau at an event in Mumbai. Photo courtesy: CBC News  


Mr. Atwal was one of four men convicted for ambushing and shooting Punjab Minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu in 1986. Sidhu was attacked near Gold River on Vancouver Island when he was on a private trip to Canada to attend his nephew's wedding. Though Sidhu survived, he was assassinated five years later in Moga, Punjab.

The trial court convicted, Mr. Atwal, Jasbir Singh Atwal, Armajit Singh Dhindsa and Sukhdial Singh Gill and sentenced them to 20 years' imprisonment. The trial court termed the murder attempt as "act of terrorism." The verdict was overturned in the appeal and the four men didn't serve their prison terms. Mr. Atwal later admitted to the parole board that he was the shooter that day, reported Vancouver Sun.

The CBC News also reported that Mr. Atwal been convicted in an automobile fraud case, and was charged, but not convicted, in a 1985 near-fatal attack on Ujjal Dosanjh, an opponent of the Sikh separatist movement who later became Premier of British Columbia.

The Canadian PMO clarified that Mr. Atwal was not part of official delegation to PM’s visit to India, nor was he invited by the Prime Minister’s Office. "As is the case with international trips, individuals sometimes travel on their own to the location of the visit,” a media release stated.

Mr. Atwal told Vancouver Sun that he travelled to India on his own on February 11.

The Ministry of External Affairs has not responded yet on how Mr. Atwal was granted a visa, despite being charged with a former State Minister's murder attempt.

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 2:00:27 PM |

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