A campaigner for a Sikh nation to be carved out of India’s Punjab state who was wanted by Indian authorities has been shot dead in Canada, police have said.

Federal police said a man was found in his pickup truck in the car park of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple in Surrey, British Columbia, at about 8.30pm on Sunday, with apparent gunshot wounds.

“The man died of his injuries at the scene,” the Royal Canadian mounted police added.

They did not initially identify the victim but later said he was 45-year-old Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the temple’s president who advocated for the creation of a Sikh state known as Khalistan. The police they were releasing his identity “in hopes of advancing their investigation”.

Timothy Pierotti, a member of the force’s integrated homicide investigation team, added: “We understand there is a lot of speculation regarding the motive of this homicide, but we are dedicated to learning the facts and letting the evidence lead our investigation.”

Nijjar was wanted by Indian authorities for alleged terrorism offences and conspiracy to commit murder, which he reportedly denied to Canadian media.

He had been warned by Canada’s spy agency about threats against him, according to the World Sikh Organization of Canada, which alleged he was “assassinated in a targeted shooting”.

It pointed to the killings or suspicious deaths of other prominent Khalistan activists in recent months: Avtar Singh Khanda, in Britain, and Paramjit Singh Panjwar, in Pakistan.

India’s Punjab state – which is about 58% Sikh and 39% Hindu – was rocked by a violent Khalistan separatist movement in the 1980s and early 1990s, in which thousands of people died.

Today, that movement’s most vocal advocates are primarily among the Punjabi diaspora.

India has often complained to foreign governments, including Ottawa, about the activities of Sikh hardliners among the Indian diaspora who, it says, are trying to revive the insurgency.

In March, Indian authorities summoned Canada’s top diplomat in Delhi after Sikh protesters gathered outside India’s diplomatic mission in Canada.


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