Jaspal Atwal, whose presence at the events hosted for visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has sparked a controversy is a reformed element in the pro-Khalistan sections of the Sikh diaspora, top government sources told The Indian Express. The sources said that Atwal was in India as part of the government’s new approach to engage with such elements who have not taken part in any separatist and extremist activities in recent years.
According to these sources, Atwal is one of the 200 such individuals who have been identified by the government. The Canadian government has been engaging with these people for 3 years now and Atwal got a visa to India, as part of the process, like many others. “He got a visa to visit India, as part of the process, like many others. He was given a visa since he was found to have been reformed, and therefore has been taken off the blacklist last year,” a source said.
These individuals are reportedly spread across the world, and are mainly in Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, among others, sources said.
Atwal was a Sikh separatist active in the banned International Sikh Youth Federation when he was convicted of an attempt to murder Punjab minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu in Vancouver in 1986. Sidhu had survived despite being shot twice on road.
Despite the government’s engagement with Atwal, Canada’s spy agency had been warned about the repercussions of him attending events in India, the Canadian media reported. The informant, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, confirmed speaking to an agent from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) on February 17, hoping to alert the Canadian government to Atwal’s criminal history.
The person said to the CSIS agent that “this is an embarrassment for the prime minister and CSIS should send a note to the prime minister’s office. And they sent a note”. However, there has been no response on this from CSIS, according to a report by Postmedia.