Canada-based pro-Khalistan leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was declared a 'wanted terrorist' by the Indian government, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen on the premises of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, of which he was the head, in the Punjabi-dominated Surrey city of British Columbia in Canada.
Many radical activists are questioning as three killings of Sikh separatists took place in just one month. They say: Is there a pattern in sudden killings of three Khalistan activists?
Videos on social media showed Sikh men and women with saffron Khalistan flags turning up at the crime scene in Surrey, chanting 'Hindustan murdabad, Khalistan zindabad' slogans.
However, the authenticity of the videos cannot be verified by IANS.
The high-profile killing of Nijjar, who was designated as Canada-based chief of pro-Khalistani outfit Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), comes three days after another UK-based outfit chief Avtar Singh Khanda died under mysterious circumstances in a hospital.
Khanda, who is believed to have trained Khalistani separatist, now jailed, Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh after the death of Deep Sidhu, was the face of the protests at the Indian High Commission in London.
Both Nijjar and Khanda, blamed to collect charity for terrorism in the name of human rights violations against the Sikh community by spewing venom, were involved in radicalising Sikh youth and close to other KLF leaders like Jagtar Singh Tara and Paramjit Singh Pamma.
Media reports say Khanda was suffering from blood cancer and was admitted to a Birmingham hospital for about a fortnight.
His father was a KLF terrorist who was gunned down by security forces in 1991 and his mother was related to another KLF terrorist Gurjant Singh Budhsingwala with links to Pakistan.
Last month, wanted terrorist in India and Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) chief Paramjit Singh Panjwar, 63, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen near his residence in Pakistan's Lahore.
Panjwar, along with his guard, was in a park when two assailants opened fire at them and fled on a motorcycle.
Both Panjwar and Nijjer were designated as terrorists by India under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in July 2020.
According to reports, supporters of Khanda were saying he was poisoned so that they can declare him a martyr and blame the Indian security agencies for the murder.
Initial investigations indicate Nijjar, who was accused of killing Ripudaman Singh Malik, the man who was acquitted in the 1985 Air India terrorist bombing case, in Surrey last year, was killed as a result of internal gang war between Khalistani groups.
He was expressing apprehensions that he might get killed by his Khalistani rivals.
"After the killing of Panjwar, he categorically told in his interview that he might be eliminated by Indian agents," Surrey-based journalist with Spice Radio, Gurpreet Singh, told IANS over phone.
Nijjar said even Panjwar was killed by contract killers hired by the Indian agencies, he added.
Intelligence agencies told IANS the killing of Nijjar is the second high-profile killing in Canada after Ripudaman Malik in last year. They say Khanda died due to blood cancer.
"It is wrong to blame RAW agents for targeting Khalistani terrorists in Canada," a senior intelligence official told IANS.
He said the ISI is paying is spreading rumours that Indian agencies are behind the killing of Nijjar and other Khalistani terrorists.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) last year filed a chargesheet against four persons, including Nijjar, in connection with a conspiracy to kill Hindu priest Kamaldeep Sharma in Jalandhar on January 31, 2021.
The three others charge-sheeted in the case are Kamaljeet Sharma and Ram Singh, who attacked the priest on the directions of Nijjar and his associate Arshdeep Singh, a.k.a. Prabh.
According to the NIA, the conspiracy was hatched by accused Arshdeep and Nijjar, both based in Canada, to disturb peace and disrupt the communal harmony in Punjab by killing a Hindu priest.
India had asked the Canadian authorities to take action against Nijjar for his alleged involvement in terrorist acts in Punjab.
Last year the Punjab Police had sought the extradition of Nijjar as he was wanted in cases related to acts of reviving terrorism in the state.
The police was demanding his extradition in pursuance of a lookout circular (LOC) issued on January 23, 2015, and a red corner notice issued on March 14, 2016.
The NIA said Nijjar had been proactively involved in recruiting, training, financing and operationalising pro-Khalistan terrorist modules for spreading terror in India. He was involved in giving inflammatory and hateful speeches through social media platforms.
The NIA had attached Nijjar's property in his village in Punjab in another case.
A cash reward of Rs 10 lakh was declared against Nijjar, who had closed ties with the proscribed terrorist organisation, Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) founded by Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who is now operating from Canada.
Despite the SFJ being a banned organisation in India since 2019 on grounds of secessionism and Pannu being declared a terrorist, countries like Canada, the UK and the US, with a sizable Sikh diaspora, have allowed the organisation to conduct anti-India activities, including holding illegal referendums to build a campaign for secession of Punjab.
With the latest killing of the hardliner, the social media abuzz with comments like, "Is RAW becoming more like Mossad?", "Looks like RAW is on a rampage", "This is amazing to see how agencies are working closely to crush menace of Khalistanis... RAW is at WAR..." and "KCF chief Paramjit Singh Panjwar, KLF chief Avtar Singh Khanda, KTF chief Hardeep Nijjar all are shot dead, RAW".
Responding to the killing, Major Gaurav Arya (retd), Editor in Chief of Chanakya Forum, tweeted, "Khalistanis are dropping like flies."
In another tweet, he wrote: "When you protest outside our High Commission or Embassy, you stand against the government. When you take down our national flag, you stand against 1.4 billion Indians. There is no forgiveness for desecration of the tricolour. This is India's red line, our collective rubicon. We are peaceful, not harmless."
The official account representing Sikh communities, The Sikh Community of BC, tweeted, "The BC Sikh community has suffered an immeasurable loss tonight at the hands of spineless cowards.
"Bhai Hardeep Singh Nijjar, fearless activist and tireless president of @SurreyGurdwara has been shot dead, in his truck exiting the Gurdwara parking lot, by two gunmen. #SurreyBC"
The western countries don't see crime to prosecute hardliners as they think it will be a violation of the freedom of expression, a police official told IANS.
The Western countries don't see it as a crime to prosecute Pannun and other hardliners as they think it will be a violation of the freedom of expression, he added.