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Protest held outside Vancouver's Indian consulate over death of Sikh leader

Dozens of people gathered in downtown Vancouver Monday to protest the killing of a Sikh leader amid allegations that the Indian government played a role in the slaying.

Attendees waved Khalistan flags, played music and chanted, and some could be seen burning India's flag in a garbage can outside of the Indian Consulate.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was gunned down outside of Surrey's Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, where he was president, in June. No arrests have been made and authorities say the investigation is ongoing.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Parliament that intelligence services were investigating "credible allegations" about "a potential link" between India's government and the killing. The statement triggered a vehement denial by Indian officials and tensions have flared in response, with each country expelling a diplomat and India suspending visas for Canadians.

Protesters described Nijjar's killing as an assassination and demanded a public inquiry into the case.

"We take any opportunity we can to show the Indian Government that we’re not going to be silenced," attendee Mukh Sev told CTV News.

"If the Indian government continues doing what it’s doing, then the Sikh community will respond in a fashion that it sees fit."

Gurkeerat Singh, who identified himself as a friend of Nijjar's, spoke at the rally.

"Mr Hardeep Singh was a Canadian citizen – this is unacceptable," he said.

"Continuing his activism is what we feel is our responsibility now, to carry on his legacy and his message."

Nijjar was a prominent member of a movement to create an independent Sikh homeland known as Khalistan, and at the time of his death was organizing an unofficial referendum among the Sikh diaspora with the organization Sikhs For Justice.

India designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020, an accusation he had denied.

The protest was one of several planned by some members of the Sikh community in cities across Canada. The World Sikh Organization issued a warning in advance, urging vigilance and warning the possibility of "incitement and interference."

"At this time, the focus must remain on finding the killers of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and exposing the full extent of Indian interference in Canada. We believe that there will be ongoing attempts by India to shift this focus however we must do all in our power to ensure that these attempts are unsuccessful," said Tejinder Singh Sidhu, the organization's president, in a statement Friday.

"If members of the community feel unsafe or see attempts to incite violence, we encourage them to immediately contact law enforcement."

The second stage of B.C. voting on whether a Sikh homeland should be established in India's Punjab province is scheduled to be held on Oct. 29.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Alissa Thibault and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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