Sikh Community Fearful of Further Violence
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) _ The Sikh community is fearful of more violence after the attempted assassination of a Punjab state minister.
The Indian Foreign Ministry has asked Canada for a full investigation into the shooting of Malkiad Singh Sidhu, a member of the Cabinet in the predominantly Sikh state in northwestern India.
Sidhu, 56, was shot Sunday after his car was forced off a road by gunmen on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Sidhu is a leading member of the Sikhs’ Akali Dal party in the Punjab, the scene of separatist violence by Sikh militants seeking independence from predominantly Hindu India.
Sidhu remained hospitalized Tuesday in satisfactory condition.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have arrested four Sikhs in the case.
The shooting came two days after Inderjit Singh Reyat was fined $2,000 in the southern Vancouver Island community of Duncan for illegally possessing dynamite and an unregistered revolver.
In March, charges of making an explosive with intent to endanger life or destroy property against Talvinder Singh Parmar were dropped. Both Parmar and Reyat were investigated following the bombing of an Air India jet that killed 329 people last June.
Fearing reprisals, many moderate Sikhs are reluctant to speak to reporters.
″The community is in turmoil,″ said Vancouver lawyer Ujjal Dosanjh. ″The extremists have frightened people away from the temples if they speak moderately.″
Dosanjh, who was beaten last year after he spoke out against extremists and has repeatedly received threats on his life, deplored the violence and said the majority of the city’s Sikh community - which numbered more than 22,000 in the 1981 census - wants to live peacefully.
The Indian consul general in Vancouver, Jagdish Sharma, and and Indian High Commissioner J.S. Chatwal of Ottawa canceled a planned six-day trip to Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary in Alberta.
Sharma said he decided to stay in Vancouver to supervise Sidhu’s care.
Sharma, who said he and his staff always have protection, added that security concerns were not behind his change in plans.
Sidhu did not request security because he was on a private visit. Sharma said no one suspected Sidhu would be in danger during his trip to attend a relative’s wedding in New Westminster, a Vancouver suburb.
One Sikh, who spoke on condition he not be named, said, ″Sidhu’s problem is that he went to the temple in New Westminster.″
The temple is known to be one of three Sikh religious centers in the Vancouver area run by supporters of an independent Sikh state.
Jaspal Singh Atwal of the Vancouver suburb of Surrey is one of four men charged with attempting to kill Sidhu. He is a director of the New Westminster temple.
Atwal, 28, along with Armjit Singh Dhindsa, 25, of Vancouver and two other Surrey men, Jasbir Singh Atwal (no relation), 26, and Sukhdial Singh Gill, 27, appeared in Campbell River Provincial Court on Monday where they were charged with attempted murder.