Chandigarh, May 18 (IANS) Clearly annoyed over the manner in which he was denied permission to hold public interactions with the Punjabi diaspora in Canada last month, senior Congress leader Amarinder Singh on Wednesday refused to meet the Canadian high commissioner in India.
“Capt Amarinder Singh has declined to meet the Canadian high commissioner in India, who had offered to meet him following the refusal of the Canadian government to allow him public interactions in Canada,” Amarinder’s spokesman said here on Wednesday.
Canadian High Commissioner Nadir Patel, in a letter to Amarinder Singh, had offered to meet him.
The move followed an angry protest letter by Amarinder to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month to protest denial of permission to him to hold public interactions in Canada.
“Thank you for offering to meet me, as I do not think anything further will emerge from such a meeting as I have already expressed my views,” Amarinder said in his letter to the high commissioner.
Accusing the Canadian government of “discriminatory approach”, Amarinder pointed out that while he was disallowed to interact with Punjabi diaspora, representatives of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance and the Aam Aadmi Party, who had gone there before him, had been allowed to hold similar meetings.
“Their interactions did not warrant any action by your government. They did their bit and returned to India. In my case, however, the matter took a different turn,” the former Punjab chief minister regretted.
“I understand that this intervention against me took place on a letter written to your Ministry of Global Affairs by a known antagonist of India, a lawyer representing asylum seekers both in the US in New York and in Toronto, Mr Gurpatwant Singh Pannun,” Amarinder pointed out.
“I, however, find it strange that a known anti-Indian individual’s views were given precedence over an Indian MP who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of India, and who is also the President of the State Congress in Punjab,” he said.
Referring to Pannun, Amarinder said: “As per the general belief amongst the Punjabis settled in Canada, Mr Pannun indulges in such activity to ensure his bread and butter which is contributed by those professing an independent Khalistan. It is also the general belief that he is in the pay of Pakistan’s ISI. I am sure your concerned agencies are aware of such matters. This however is the business of your government.”
He suggested to the High Commissioner that it would be more appropriate for the Canadian government to ban all such interactions for all, irrespective of the party they belong to, and not just a selective application as was done in his case.
Amarinder was forced to cancel his interactions, and later his trip to Canada, following the controversy created by Pannun’s Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) organisation and the reaction of the Canadian government to it.
Amarinder Singh wrote an angry letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau protesting against the “gag order”.
Quoting the Canadian constitution to argue his point, Amarinder clarified that he “neither represented any government at the moment, nor was he organising any election campaign since there are no elections scheduled in Punjab right now or in immediate future”.
Punjabi NRIs play an important role in elections in Punjab through funding of parties and leaders and also have an influence on voters in the state.