Hundreds of Sikh demonstrators gathered outside Indian embassies in Canada on Monday, trampled images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and set Indian flags on fire, a week after Ottawa claimed New Delhi had a hand in the murder of a well-known Khalistani Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
"We are not safe back home in Punjab, we are not safe in Canada," said Joe Hotha, a member of the Sikh community in Toronto, referring to the murder in June of Canadian citizen Nijjar near Vancouver.
Last Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told parliament that New Delhi was possibly involved in the assassination of the Sikh leader, triggering a major diplomatic crisis between the two nations.
"Now our prime minister tells everything in the parliament, so there is no excuse," said another Sikh protester, Harpar Gosal of Toronto.
"The Indians, they are terrorists, they killed our brother in Vancouver, so that´s why we are protesting here," said the Canadian outside of the Indian consulate.
Nijjar was allegedly killed for leading the Khalistan Referendum campaign in Canada.
Like other protesters, he carried the yellow flag of Khalistan — an independent state that some Sikhs hope to create in the Indian region of Punjab.
Several hundred people gathered in Toronto but also in Ottawa and Vancouver to denounce Modi´s government.
Canada is home to the largest Sikh community in the world outside of India, with 770,000 Canadians professing Sikhism in 2021, or two percent of the country´s population.
The Indian government called the Canadian accusations "absurd" and vehemently denied them.
It also advised its nationals not to travel to certain Canadian regions "given the increase in anti-Indian activities" and temporarily stopped processing visa applications in Canada.
Since then, diplomatic relations between the two countries have been at their lowest point, marked by reciprocal expulsions of diplomats while Trudeau has repeatedly called on the Indian authorities to cooperate in the investigation.