India Urges Students in Canada To exercise due caution, remain vigilant

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India’s Ministry of External Affairs advised Indian students in Canada to “exercise due caution and remain vigilant” in response to what it describes as a “sharp increase in incidents of hate crimes, sectarian violence, and anti-India activities” in the country.

In a September press release, the department said it and the Indian High Commission/ Consulates General in Canada had “taken up these incidents with the Canadian authorities and requested them to investigate the said crimes and take appropriate action”.

“The perpetrators of these crimes have not been brought to justice so far in Canada,” it warned.

Asked by The PIE which incidents the government was referring to, the MEA did not respond to requests for information.

It also advised Indian nationals and students from India in the country to register with the High Commission of India in Ottawa or the Consulate General of India in Toronto and Vancouver to enable authorities to “better connect with Indian citizens in Canada in the event of any requirement or emergency”.

According to the World Sikh Organization of Canada – quoted in the Globe and Mail – the advisory is “purely political”. A spokesperson for the group, Balpreet Singh, said that two events had caught the attention of the Indian government.

The first was graffiti discovered at a Hindu Temple in Toronto on September 15, and the second a vote held in Brampton by Sikhs for Justice that was described as an independence referendum for Khalistan and Punjab.

Universities Canada highlighted that “Canada remains one of the safest countries in the world for all international students, including Indian students”.

“We strongly condemn the defacement of the Swaminarayan temple in Toronto, however this incident is not indicative of a trend or a growing escalation of violence directed towards Indian students,” said Universities Canada assistant director of International Relations, Graham Barber.

“Canada takes prides in being multicultural and in its multi-faith communities and believes everyone deserves to feel safe within their community.”

Anonymous sources in Canada questioned how the Indian government could publish the advisory without substantive evidence.

There are also concerns that Indian authorities may be encroaching on academic freedom. In July, a poster created by Toronto Metropolitan University film student and director Leena Manimekalai was targeted online and was requested to be withdrawn by the Indian High Commission in Canada.

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