Freedom of expression is being misused by anti-India elements in Canada and elsewhere, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday amid a row over a controversial poster released by pro-Khalistani leaders in the North American country.
The poster is an invitation to a rally titled “Khalistan Freedom Rally” scheduled on July 8 in Toronto. Titled “Kill India”, the poster accuses Indian High Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Verma and Consul General of India in Toronto, Apoorva Srivastava, of assassinating Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Similar invitations carrying photographs of Indian diplomats in the UK and Australia have also emerged.
On Tuesday, India had summoned Canadian High Commissioner Cameron MacKay over the poster. A day before, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had urged Western countries not to give space to pro-Khalistan supporters, arguing that it would be bad for the relationship between the nations.
Earlier on Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had said that citizens in the country had the freedom of expression, but that the country would push back against violence and extremism in all its forms, the Hindustan Times.
At a press conference, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that India condemns the incident and has taken it up with the Canadian government,
“We have called on the government of Canada to ensure the safety of our diplomats and security of all our diplomatic missions,” Bagchi said. “It is a matter of concern that freedom of speech is once again being misused by anti-India elements based in Canada and elsewhere.”
Commenting on Trudeau’s remarks, Bagchi said: “The issue is not about freedom of expression but its misuse for advocating violence, propagating separatism and legitimising terrorism.”
On a question regarding the poster for the rally in the UK, Bagchi said that New Delhi has taken up the issue with the authorities in London.
“We have seen comments by UK Foreign Secretary [James Cleverly], as you are aware, we have had problems with the security of our mission in London,” Bagchi said. “We have taken up the issue of this threat against our diplomats with the UK authorities.”
Earlier in the day, Cleverly had said that any direct attacks on the Indian High Commission in London are completely unacceptable. “We have made clear to [Indian High Commisioner] Vikram Doraiswami and the Government of India that the safety of staff at the High Commission is paramount.”
Bagchi said that the Indian government has taken note of the statement, but added that it would “judge them by what happens on the ground”.