The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said that they 'do not know' how convicted Khalistani terrorist Jaspal Atwal, who was invited as a guest in one of Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's reception in India, was granted Visa by the Indian government.
"About the Visa I don't know how it happened. We will ascertain information from our Commission," Raveesh Kumar, MEA spokesperson said.
The ministry itself is trying to find out how Atwal managed to enter the country , added Kumar. "Let us not presume things and decide how he managed to come. This is something which we are trying to find out. In due course we will be able to come up with a reason that how he managed to come in India," he said.
The MEA has passed the buck to the Canadian side, saying there has been an oversight on their part. Trudeau, who had assured Punjab CM his country does not support separatism in India or elsewhere , also admitted Atwal should never have received an invitation.
"Obviously, we take this extremely seriously. He should never have received an invitation. As soon as we received the info we resciended it, a member of Parliament had included this individual," he said.
Canadian MP Randeep S. Sarai took the responsibility for inviting Atwal to the event in India, and apologised for the same.
"I alone facilitated his request to attend this important event. I should have exercised better judgment, and I take full responsibility for my actions," Sarai said in a statement, which Canadian journalist Abigail Bimman shared on Twitter.
Controversy soon erupted after pictures of Canadian PM's wife Sophie Trudeau with Atwal, who was active in the banned International Sikh Youth Federation, started doing the rounds.
Jaspal was also invited for a formal dinner with the Canadian Prime Minister, hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner on Thursday, the invite for which has been rescinded, Atwal has also been photographed with the Canadian Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi in Mumbai on February 20.
Jaspal Atwal was convicted of the attempted murder of Punjab minister, Malkiat Singh Sidhu, on Vancouver Island in 1986. He reportedly said it was unfair to bring up his criminal conviction given how long ago it was.
Outlook in one of its recent cover stories, Panth And A Foreign Hand, had said that “A new real threat of Khalistani terror, fuelled and funded by foreign gurudwaras patronised by liberal white politicians, has revived memories of a blood-drenched era of Punjab’s history”.
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The magazine also reported that the December-end ban by a number of gurudwaras in Canada on Indian officials and elected representatives has raised the spectre of a new revival of the Khalistan spirit. Though many gurudwaras in Canada and elsewhere have ignored the ban and questioned its validity, several have enforced, sparking off serious disquiet in the Indian establishment.
At the time of the 1986 shooting, Atwal was a Sikh separatist active in the pro-Khalistan International Sikh Youth Federation. He and three others were convicted in 1987 of trying to kill Malkiat Singh Sidhu. Sidhu, who survived the attack, but was later assassinated in India. The trial judge called the attack "an act of terrorism" and sentenced Atwal and the others to 20 years in prison.
Trudeau, who is in India on a week-long State visit, has been under pressure throughout his tour to answer Indian concerns about Sikh separatism in Canada.