In an interview with The Print dated March 28, 2023, Sherbir Panag, an internationally acclaimed and highly respected lawyer stated that there are no takers of Khalistan in Punjab, and even the diaspora.
A similar statement was shared by Canada’s first Indian-origin cabinet minister, Herb Dhaliwal while speaking to The Tribune, who said the majority of Sikhs living in Canada have no interest in pursuing the Khalistan movement. The former minister’s comments came in response to the noise around pro-Khalistan activist Amritpal Singh’s arrest and recent tensions with the Indian government.
Dhaliwal argued that the Khalistan movement is primarily driven by a small and insignificant group with its own agenda, rather than representing the broader Sikh community in Canada. He emphasized that the primary concern for many Sikhs is still seeking justice for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India. Dhaliwal has previously addressed this issue with former Indian Prime Ministers IK Gujral, Manmohan Singh, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as the wounds from these events have yet to heal and people continue to demand answers.
When asked about recent incidents at India’s High Commission in Ottawa, such as the cancellation of an event due to sword-wielding protesters, Dhaliwal maintained that these actions do not reflect the majority opinion within the Sikh community in Canada.
Discussing the significant influx of Indian students to Canada, particularly from Punjab, Dhaliwal noted that young people are seeking opportunities abroad due to a lack of opportunities in India. He acknowledged that some students have been exploited by fraudulent institutions but insisted that improving the existing education system in India is the only viable solution.
Dhaliwal also observed that young Sikhs born and raised in Canada often feel little connection to their ancestral homeland, preferring to travel to destinations like Machu Picchu, Mexico, and Europe. He cited poor infrastructure and sanitation as major deterrents for visiting India.
Despite a decrease in welfare projects initiated by non-resident Indians (NRIs) in their native lands, Dhaliwal praised the efforts of the Indo-Canadian Friendship Society of British Columbia, led by Gurdev Singh Gill. The organization partnered with the Capt Amarinder Singh and Parkash Singh Badal governments to launch a pilot project aimed at improving sanitation, sewerage, and paving in 20 villages, with both Canadian donations and matching government grants contributing to the effort.