New Delhi: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s state visit to India got its share of controversy when it turned out that a man convicted of shooting at a Punjab minister way back in 1986, in Canada, had been invited to attend a dinner reception in New Delhi to be attended by Mr Trudeau. The Canadian High Commission swiftly withdrew the invitation extended to Jaspal Singh Atwal. But the incident raised questions about how Mr Atwal, a Canadian national, managed to get an Indian visa.
Reacting to the controversy, Mr Trudeau said, “Obviously we take this situation extremely seriously. The individual in question never should have received an invitation and, as soon as we found out, we rescinded the invitation immediately... The member of Parliament who included this individual has, and will, assume full responsibility for his actions.” While the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said it was looking into how this happened, top government sources told this newspaper that Mr Atwal — who was originally on an Indian government blacklist for his terror activities — had been removed from the blacklist by the Union home ministry as part of an “outreach” to moderate elements in the pro-Khalistan lobby overseas who were seen to have given up their radical activities. Top sources said following the removal of his name from the blacklist, Mr Atwal applied for an e-visa, which was granted.
Mr Atwal was photographed on Tuesday in Mumbai at an event with Mr Trudeau’s wife Sophie, and the Canadian media blew the lid off his earlier terror activities.Canadian High Commission sources said Mr Atwal “was not part of the official delegation of the Canadian PM.” Nevertheless, the episode has embarrassed both the Canadian and Indian governments. According to reports, Mr Atwal was convicted in Canada for shooting at the then Punjab Minister Malkiat Singh in 1986 when the minister was on a private visit to Vancouver. The minister survived the attack and Mr Atwal was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was apparently part of a banned radical Sikh militant group. At a media briefing, meanwhile, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told reporters that the Indian government was checking to see how the visa was issued to Mr Atwal.