Jaspat Atwal, who was at the centre of a controversy following his presence at events hosted for visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is one of the “reformed” elements in the pro-Khalistan sections of the Sikh diaspora, top government sources told The Indian Express. He was in India as part of the government’s new approach to engage with such elements, who have not indulged in any separatist and extremist activities in recent years, sources said.
“Atwal is one of about 200 such individuals with whom the government has been engaging in the last three years. He got a visa to visit India, as part of the process, like many others. He was given a visa since he was found to have been reformed, and therefore has been taken off the blacklist last year,” a source said. These individuals are spread across the world, and are mainly in Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, among others, sources said.
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“We have been getting representation from these individuals and their families, who have expressed remorse over their actions. Their activities in recent years had squared up with their claims of giving up any separatist or extremist activities. This was verified by our intelligence agencies, along with security agencies in these countries, like the UK, the US, Canada and other places,” a source in the government said. “They were taken off the blacklist only after due process and have been allowed to visit India in the last few years.” Invitation to Atwal, a convicted Khalistani terrorist, to a dinner in honour of Trudeau was rescinded on Thursday following a controversy after he was seen with the visiting Prime Minister’s wife and a Cabinet minister from Canada.
Atwal was a Sikh separatist active in the banned International Sikh Youth Federation when he was convicted of attempt to murder Punjab minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu in Vancouver in 1986. Sidhu was shot at twice on a road and survived. He was later assassinated in India. “The idea behind pruning the blacklist and engaging with these individuals is part of Centre’s strategy to marginalise the pro-Khalistan voices,” the source said, adding that the Centre is looking at names of more individuals to be taken off the blacklist.