M. V. Ramana and Harsha Walia

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has revealed there is “credible evidence” of India’s involvement in the killing of Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada. This is part of a dangerous trend of Indian interference in Canada, particularly escalating under India’s current ruling party that is supported by Hindu supremacist groups (also known as Hindutva).

A recent report by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and World Sikh Organization details how the Hindutva movement has managed to make significant inroads in Canada. One of the aims of these Hindutva networks in Canada is to shut down justifiable criticism of Indian state policies and Hindutva forces. For example, Hindutva networks have targeted over a dozen academics in Canada with death threats for organizing conferences on Hindu nationalism. Dalit and caste oppressed advocates in Canada have similarly faced death threats and harassment.

As one step in this process, supporters of Hindutva are seeking to introduce and legislate “Hinduphobia” in Canada’s human rights laws. There are currently campaigns underway to recognize Hinduphobia in the Human Rights Code to recognize anti-Hindu prejudice and discrimination.

If successful, this will embolden Hindu nationalists by fending off criticism of India’s government and its virulent campaign of genocide against Muslims, violence against minority communities, the occupation of Kashmir, and caste violence.

The “Hinduphobia” campaign in the U.S. and Canada is spearheaded by organizations with connections to the Indian government and who come from dominant castes. Caste is a hierarchical and dehumanizing social system based on inherited status and maintained through marriage, labour practices and social norms. An extensive Equality Labs report in the U.S and an unprecedented ruling by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal in Canada detail how caste discrimination operates in the diaspora.

Proponents of “Hinduphobia” claim to be victims of those who speak out against the right-wing ideology of Hindu nationalists and the violent caste system. Caste and Hindu supremacists falsely portray themselves as victims of “Hinduphobia” to distract attention from horrifying atrocities against Dalits, Indigenous Peoples (Adivasis), Muslims, Kashmiris, Sikhs, and Christians. This serves to vilify human rights advocates, while creating confusion amongst the broader public about being labelled as “Hinduphobic” if they speak out for human rights.

People of Indian origin in North America do face racist and xenophobic abuse that must be condemned. However, this discrimination is often based on racialization as immigrants, not based on religious beliefs. Where it is based on religious beliefs, South Asians who are Muslim or Sikh are most likely to face discrimination. More Muslims have been killed in targeted hate attacks in Canada than any other G-7 country in the past five years because of pervasive systemic Islamophobia.

“Hinduphobia” is a manufactured reverse-racism-type narrative, deployed to delegitimize the fight against casteism and the oppression of minorities in and by India. This dog-whistle campaign does not serve racial justice, it actually weakens it by maintaining Hindu nationalism and caste supremacy. Human rights protections and anti-discrimination laws are meant to eliminate systemic power relations. The narrative of “Hinduphobia” does the opposite; it grants even more power to those with power and maintains oppression.

Earlier this month, the South Asian Dalit and Adivasi Network wrote a detailed letter to all MPs across Canada urging them to reject any attempts to recognize “Hinduphobia.” They rightly explain that such a move “will have a disastrous impact on the safety of religious minorities, caste-oppressed communities and human rights defenders in Canada, India and beyond.”

It is evident that India’s far-right Hindu nationalist government might go as far as committing transnational assassination to suppress dissent. Leaders of all political parties have vowed to stand up to the Indian government in their investigation into the murder of Nijjar. If they are truly concerned about justice and accountability, our political leaders must also staunchly stand against the nefarious, chilling-effect of “Hinduphobia.”

M. V. Ramana is professor and Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia.Harsha Walia is a Punjabi Sikh author and works in an organization to end gender-based violence in B.C.



Dominating news cycles in Canada is that Prime Minister Trudeau has accused the government of India of involvement in killing of Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar near Vancouver last June and Canada has expelled India’s intelligence chief in Ottawa in retaliation.

Prime Minister Trudeau said “The involvement of any foreign government in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”

A former adviser to the Prime Minister has said India has joined “the group of nations that assassinate political opponents” abroad, akin to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018.

Meanwhile over the past year, diasporic South Asian and other civil society organizations that have been sounding alarm bells and calling on the Trudeau government and the opposition to pay heed to the dangerous build-up of support for the Hindu ethnonationalism of the current government of India on Canadian soil.  But these alerts have gone unheeded.  

Last November, Chandra Arya, a member of the Liberal caucus hoisted a flag on Parliament Hill, a politically charged symbol that is associated with a far-right Hindu paramilitary organization the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) closely connected with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalist political party of Indian Prime Minister Modi. Seventeen civil society organizations wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau and the leaders of the opposition expressing deep concern about this. The letters went unanswered.

In August, there was a demonstration in Ottawa, in solidarity against Hindutva fascism in India and Canada.  The demonstrators went to the Prime Minister’s office and symbolically delivered a letter signed by 80 civil society organizations, including many from the Indian diaspora in Canada. The letter called for Canada to issue a categorical public condemnation of the systematic discrimination, genocide incitement, harassment, and violence faced by religious minorities and other oppressed groups in India, including Muslims, Christians, Dalits, Adivasi Indigenous peoples, and Sikhs, as well as Kashmiris.The protest demonstrated that the concerns for rights and equality extend beyond borders, serving as a reminder that collective action remains essential in safeguarding these values. Also that Canadian trade and investment agreements with India are contingent upon respecting human rights and protecting vulnerable communities. And that Indian politicians who have publicly called for ethnic cleansing and incited genocidal violence against India’s minority population be barred from entering Canada under Section 35 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The letter also called for identifying and investigating organizations, particularly those operating as charitable organizations in Canada that are fronts for Hindu right-wing organizations. Any organizations found to be promoting hate speech, discrimination, or violence should be immediately banned and their charitable status revoked. As well, conducting a thorough investigation into the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of India and its agencies interfering in Canadian politics and institutions, as reported by Canada’s national security adviser. This includes monitoring their influence in Canadian institutions and online platforms, and taking appropriate legal measures to counter their divisive and discriminatory agenda.

This letter also went unanswered.

The influence of Hindu nationalism also suppresses political, artistic, and academic expression. Last year, Toronto-based filmmaker Leena Manimekalaii received thousands of threatening messages, death and rape threats, and was called Hinduphobic for screening her film “Kaali.” The same MP Chandra Arya also weighed in citing hurt Hindu sentiment. The Indian High Commission in Canada got involved, issuing a press release reprimanding those who screened Ms. Manimekalai’s film. All this  exposes the Hindu supremacist nature of the current government of India. They have been harassing academics and artists.

Individuals supporting the Indian government’s Hindu nationalism  have created a petition to the House of Commons calling for Canada to recognize something called ‘Hinduphobia’.  They seek to push an agenda to persecute, hound, delegitimise and silence those who call out the Indian government for its well-documented human rights violations and violence against minorities.

Canadian parliamentarians must not legitimize the politics of hate that is masquerading as victimhood.  They must finally acknowledge what is under their noses.

Canada must stand with the oppressed peoples of India including Muslims, Dalits, Christians, Sikhs, Kashmiris, and others. We urge the Canadian government to take concrete actions: a) publicly condemning the state-backed violence and persecution of those resisting Hindu supremacy and holding the Indian state accountable; b) stand up for the rights of religious minorities and oppressed communities in India; c) banning organizations in Canada that are affiliated to and funding the RSS, and their promotion of hate;  d) ensuring Canadian trade agreements with India are contingent upon respecting human rights and protecting vulnerable communities; e) taking concrete steps in Canada and globally to stop transnational state surveillance and vigilantism.

CERAS (Centre sur l’asie du sud)

Justice for All Canada

Punjabi Literary and Cultural Association Winnipeg

SADAN – South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network- Canada (waiting final confirmation)

South Asian Diaspora Action Collective (SADAC)

India Civil Watch International

Canadians for Indian Democracy (CID)

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