Sikh religious leader stopped from entering Canada
Live Punjab News Service
A Sikh religious leader convicted of murder in the 1980s was barred from entering Canada after arriving at the Vancouver international airport.
Bhai Ranjit Singh, a jathedar of the highest Sikh religious body Akal Takht at Amritsar in India, was considered a security risk, detained for over 12 hours at the airport and then ordered to leave the country, reports say.
Singh has served a prison term after being convicted of murdering a rival religious leader in India during 1980s.
However, the religious leader is considered a holy man by thousands of conservative Sikhs and his refusal to enter Canada has sparked some angst in the community.
Singh was issued a visa in India after being invited to attend religious ceremonies at a gurudwara (Sikh temple) in Abbotsford, Vancouver.
The invitation was kept a secret to prevent rival factions from causing problems.
Gurudwara president Swarn Singh Gill said his executive waited for hours for Singh after his plane touched down in Vancouver but was not given the chance to talk to him in person or on the phone before immigration officials sent him back.
Ed Fast, the Conservative MP from British Colombia, told the Vancouver Sun newspaper that he learned the visitor's visa given to Singh was in error because of confusion on the part of Canadian officials in India.
"The original visa in India should never have been issued," Fast said. "There was some confusion over two different names that were being used."
He said there was no suggestion that Singh attempted to mislead officials, but added that there was a mix-up at the consulate in India.
"Mr Singh was turned back for good reasons. He had been refused a visa on a number of other occasions under the previous government."
He said he understood some members of the Sikh community were upset Singh was sent back to India, but that he was automatically ineligible to visit Canada because of his conviction of the 1980 murder of a Sikh leader.
In the mid-1990s, Singh's controversial directive that Sikhs stop using chairs and tables in gurudwara community kitchens divided the community in Canada and sparked violence in British Columbia.
A riot broke out at a Vancouver gurudwara and several Sikhs were charged with various crimes.
Bhai Ranjit Singh was also denied entry to the United States in January 1999 following concerns that his visit might inflame religious tensions in North America.
Officials from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, as well as the Canada Border Services Agency, refused to comment on the case.