In a rare instance of political unity, the Bharatiya Janata Party government and Opposition Indian National Congress have both strongly criticised a float in a Canadian parade which depicted the 1984 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards.
“"Frankly, we are at a loss to understand other than the requirements of vote bank politics why anybody would do this...I think there is a larger underlying issue about the space which is given to separatists, to extremists, to people who advocate violence,” India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar told reporters in New Delhi during a media briefing.
“I think it is not good for relationships, not good for Canada,” he added.
Video circulated in recent days on the internet showed a tableau from the parade featuring Gandhi wearing a blood-stained white saree with her hands up as turban-clad men pointed guns at her. A poster behind the scene read: “Revenge”.
Several members of Gandhi’s Congress party condemned the holding of the parade in the Canadian city and demanded action from the Indian government and Jaishankar.
“It’s not about taking sides, it’s about respect for a nation’s history & the pain caused by its Prime Minister’s assassination,” former Congress Mumbai leader Milind Deora wrote on Twitter.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, "This is despicable and Dr S Jaishankar should take it up strongly with the Canadian authorities."
Responding to Deora's tweet, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said, "You are completely right...There should be no politics in condemning this despicable act across party lines."
Canada has the highest population of Sikhs outside their home state of Punjab in India.
Canada’s High Commissioner in India also condemned the float, which was part of a parade by Sikh activists in the Canadian city of Brampton.
“I am appalled by reports of an event in Canada that celebrated the assassination of late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi,” Cameron MacKay said on Twitter. “There is no place in Canada for hate or for the glorification of violence. I categorically condemn these activities.”
Earlier this year, India summoned Canada’s high commissioner to convey concern over pro-Khalistan protesters in Canada who breached the security of India’s diplomatic mission and consulates.