A Surrey man whom Indian officials allege is a terrorist mastermind says he is completely innocent and shocked at reports linking him to a 2007 bombing in Punjab.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar told Postmedia News he’s a hard-working plumber and proud Canadian who has no time for Indian separatist politics.
Nijjar, 38, said he has a meeting with a lawyer Tuesday to figure out how to respond to the allegations, which were reported in the Times of India and other newspapers on the Indian sub-continent.
“This is garbage — all the allegations. I am living here 20 years, right? Look at my record. There is nothing. I am a hard worker. I own my own business in the plumbing,” Nijjar said Monday in a phone interview.
“I am very, very shocked. My family and me are very shocked.”
Nijjar has no criminal history in B.C.
India’s Central Bureau of Investigation has issued a warrant for Nijjar on charges of attempting to cause an explosion, making or keeping explosives with intent to endanger life or property, and making or possessing explosives under suspicious circumstances.
All the charges were laid under India’s Terrorist Act.
The warrant is also posted on Interpol’s site of suspects wanted in various jurisdictions around the world.
The media reports say Nijjar was made the leader of a separatist group called the Khalistan Terror Force and was involved in a 2007 cinema bombing in Ludhiana, Punjab, that left six people dead.
The reports claim he had been running firearms training at camps near Mission, B.C., for sympathizers prepared to carry out attacks in India.
Punjab police said they arrested another B.C. man named Mandeep Singh Dhaliwal two weeks ago, who allegedly attended one of the camps. Officials paraded Dhaliwal before Punjabi media on Friday and said he had been in regular phone contact with Nijjar.
A group called the Sikh Organization for Prisoners Welfare, based in England, is defending Dhaliwal and says the case against him is fabricated.
Asked about the allegations of running a training camp, Nijjar laughed Monday.
He confirmed that he has a firearms licence in Canada, but only uses it responsibly and in accordance with Canadian laws.
“You know Canada is not for that,” he said of the training camp allegation. “I am a Canadian. I have responsibilities. I have little kids. I have a family.”
He said the allegations now broadcast around the world are “hard on me and my family and my little kids.”
Asked about his views on Khalistan, Nijjar said he’s too busy working to be involved in politics.
“I am working 12-14 hours every day. Everybody knows me. I don’t know why India is like that,” he said of the allegations. “You talk to … my clients. Everybody say I am friendly and hard-working.”
The Indian reports also said officials there had contacted the Canadian government about the terror suspects.
Asked about the report, RCMP Staff Sgt. Rob Vermeulen said his agency “is aware of the recent media report originating outside of Canada.”
“The RCMP monitors all potential threats but we are not in a position to speak to specific allegations, threats or ongoing investigations,” he said. “As always we encourage the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour to their local police agency for assessment and followup.”
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office also refused to comment on the specific allegations, but said the government monitors “all potential threats and has robust measures in place to address them.”