Police are investigating an attack on a Brampton, Ont., radio host after he made comments on his show about anti-India protesters.
Deepak Punj, 44, the host of the show Frontline Radio, had denounced the presence of anti-India placards at a vigil Sunday at Brampton City Hall for popular Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu. On Tuesday, Mr. Punj denounced conspiracy theories surrounding the death of the actor, who was killed in a road accident.
He told police he was approached near his Brampton studio Wednesday afternoon by three men who were shouting support for Mr. Sidhu, who was also a Sikh activist. “One of them pulled a gun on me, and the other hit me on the head with a beer bottle,” he told The Globe and Mail.
“I thought I was going to get mugged. But then they started warning me against speaking about Deep Sidhu and Khalistan,” a reference to the Sikh separatist movement that aims to establish an ethno-religious homeland in the Indian state of Punjab.
Peel Regional Police are looking for three men in their 20s who fled the scene. A spokesperson for the force said the suspects were “possibly South Asian.”
Mr. Punj, who reported injuries to his head and knee, filed a police complaint Wednesday afternoon.
Mayor Patrick Brown said no one in the media should face violence or intimidation. He said he spoke to Peel Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah, who assured the mayor that the incident would be taken seriously. “There is zero tolerance for violence. I hope those responsible are held fully accountable,” Mr. Brown tweeted Thursday morning.
Sikhs and Hindus are the two major religious groups in Punjab. Mr. Punj, a Hindu and supporter of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been a vocal critic of the Khalistan movement on his show, where he also shares his views on various local, national and global political issues. He says the show has more than 50,000 listeners.
The Sunday vigil was attended by Mr. Brown and Councillor Harkirat Singh. Since his death, Mr. Sidhu has been hailed as a hero by many supporters of the Khalistan cause. Flags in support of Khalistan and placards reading “#IndiaKills” were seen at the vigil.
The Indian government took issue with the event and sent a démarche to Ottawa, expressing “serious concern.”
“There is no evidence of any foul play in the death of Deep Sidhu. We all know he died in a road accident. So why spread these theories?” Mr. Punj said on his Punjabi-language show. He went on to deride the divisiveness of Indian politics and said it is making its way into Canada. He then called on Mr. Brown to stop the “politics of divide and rule.”
Mr. Singh was quick to condemn the attack on Mr. Punj. “I’m asking Peel police to investigate this incident immediately. Those responsible need to be brought to justice,” he tweeted Wednesday.
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