Journalist Tara Singh Hayer Murdered in Canada

| Help Protest This Attack on the Press | Protest Index | CPJ Home |

.

.

.

December 10, 1998

The Right Honorable Jean Chrétien
Prime Minister of Canada
Ottawa, Canada


Mr. Prime Minister:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to urge a thorough and impartial investigation into the murder of Tara Singh Hayer, killed in Vancouver on November 18.

Hayer, the publisher of the Punjabi-language Indo-Canadian Times, was shot dead in the garage of his home after he had finished work for the day, in what Canadian police have described as an assassination. He had been an outspoken critic of violent Sikh fundamentalism both in Canada and India.

In the last year, he had received numerous death threats, apparently related to an ongoing dispute between moderates and fundamentalists over the use of tables and chairs at a Sikh temple in Vancouver, a matter of doctrinal dispute within the religion. As a result of the religious disagreement, earlier this year he was excommunicated by the Akal Takhat, the high priestly authority of Sikhism in India.

A 1988 assassination attempt left Hayer paralyzed from the waist down. Police have linked the man convicted in that attack, Harkirat Singh Bagga, to the International Sikh Youth Federation and Babbar Khalsa, two militant international organizations working for an independent Sikh homeland in India.

As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, we urge you to ensure an aggressive investigation into this murder. We are concerned by allegations made in the press that Canadian authorities have not fully explored possible links between Harkirat Singh Bagga and militant Sikh groups based in India.

We are also concerned about parallels between the Hayer murder and that of Tarsem Singh Purewal, who was killed in Southall, England, in 1995. Purewal, a friend of Hayer, was the founder and editor of the magazine Des Pardes. Like Hayer, Purewal supported a Sikh homeland but was critical of the tactics employed by some to achieve this end. Together, these two murders suggest possible coordinated action to silence Sikh journalists who criticize fundamentalism.

We have taken the liberty of enclosing a letter sent by A. Lin Neumann, CPJ's Asia program coordinator, to India's prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee requesting his cooperation in your investigation.

We urge you to pursue those responsible for Hayer's murder, whether they are inside or outside Canada. As in the United States, where 10 immigrant journalists have been murdered in the last decade, we believe that members of the foreign-language press in Canada face special risks.

Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director



Join CPJ in Protesting Attacks on the Press in

 

Send a letter to:

The Right Honorable Jean Chrétien
Prime Minister of Canada
Ottawa, Canada
VIA FAX: 1-613-941-6900