Jaspal Atwal, a former Sikh separatist who tried to kill an Indian cabinet minister in 1986, apologized Thursday for the “embarrassment” he caused by attending an event with Canadian officials during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent trip to India.
Atwal’s presence at the event in Mumbai, documented in photographs that showed him with the prime minister’s wife and Canada’s infrastructure minister cast a pall over Trudeau’s trip in February when local media reported that a “Khalistani terrorist” was invited to receptions with the travelling Canadian delegation.
After several days of silence, Atwal finally addressed the situation at his lawyer’s office in Vancouver on Thursday. Reading from a prepared statement, he said he was “shocked and devastated” when controversy exploded over his attendance at the event.
Atwal said, “I had assumed there would be no problem. No one at any point indicated there would be any issue.”
“I am sorry for the embarrassment this matter has caused to Canada, India, my community and family and friends.”
Atwal told reporters that he takes full responsibility for his past actions, which include a conviction for the attempted murder of Indian cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu during a visit to British Columbia in 1986.
He said he became a supporter of Sikh separatism after the attacks on the religion’s Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984 — part of a series of anti-Sikh violence that the Ontario legislature has labelled “genocide” — but has since “reconciled” with the Indian nation. He added that he does “not disagree” with a judge’s conclusion that the attack on Sidhu was an act of terror.