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Northern Ont. international students concerned about Canada's tensions with India

Indian international students are on edge, following the Indian government’s retaliation to the prime minister’s allegations that India had a hand in murdering Sikh independence activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

The Indian government has suspended visa services for Canadians and that has students worried about pushback from Ottawa.

“As a student here and a citizen of India, I don’t want problems between both of the countries,” said Rohan Sherawat, an international student in Timmins, Ont.

“Could put a mental disturbance on me, like, thinking about it too much. Maybe I may not be able to focus on my studies.”

Sherawat moved to Canada just two weeks ago and has been staying at the local Sikh temple.

With tensions between the two countries high, a political science professor told CTV News that things could escalate, if Canada doesn’t back down.

“India could press further and start limiting the issuance of visas for students, maybe recall international students,” said Professor Dani Nedal of the University of Toronto.

Nedal said Canada most likely would not hurt its own economy by suspending visa services for Indians – more concerning, he said, is the possibility of racial violence between Sikhs and those of other religions.

Sherawat told CTV News that his family calls him with those worries.

“They’re also quite concerned about me,” he said.

“But, likewise, I told them that I’m living in a place like this, where they treat people equally.”

Sikh temples – or gurdwaras – are known for welcoming people regardless of race or religion, making it a “safe haven” for people in need.

“These kids are here to find a better life. To me, they’re not either Muslim or Hindu or Sikh or whoever, they’re children,” said Kanwaljut Bains with the Sikh Sangat of Timmins.

“So, to me, they are away from their home and this is their home away from home and they should be feeling welcome.”

Bains said issues like this shouldn’t drive people apart – while as a Sikh, he said he is still hoping justice will be served.

“I strongly believe that the Canadian system will move forward, lay charges and do whatever they need to do to bring the justice to the family and the justice to the community as well,” he said.

The students in Timmins who spoke with CTV News said that if they do end up having to return home because of this feud, then at least they’ll be with family.

“Stay calm, let the government do whatever they are doing,” said one student, Harsh Singh.

“Let people think whatever they are thinking and wait for the good decision, for the humanity.” Top Stories

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