The law enforcement agencies are perturbed over the western countries’ reluctance to act against proscribed outfits like the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), which have, of late, been actively propagating and funding the secessionist Khalistan agenda in the country.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who registered the SFJ as a not-for-profit organisation in New York in February 2009, has been masquerading as an activist espousing the cause of the Sikh community and has been raising funds, too, according to sources in security agencies. In India the general counsel of the SFJ is allegedly involved in spreading terror, harbouring killers and brainwashing youth to put up pro-Khalistan and Referendum-2020 posters and banners in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

A senior government officer said India has raised the Khalistan issue with the governments of the UK, Canada and Germany, without much succes.

Blurring lines between criminals and terrorists

Pannun operates through a networ spread across Canada, the UK, Germany, Australia and Malaysia. What is worrying investigation and intelligence officials, is a blurring of the lines between criminals and terrorists operating in India at the command of handlers such as Pannun.

According to government dossier on Pannun, the US department of treasury’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had denied SJF tax exemption status since the outfit did not file its return. Pannun is said to have changed the nomenclature of SFJ to make it ‘Sikhs For Justice International’ and got it registered with IRS on April 15, 2019 as a “public charity”, said sources. While the SFJI declared gross receipts of less than $50,000 to the US administration, it had announced rewards worth more than $28,75,000 between January 2021 and March this year, agency documents stated.

Other prominent players in the Khalistan criminal-terrorist ring outside India is the Canada-based chief of the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), Hardep Singh Nijjar, who is wanted for the murder of a Hindu priest in Jalandhar last year, and against whom the NIA announced a reward on Thursday; Goldy Brar, an accused in the killing of singer Moosewala; Lakhbir Singh Landa, who is alleged to have facilitated the guns used in the RPG attack on the Punjab Police Intelligence Headquarters; Sukhwinder Singh alias Sukha Duneke; Ashdeep Singh alias Arsh Dala, a KTF activist, and Sunny.

In Malaysia, Pannun's new contact Paras Rajput emerged on the radar of security agencies when the Punjab Police arrested Harwinder Singh alias Dollar and Prem Singh alias Ekam on July 19 on charges of carrying out pro-Khalistan propaganda.

During interrogation, Harwinder Singh said he came in contact with Paras in Malaysia, who motivated him to work towards the idea of Khalistan Referendum. Subsequently, Paras introduced Harwinder to Pannun through a WhatsApp phone call. On July 9, 2022, Pannun sent Prem Singh Rs 25,000 through a Western Union Money transfer to meet the expenses of putting up banners on referendum, said Punjab Police sources. Pannun had also assured him a further Rs 40,000 in future, but he was caught. He was conspiring to launch a mass Khalistan propaganda campaign on August 15 in Punjab, state police say.

Also in Malaysia is radical Jagjit Singh Gandhi alias Dehlon, while Satnam Singh Malian, son-in-law of the Babbar Khalsa International's Wadhwa Singh, is based in Germany.

Connection to the farmers’ agitation

A senior officer explained that the attempt to invoke Khalistan sentiments in Punjab by Pakistan’s ISI and its radical associates has got a fillip since the farmers’ agitation against the farm bills. Pakistan’s intelligence agency had used the criminal network of Dawood Ibrahim to unleash serial blasts in Mumbai in 1993, said a police officer probing underworld cases. The ISI has given shelter to some Sikh terrorists and criminals in Pakistan, including Harvinder Singh allias Rinda and International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) chief Kakhbir Singh Rode, and uses them time and again to unsettle India.

Realising that disgruntled farmers were easy prey for brainwashing, Pannun had come out openly against the farm bills in support of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana. He had launched a "Kisaan Helpline" and even offered financial help of Rs 1 lakh to deceased farmers and Rs 25000 to the injured during the nearly year-long agitation, which ended last December after PM Narendra Modi agreed to repeal the three bills.

Not just that, according to audio intercepts of Pannun, available with the Punjab Police and accessed by the Hindu BusinessLine, he tried to arrange a hideout for the killers of Moosewala and had reached out to drone suppliers in Delhi for future operations, which has left sleuths guessing. He had also issued a threat of an RPG attack against the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister in Shimla, said law enforcement agency sources.

social-fb COMMENT NOW