New Delhi: Following the killing/death of three dreaded pro-Khalistani terrorists in the past few months, the name of designated Khalistani terrorist and chief of the banned Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, is on the top of the security agencies’ radar now.
Facing 22 criminal cases in Punjab, including three of sedition, Pannun is known to be operating from Khalistani terrorists’ safe heaven Canada.
On May 6, Khalistani leader Paramjit Singh Panjwar, the head of the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF), was shot dead in Lahore.On June 15, Avtar Singh Khanda, a leading exponent of Khalistan and handler of separatist Amritpal Singh, died of cancer at a hospital in the UK.
Three days later on June 18, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and chief of the banned outfit Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), was gunned down by two unidentified gunmen outside a gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia.
Be it the rocket-propelled grenade attack on Punjab Police’s Intelligence headquarters in Mohali last year, an audio message asking Kashmiri Muslims residing in Srinagar to go to Delhi and disrupt the G20 Summit, or assassination threats to multiple Chief Ministers and other who’s who via telephonic audio messages — they all have been linked to the proscribed terrorist organisation Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) founded by Pannun.
Just last week, Pannun declared to hold “Shaheed Nijjar kill India referendum” on the question: Is Indian High Commissioner Verma responsible for the ‘assassination’ of Hardeep Singh Nijjar?
He also announced to hold Khalistan Referendum-II on October 29 in Surrey, British Columbia.
Pro-Khalistan leader Nijjar, who was declared a ‘wanted terrorist’ by the Indian government, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen on the premises of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, of which he was the head, in the Punjabi-dominated Surrey city on June 18.
Since Nijjar’s killing, many radical activists have been questioning as three killings of Sikh separatists took place within one month. They say: Is there a pattern in the sudden killings of three Khalistani terrorists?
On Monday, Canada, in a surprise move, expelled a top Indian diplomat amid probe into the killing of Nijjar on its soil.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed ‘credible allegations of a potential link’ between agents of the Indian government and the killing of the Khalistani terrorist.
Now the question is over the role being played by Pannun of instigating a momentum on the foreign soil against the Indian government.
Who is Pannun?
The police in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have registered separate FIRs against Pannun, a law graduate from Panjab University in Chandigarh, over threats and attempting to disturb peace, stability and communal harmony.
Despite SFJ being a banned organisation in India since 2019 on grounds of secessionism and Pannun being declared a terrorist, countries like Canada, the UK and the US, with a sizable Sikh diaspora, have allowed the organisation to conduct anti-India activities, including holding illegal referendums to building a campaign for secession of Punjab.
Member of Indian diaspora admit that people like Pannun are raising charity in the name of referendums by abusing and accusing Indian authorities for atrocities against minorities, particularly the Sikh.
“In fact, most of the second or third generation of a particular community born and brought up in foreign shores, who have never witnessed the true face of militancy in Punjab (from 1981-1992), have been raising a bogey against India just at the instance of freedom,” remarked a Sikh scholar.
He told IANS that they are the one who have never witnessed the dark days of militancy.
“In the name of referendums, a handful of separatists like Pannun get the opportunity to establish their base overseas by raising funds from Pakistan’s ISI and similar agencies in China,” said a police official.
The Western countries don’t see crime to prosecute Pannun and other hardliners as they think it will be a violation of freedom of expression, he added.
Reacting to Trudeau’s allegations of “potential link between Indian government agents and murder of Nijjar”, senior BJP leader and former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said the murder was the result of a factional feud within the management of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey.
He said Trudeau had unfortunately walked into a trap owing to vote-bank politics and put at stake the diplomatic relationship between India and Canada.
In Punjab, 1,792 police personnel had sacrificed their lives while fighting terrorism between September 1981 and August 1992.
Back to the separatist activities of Pannun, he has been booked in 22 cases since 2017, including on terrorism and sedition charges. Recently, he was booked by the Punjab Police for sedition after SFJ activists wrote a pro-Khalistan slogan on a glass box covering the statue of slain Chief Minister Beant Singh in Jalandhar.
Himachal Pradesh Police in May had booked Pannun under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for hoisting of Khalistani flags outside the state Assembly complex in Shimla.
A law graduate from Panjab University, Pannun is currently residing in Oakville on the outskirts Canada’s Toronto.
Originally from Khankot village on the outskirts of Amritsar, Pannun’s father, Mahinder Singh, was an employee with the Punjab State Agricultural Marketing Board.
His family had migrated from Pakistan to Khankot during Partition in 1947. Pannun is little known in his village, where he owns property worth crores, including agricultural land. In fact, he rarely visited the village.
Pannun, an attorney at law in the US and Canada who has been offering employment abroad, besides cash incentives for hoisting the Khalistani flag on public buildings, is one of the founders of SFJ, which claims to be “an international advocacy and human rights group”.
Pannun, who asks the youth in Punjab to hoist the Khalistani flag on Independence Day, has been actively propagating and funding the secessionist Khalistan agenda abroad.