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The House of Lords Conduct Committee’s decision to expel Lord Nazir Ahmed will affect the anti-India campaigns across the world, especially in Europe and Britain. Lord Nazir is the vocal supporter of the banned Sikh for Justice in the UK. A special report on the banned outfit by Kaliph Anaz

Lord Nazir with Pannun (right) attending a press conference in London (File)

When the whole world is busy with their fight against Covid-19, a terrorist forum is campaigning against India with the support of failed states. Sikh for Justice (SFJ) led by New York based Attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun is one among them. The US based secessionist association, has stepped up its anti-India activities in the recent past. It is challenging the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India by espousing the agenda of “Khalistan”. They are also trying to exploit and manipulate the distress emanating from the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The main objective of the forum is to radicalise Sikh youths and recruit them for terror related activities. Although SFJ’s stated objective this year is to undertake the so-called ‘Referendum 2020′(R-2020) among the Sikh community in India and abroad to solicit political support for creation of ‘Khalistan‘, individual backgrounds of the prominent persons associated and SFJ’s actions suggest otherwise.

SFJ is a front for radicalising Sikh youth and subsequently recruiting them as ‘foot-soldiers’ for affiliate terrorist groups. These youth, radicalised by SFJ, are later exploited by the terror groups for carrying out violent actions in Punjab and elsewhere in India.

SFJ claims to use political tools for achieving its stated objective. However, it has never attempted to join the existing robust democratic set-up in India. Parliamentary, State Assembly and local bodies elections in Punjab have been held regularly with wholesome 66% voter turnout in 2019 general elections and 77.2% in the 2017 Assembly elections. SFJ lacks support among the numerous political parties and vibrant civil society groups in Punjab; nor has SFJ even attempted to engage these groups, the tools of Indian democracy.

Lord Nazir Ahmed with Khalistani protesters in London (File)

Due to lack of ground support in India, SFJ’s attempts to carry out propaganda activities in Punjab and neighbouring states like the so-called ‘voters registration drive’, ‘Punjab bandh’ (protest lockdown in Punjab) and  ‘rail roko‘ (stop the trains) have thus far been unsuccessful.

It employs electronic, social media and cyberspace extensively for its propaganda activities which largely focuses on radicalising the Sikh youth through fake and distorted narratives, promotion of hatred among various communities in India and instigating Sikh soldiers and security personnel. 

SFJ has gained support of Sikh individuals who harbours separatist sentiments and are based in USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France and Italy. SFJ, its affiliates and proponents, extensively abuse the freedom of speech extended by their host countries to camouflage their nefarious designs and activities.

The banned forum claims to have been founded in 2007. However, information on its organisational structure and membership is scarce. SFJ claims to have offices in USA (New York, Fremont and Washington), Canada (Toronto) and Switzerland (Geneva), with so-called additional centres for its secessionist campaign ‘R-2020’ in Vancouver and London. Further, there is no known source of income and fund raising, though its activities on ground and in social media require large amount of expenditure.

SFJ’s chief proponent  Pannun is known in Punjab for handling cases of political asylum of illegal migrants of India in the US. However, more incriminating is the association of SFJ with fugitive terrorists. Most of the SFJ leaders are wanted in India for involvement in terror-related offences and are designated terrorists under UA(P)A, 1967.

A variety of Pakistan-based state and non-state actors who promote  cross-border terrorism in India and SFJ are closely associated. Pakistan was a focal point of SFJ activities till April 2019. Till then, Pakistan based anti-India element Gopal Singh Chawla who is known to be close to Pakistani establishment and also the designated terrorist outfit Lashkr-e-Taiba, headed SJF’s Pakistan chapter. However, during bilateral negotiations on the opening of Shree Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, India’s strong objections compelled Pakistan to somewhat disassociate with SFJ. Till October 2018, websites of SFJ were created, maintained and hosted (at a domain https://snip.pk) by a Pakistan based company. They were discontinued only after exposure in media.

Relationships between SFJ and various Pakistani elements remain strong as ever, albeit more clandestine. This can be seen in the predominant mobilization of Pakistani diaspora for almost all recent anti-India events conducted by SFJ in North America and Europe. SFJ also promotes separatism in J&K in its propaganda and events.

There are 25 criminal cases registered and under various stages of investigations against SFJ by India’s Central Security Agencies and State Police forces of Punjab, Haryana and Uttarakhand. The charges vary from carrying out unlawful activities challenging integrity of India, sedition, criminal conspiracy to carrying out activities and promotion of religious enmity, possession of illegal firearms and secessionist material etc. In all these cases, SFJ members based abroad were involved in motivating, funding and directing the radicalised youth in India to carry out violent acts like targeted killings, arson etc.

SFJ has also indulged in violence against Indian interests and diaspora in USA and UK. Incidents like that of violence and intimidation for hours by a mob of SFJ supporters and Pak diaspora at the Independence Day (August 15) celebrations at Indian High Commission, London in 2019 are examples. Furthermore, SFJ members, led by Avtar Singh Pannun had attempted arson and violent acts outside Embassy of India, Washington on Republic Day in 2019.

SFJ proponent Gurpatwant Singh Pannun and his supporters also assaulted the then President (Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee) Shri Manjit Singh GK twice during his visit to the USA in August 2018.  SFJ through social and electronic media releases on various occasions have threatened to physically harm senior Indian political leadership, defence and security personnel.

Officials and Punjab police personnel have been threatened with physical violence to deter them from acting against the outfit. The notorious forum supported the February 2019 Pulwama terror attack by Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM).

Traditionally, Sikhs have volunteered in large numbers and been recruited in Indian security and armed forces. To create discontent among them, SFJ persistently makes seditious calls to Sikh soldiers. During recent tension at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the Indo-China border, SFJ called on Sikh soldiers to desert the Indian Army incentivising them with Rs.5000/-   in addition to their existing salary.

Lord Nazir Ahmed with supporters during a rally

Pannun through a letter addressed to the President of China (September 17) advised the China Government to play seditious messages to Sikh soldiers deployed at the LAC through loudspeakers. SFJ has, on at least two occasions, instigated Punjab police to abstain from duty during the pandemic.

SFJ has been found making statements to the effect  that “India’s state sponsored terrorism is deadlier than corona virus which is responsible for the death of 5 lakh odd Sikhs” and “Punjab state government is extorting money from COVID-19 patients of Punjab.” It has been targeting Punjab police personnel, who have been in the forefront, since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic. It is instigating the Sikhs in Punjab against police on trivial and localised incidents. Instances of such instigation include the clash (April 2020) between a group of Nihang Sikhs and police in Patiala, and a Sikh youth’s accidental death (May 2020) in a brawl with police in Kapurthala. Additionally, SFJ also called for ‘Punjab bandh’ on August 31 to celebrate the killing of a sitting Chief Minister of Punjab, who was killed in a ghastly terror attack in 1995.

Social media

SFJ’s social media propaganda includes slogans like “Indian ‘state sponsored terrorism’ is responsible for suicides of over 80000 farmers in Punjab and Indian government has massacred more than 5,00,000 Sikhs”; Punjab is being destroyed by the state government by “infusion of drugs and forcing the farmers to commit suicide by diverting water resources of Punjab”, and “India orchestrated the April 25 attack on Gurudwara Har Ki Rai in Kabul, Afghanistan”.

Asian Lite cover on Lord Nazir Ahmed

It’s recent propaganda also focuses on instigation of Sikhs to choose between Khanda (Sikh religious symbol) and Tiranga (Indian national flag), implying that the two cannot coexist peacefully. This is a blatant refusal of India’s secular fabric. To arouse Sikh sentiments, SFJ has accused the Indian establishment of destroying Gurudwaras in India. Recently, through an audio message sent to specific individuals, Pannun threatened other communities to force them to leave the Indian state of Haryana (neighbouring Punjab) citing that it would soon be a part of  a nation state of the Sikhs , ‘Khalistan‘.

Flag Fee of $2500

Seeing a total lack of support for SFJ’s ‘calls’ to initiate subversive activities in India, SFJ has started offering monetary incentives to people in Punjab to carry out unlawful activities. It announced US$ 2500 to any individual for ‘raising the Khalistan flag’ on Independence Day (August 15, 2020).  The banned forum alsooffered a sum of US$ 1,25,000 for similar actions at Red Fort.

Four misguided Sikh youth, fell for this and dishonoured the Indian national flag at Moga in Punjab on August 14. They were found to be funded by SFJ member Rana Singh based in USA.

SFJ has now offered Rs. 7500/- to students in Punjab to carry out the so-called ‘voters registration’ drive.  It instigated and offered monetary incentives to farmers of Punjab to enforce a closure of the railway network in Punjab on September 13, 2020. However, none of these attempts by SFJ were successful.

To exploit the discontent among certain sections of farmers in Punjab and Haryana on the issue of recent reforms in agriculture sector, SFJ through a video message and a poster released on 30th September 2020, called on the farmers in Punjab to raise “Khalistani” flags and to initiate anti India slogan/graffiti writing on their walls.

Through their social media propaganda, SFJ is claiming that “BJP is committing ‘economic genocide’ like the Indian National Congress committed Sikh genocide”.  It also called on the farmers to register with their names, phone numbers and email ids at www.khalistan4farmers.uk to receive Rs. 5000 as monthly aid.

The forum announced to the farmers agitating in Shambhu border rally (October 04, 2020) that the first, second and third to raise “Khalistani flags” would be rewarded USD 5000, USD 3000 and USD 2000 respectively.  Additionally, SFJ also leveraged a rally held in Mantova (Italy) on October 03, 2020 to protest the alleged ‘anti-farmer policies of the Indian government’.

Since March 2020 SFJ has given multiple seditious calls to Indian Muslims to seek ‘Urduistan’, a separate country for Muslims. It has also instigated the people of Tamil Nadu to secede from India. Also in July 2020, SFJ called on the people of J&K to support ‘Khalistan’ for the ‘freedom of Kashmir’, indicating the SFJ’s support to Pak- sponsored cross-border terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir.

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