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Monday June 17, 2024

SFJ leader says India's 'blackmailing tactics' will not silence him

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun's assets seized by Indian authorities as part of "crackdown against terror"

By Murtaza Ali Shah
September 23, 2023
Hardeep Singh Nijjar (left) and Gurpatwant Singh Pannun who has been killed by India. — Reporter
Hardeep Singh Nijjar (left) and Gurpatwant Singh Pannun who has been killed by India. — Reporter

LONDON: Gurpatwant Singh Pannun — Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) leader and close friend of assassinated Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar — has denounced the crackdown by Indian authorities against his assets in India and said that such "blackmailing" tactics will not silence him.

Responding to action taken by India's federal anti-terror agency, the SFJ general counsel said that India was "desperate" and in a "state of shock" over the success of the Khalistan Referendum campaign which has mobilised thousands of Sikhs in the UK, Canada, Europe and America through Khalistan Referendum voting.

The development comes as India's federal anti-terror agency on Saturday, said it has confiscated the properties of Pannun whom it accuses of terror activities in India – following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s public and shocking accusation that New Delhi was behind the assassination of pro-Khalistan Canadian leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar who was a friend and ally of Pannun.

The seizure of a house and land owned by Pannun in India's northern state of Punjab "comes as a big boost to the country’s crackdown on the terror and secessionist network being operated from various countries, including Canada," a statement issued by India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) said.

Expressing his views on the seizure of his assets by the Punjab NIA, Pannun said: “The issue at the heart of the conflict with India is not the properties of an individual. The issue is about the land of the Sikh people — Punjab — that is forcefully occupied by India and the resources of the indigenous people of Punjab that are being plundered by Delhi. Khalistan Referendum 2025 loaded with millions of 'votes' is going to be the 'Sikhs’ Surgical Strike' against India that will liberate Punjab to create a Democratic Republic of Khalistan (DRK) where people of all religions are going to have equal status, rights and freedoms.”

In 2020, India had asked Interpol to issue a Red Corner Notice (RCN) against Pannun, alleging him to be a terrorist. After a review of the case, Interpol rejected India’s request on the grounds that New Delhi failed to produce any evidence linking the Sikh leader with any act of violence or terrorism anywhere in the world including India. Interpol further held that India is seeking RCN against Pannun because of his human rights activism and his political campaign the "Khalistan Referendum".

Over the last few years, India has urged the USA and Canada to take action against Pannun. However, no action has been taken against the SFJ leader due to a lack of evidence and India's failure to back up its claims.

Tensions between India and Canada have escalated after PM Trudeau said Canada had credible intelligence linking Indian government agents to the murder in Canada in June of Nijjar who was President of the Khalistan Referendum chapter in Canada, under the banner of SFJ which has been spearheading the voting campaign.

This isn’t the first time India has acted against Pannun.

The Sikh leader has faced several cases in India over the last several years. According to Indian media reports, the New York-based lawyer faces over 25 criminal cases in India.

The NIA — in its latest action — seized properties of Pannun in Chandigarh and Amritsar.

Last week, Pannun called on PM Trudeau to immediately expel Sanjay Verma, India’s high commissioner to Canada, from the country after he himself confirmed that the Indian government was behind Sikh leader Nijjar's assassination in Vancouver around three months ago.

Trudeau — addressing the House of Commons — about an "extremely serious matter," after informing the opposition party leaders had said: "Over the past number of weeks, Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar."

Separately, Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly revealed that the head of Indian intelligence in Canada Pavan Kumar Rai has been expelled as a consequence.

“If proven true this would be a great violation of our sovereignty and of the most basic rule of how countries deal with each other,” Joly said.

“As a consequence, we have expelled a top Indian diplomat,” the Canadian foreign minister added.

Expressing his views on the development Pannun said: "Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's statement in the Parliament corroborates SFJ's stance on Nijjar's assassination. SFJ has been saying since the day of the assassination of Nijjar that this is handy work of Indian agencies and Indian agents active on Canadian soil. Nijjar was assassinated by India for leading the Canadian Chapter of the Khalistan Referendum. That is why SFJ has given a call for holding the ‘Shaheed Nijjar Referendum’ on October 29 in Surrey BC."

"We ask PM Trudeau to declare Sanjay Verma Indian High Commissioner to Canada as persona non grata and expel him from Canada with immediate effect. SFJ has been writing to PM Trudeau voting him about Indian intervention since 2022 when we first voted for the Khalistan Referendum in Toronto on September 18, 2022. After Nijjar’s assassination, we again wrote to the Prime Minister. It’s now urgent that the Indian diplomats are held accountable.”