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Wednesday July 17, 2024

US senators ask govt to bring those involved in Pannun murder plot to justice

"It's imperative we take stand against such threat to rights of US citizens," say senators

By Web Desk
June 18, 2024
US President Joe Biden talks with Indias Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the opening of the G-20 Summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 15, 2022. —AFP
US President Joe Biden talks with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the opening of the G-20 Summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 15, 2022. —AFP

A group of five senators have expressed reservations over “credible allegations” of India’s involvement in a foiled attempt to kill a US citizen on its soil, demanding the Biden administration to bring all those involved in harassing and threatening Sikh Americans to justice.

The senators, in a letter to US Department of State Secretary Antony Blinken, urged for holding a briefing on how the department intended to press the Indian government to hold those involved accountable, and to ensure India does not repeat such acts of transnational repression.

“India must maintain its commitment to respecting human rights at home and abroad as it aspires to global leadership. Now that India's 2024 general election has concluded, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Modi returning to power, the United States has an opportunity to include this issue as a core agenda item with the Indian government,” they said.

Senators Jeffrey A Merkley, Bernard Sanders, Ron Wyden, Chris Van Hollen and Tim Kaine wrote the letter to Blinken. 

They raised their concerns over the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s announcement related to an unsealed indictment of Indian national Nikhil Gupta for participation in a foiled plot to assassinate a US citizen in New York, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

The letter said that the US-India relationship must not be based on mutual strategic interests only, but also grounded in shared commitment to democratic principles and the rule of law, including respect for sovereignty and the individual rights and freedoms.

On November 29, 2023, the DOJ announced an indictment of Gupta for involvement in a foiled plan to assassinate an American man. The target, who media reported to be Pannun, is a vocal critic of the Indian government and advocate for the secession of Punjab, an Indian state with a sizable Sikh population, they apprised the Department of State.

The senators said an unidentified Indian government official, working with Gupta, ordered the assassination plot, which was foiled by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

As per the announcement, Gupta revealed that they had four targets, including Hardeep Singh Nijjar — a Canadian citizen and Sikh separatist leader who was murdered in Canada in June 2023 by armed assailants.

“While we fully support the DOJ’s efforts to bring Gupta to justice, the US administration must match words with actions to hold Indian officials involved in the plot accountable, and to send a clear message that there will be consequences for such behaviour,” they said.

The senators wrote it was imperative that the US took an unequivocal stand against such a threat to the rights of a US citizen and violation of the country's sovereignty.

The group of lawmakers said the US must be firm and resolute in opposing transnational repression, no matter the perpetrator.