ISYF was formed in August 1984 in England in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star. It was founded by Amrik Singh and Jasbir Singh Rode, nephew of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who had joined Khalistani movement in 1982. ISYF held its first conference in Walsall, United Kingdom. Similar to other Khalistani militant groups, ISYF also has fractured into splinter groups. Initially, ISYF factionalised into two- one declaring allegiance to Jasbir Singh Rode, who presently resides in Pakistan and his brother Lakhbir Singh Rode, while the other faction was led by Satinderpal Singh Gill (previously a member of Panthic committee). Further endemic factionalisation resulted formation of Damdami Taksal (DDT) Chaheru, Bittoo and Gill factions, which operated in UK, Germany and US.
ISYF was established with the secessionist aim of establishing an
‘independent home land for Sikhs’. According to US State Department, ISYF was
an active terrorist group organization that aspires to carve out of Indian
territory- an independent Sikh state called Khalistan.
ISYF primarily operates from foreign countries. Although they had operated n Punjab, after the ebbing of violence in the state, the group has shifted out of the state. ISYF primarily acted as an off shore support group which assisted terrorists operating in Punjab. One of the primary motives of the group was to raise fund for the Khalistani movement. Currently ISYF’s support base is spread across the UK, North America, Canada, Pakistan as well as West European countries. The hub of operations of ISYF in Pakistan is Gurudawara Dera Sahib in Lahore. Currently the main faction of ISYF is led by Lakhbir Singh Rode, who is wields political influence and kinship in some parts of Punjab. Earlier ISYF had control over Gurdwaras in Abbots Fort near Vancouver and on Ross Road Street in Vancouver (Canada). During the active phase of Khalistan terrorism, Over 1,00,00 Canadian dollars was raised by ISYF in various locations in Canada to purchase arms and form a ‘support fund’ for dependents of terrorists killed.
In the initial days, ISYF was successful is raising funds from the Sikh diaspora in Canada after they started a recruitment drive in which they charged five Dollars for membership. They were able to successfully spin a narrative that those who did not enrol in its ranks were government agents. Thus, to avoid suspicion many Sikhs became ISYF members. The ISYF also found a front organisation in the form of a ‘human rights group’, identified as Khalsa Human Rights Group. It became an efficient fundraising tool for Khalistani militants based in foreign countries. Moreover, the front organisation also carried out a propaganda campaigns alleging human rights violations in against Sikhs in India. Pakistan’s Inter-Services-intelligence (ISI) has supported ISYF, with funding training as well as providing arms and ammunition. It has been reported that Pakistan based BKI ‘chief’ Wadhawa Singh and ISYF’s Lakhbir Singh Rode are among top Khalistani militants who have been assigned to carryout militant attacks in India. ISYF also has linkages with Islamist militant groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). It has been revealed during interrogation of ‘chief’ of Khalistan Tiger Force Jagtar Singh Tara (arrested in 2015) that he had met a Pakistani national identified as Assadullah ( a known close affiliate of Ilyas Kashmiri) at the residence of Lakhbir Singh Rode at Dera Chahal, where a camp of LeT is know to exist. Rode is also known to be associated with Abdul Karim Tunda, bombmaker known to be behind atleast 40 explosions in India. ISYF has been helping with the cross-border infiltration of terrorists through the Punjab border into India. One such high profile incident had occurred in 2010 when three militants were pushed through the Jammu-Pathankot Sector by Rode. This group was later killed in an encounter in which two Police men were also killed. Furthermore, BKI chief also revealed that Lakhbir Singh Rode had arranged a meeting for BKI chief with Kashmiri militants who were ready to provide him with suicide bombers. ISYF has also been successful in collaborating with other Khalistani terrorist organisations such as Babbar Khalsa (BKI) Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) and Khalistan Commando Force (KCF).
Three senior office bearers of SFUK (ISYF was rechristened as SFUK after its ban in 2001) are the former leaders of ISYF. They are ‘president’ Amrik Singh Gill (one of the founding members of the ISYF), Kuldeep Singh Chaheru and Narinderjit Singh (both ‘vice presidents’). Although, SFUK registered itself as a political party of the Sikhs in UK in September 2003, it continues to propagate pro-Khalistani ideology and regularly organizes events in remembrance of the slain Sikh terrorists and brands them as ‘martyrs.’ Extradition of ISYF leader Lakhbir Singh Rhode was saught by India from Pakistan in the wake of December 13, 2001 Parliament attack.
ISYF was banned under the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA) on March 22, 2002. Besides being banned in India, the group was banned in UK in 2001. Following the ban of ISYF in UK, ISYF reincarnated themselves as Sikh Federation-UK (SFUK).