Sikhs for Justice (SFJ)

Sikhs for Justice (SFJ)

Formation :

Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a self-professed human rights advocacy group based in US, is a separatist organization formed in 2007 that seeks for the creation of a separate homeland for Sikhs - ‘sovereign state of Khalistan’ – by carving out Punjab region from Indian state. SFJ, with its head office in US, also has offices in UK, Canada and Pakistan. Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a law graduate from Panjab University (India) and currently an attorney at law in the US, is the legal adviser and the main face of SFJ. 

Though, it has been campaigning for the “rights” of Sikhs minority in India since 2007, the group has emerged as the prominent face of pro-Khalistani separatist campaign recently after launching its online campaign ‘Referendum 2020’ in 2014. The campaign seeks to lay the foundation for a 'non-binding' referendum to be conducted in November 2020, in major cities of North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya, the Middle East, and Indian state of Punjab, among Sikhs across the world for creating a separate Sikh homeland. As the front organisation in charge of mobilising the global Sikh community under the aegis of the ‘Referendum 2020’, SFJ organised a ‘London declaration’ rally at Trafalgar Square on August 12, 2018. Earlier, the UK authorities rejected Indian authorities’ request to deny SFJ permission to hold the rally by siting Pakistan’s role in the whole campaign, later in which presence of Pakistan’s ISI was evident. 

In furtherance of its cause’ SFJ also had invited gangsters operating in Punjab to fight for Khalistan movement. SFJ’s legal adviser Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, in February 2018, put out a video message, saying “gangsters should not waste their lives. Instead, work for the Khalsa panth and your name will be written in golden letters and remembered for centuries”. 

SFJ, for its referendum2020 campaign, has a website, which says, “Once there is a consensus within the Punjabi people that independence from India is desired, we will then approach the UN and other international forms and bodies with the goal of re-establishing Punjab as a nation state.” According to Indian Intelligence sources, the SFJ website share their domain with and source content from a Karachi-based website and the two websites are hosted by the same virtual server. Subsequently, the website was blocked by authorities in Indian subcontinent in early 2018.

The Government of India on July 10, 2019, declared SFJ as an unlawful association under Provision 3 (1) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in its notification, stated that SFJ was involved in anti-national and subversive activities in Punjab; was in close touch with militant outfits and activists supporting violent form of extremism in Punjab and elsewhere to carve out a sovereign Khalistan; was encouraging and aiding the activities for secession; and supporting separatist groups in India and elsewhere. SFJ enjoys strong online presence through social media accounts run in its own name or by its leaders — main promoter Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a New York-based attorney, apart from Hardip Singh Nijjer and Paramjit Singh Pamma who are principal proponents of “Referendum 2020” in Canada and UK respectively. 

According to MHA, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Punjab Police and Uttarakhand Police have registered as many 12 cases against SFJ activists in India and thirty-nine persons were arrested in these 12 cases in the past four years. The MHA further empowered eight states which have a “sizeable presence of Sikh population”, including Punjab and Delhi to take action against SFJ if they try “to brainwash Sikh community in favour of Khalistan movement”. 

Pakistan on November 23, 2018, gave permission to SFJ, to open its office in Lahore. It has also reported that SFJ uses several Gurdwaras in Pakistan to promote its pro-Khalistan campaign as it distributes pamphlets related to “referendum 2020”. SFJ has termed the historical Kartarpur Corridor ‘a bridge to Khalistan’ and announced a Kartarpur Sahib Convention -2019 in Pakistan.

 

Ideology/Objective:

SFJ is a separatist organization that seeks for the creation of a ‘sovereign state of Khalistan’. 

Location of activity:

SFJ's activities were reported mainly from countries like Pakistan, Canada, US and UK

Funding Sources and External Linkages:

Major sources of funding are Sikh diaspora and Pakistan's ISI

Numeric Strength:

The group has only 8-10 active members based in US, UK, Canada and Germany. However, it has a strong social media presence with more than 2 lakh followers. 

Modus Operandi:

Most of its pro-Khalistani activities remain on the social media platforms. It is also known for initiating lawsuits and protesting against prominent Indian political leaders while they visit western countries especially US.

Leadership & Key Figures:

SFJ was formed in 2007 with Avtar Singh Pannun as its President and Gurpatwant Singh Pannun as its legal advisor.

Designated/Listed:

The Government of India on July 10, 2019, proscribed SFJ as an unlawful association under Provision 3 (1) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. 

High Profile Incidents:

Arrest in Malaysia

Date: 26-Sep-2019

Casualties: NIL

Details: A 38-year-old Indian woman, member of the SFJ, was among 16 terror suspects arrested for allegedly planning to attack leaders of local political parties in Malaysia.

Protest at Old Trafford stadium

Date: 09-Jul-2019

Casualties: NIL

Details: SFJ activist Paramjit Singh Pamma and his associate were arrested by Police during a World Cup 2019 cricket match at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester

‘London Declaration’ Rally

Date: 12-Aug-2018

Casualties: NIL

Details: SFJ conducted a ‘London Declaration’ rally at Trafalgar Square in support of its referendum 2020 campaign. Over 2,000 pro-Khalistani supporters took part in the rally.


Activity Dateline

Incident Date Incident Civilian Killed Military Killed Security Force Killed Civilian Injured Military Injured Security Force Injured Civilian Abducted Military Abducted Security Force Abducted
01-Jul-2020 Government of India declared nine individuals, including pro-Khalistani leader and the key member of banned outfit Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), Gurpatwant Singh Pannun as terrorists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA]. Pannun, who organized the Khalistan 2020 referendum, has been seen actively running a campaign against India and motivating Sikh youngsters in his home state of Punjab to join militancy. The others who have been designated by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) as individual terrorists under the UAPA include Paramjit Singh (Babbar Khalsa International), Hardeep Singh Nijjar (Khalistan Tiger Force), Gurmit Singh Bagga (Khalistan Zindabad Force), Wadhawa Singh Babbar (Babbar Khalsa International), Lakhbir Singh (International Sikh Youth Federation), Ranjeet Singh (Khalistan Zindabad Force), Paramjit Singh (Khalistan Commando Force), Bhupinder Singh Bhinda (Khalistan Zindabad Force). Following an amendment in the UAPA recently, the UMHA declared a total of 13 persons as individual terrorists till date. In an official statement the U said, “These individuals are involved in various acts of terrorism from across the border and from foreign soil. They have been relentless in their nefarious efforts of destabilising the country, by trying to revive militancy in Punjab through their anti-national activities and through their support to and involvement in the Khalistan Movement.”
31-May-2020 According to reports, the pro-Khalistan group, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) and their activities has been earning criticisms across several nations and this is evident from various incidents that are taking place in recent times. The latest is an ugly incident at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Surrey, BC Canada where Hardip Singh Nijjar, President of the gurdwara was involved in a brawl. Sukhi Chahal, CEO and chairman of California-based JDS Unified LLC said that “In a May 28, 2020 tweet, one of my latest questions put to Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, self-styled Legal Adviser of so-called 'Sikhs For Justice' (SFJ) was to comment on the recent reported fight between Hardeep Nijjar and others at Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Surrey, BC Canada.” He said, “Hardeep Nijjar is learnt to be a ‘proclaimed Offender’ and a wanted criminal in India." “I fail to understand why such criminals are at all allowed to enter other countries and granted asylums as in Nijjar’s case. How do such criminals manage to occupy important positions of Gurdwaras abroad?”, asked Chahal.
10-Jul-2019 The Government of India banned the pro-Khalistan radical group, Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) for five years and declared it as an “unlawful association” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The US-based secessionist outfit with the primary objective of establishing an independent and sovereign country has its top leadership based in US, UK and Canada, with just 8-10 active members and negligible support base in India. SFJ enjoys strong online presence through social media accounts run in its own name or by its leaders — main promoter Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a New York-based attorney, apart from Hardip Singh Nijjar and Paramjit Singh Pamma who are principal proponents of “Referendum 2020” in Canada and UK respectively. A senior Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) official said all the major Sikh bodies consulted ahead of the five-year ban had supported the action and that the Centre had largely relied on the “material” sent by Punjab Government to impose the ban.