The probe into pro-Khalistan modules busted in Punjab recently has revealed that foreign-based terrorists and their local handlers are using money to lure the state’s youth, who in fact lack ideological conviction.
According to an internal analysis of the intelligence wing of Punjab Police, made available by a highly placed source, most of those arrested in these cases belong to non-Sikh families with poor financial background. A senior official of the internal security wing, which deals with such cases, said the arrested youths were mostly unemployed and had been promised money or a future abroad.
The recent arrests and recoveries pertain to grenade attacks at an army camp in Pathankot and a similar attack on a CIA police station in SBS Nagar, both in last November, besides another grenade attack on a police post in Rupnagar on March 9, the eve of assembly election results in Punjab.
Among the six suspects identified by the SBS Nagar police in the Pathankot grenade blast — in which International Youth Sikh Federation (IYSF) chief Lakhbir Singh Rode, who is based in Pakistan, has been identified as the mastermind —four belong to very poor families.
Police officials who have quizzed these suspects claim that while one Gurwinder Singh, 30, of Kharal village in Gurdaspur was promised a job in Dubai and free travel from India, another Raman Kumar, 19, was a drug addict and was paid a meagre amount of ₹12,000 to join the module.
Similarly, in the CIA police station case, the module members were ordinary youths apart from one Kuldeep Kumar, alias Sunny, from Ludhiana who had motivated them to carry out the grenade attack in SBS Nagar on November 7 last year. Sunny lured the local youth having petty criminal record using personal links or distant friendships and would allocate money as per their role, found the police probe.
Sandeep Sharma, senior superintendent of police (SSP), SBS Nagar, said those who performed the task under the guidance of their masters are neither radical nor they know much about Khalistan. “Sunny lured them with money on behalf of Rinda. The money involved ranges from ₹15,000 to ₹1 lakh,” said the SSP.
In the Rupnagar police post case, those arrested from a village in Himachal Pradesh’s Una were having no criminal background and belonged to poor families. Aman, 28, who had hidden a tiffin bomb in a well that was recovered during the raid on April 22, is the cousin of another suspect from the Una village who had come in contact with Sunny during his stay in Ludhiana.
Aman had done bachelor of commerce from a local college and was promised ₹1 lakh besides migration abroad, the probe revealed. According to the FIR, Rinda has been identified as the main conspirator in this case too.
Senior police officials say that even in the terror module busted for a motorcycle blast in Fazilka’s Jalalabad in September last year, the youth, Praveen Kumar, who planted the bomb was having no radical inclination.
The new trend, Punjab Police senior officials say, is contrary to the earlier trend when those running such modules used to radicalise the youth with pro-Khalistan propoganda through social media and then motivate them to carry out terror activities.
“Now, it is being seen that the mastermind sitting abroad gives directions to his aide in Punjab, who then involves the local youth using peer pressure, drugs or money. It is a worrying trend that surely poses a bigger challenge to us,” said the internal security wing officer cited earlier.
Sources in the intelligence agencies said that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence(ISI) is pushing pro-Khalistani elements to carry out major terror strikes in India.
The sources, quoting intelligence inputs, said that pro-Khalistani entities with the help of ISI are continuing with their efforts to smuggle IEDs, arms, ammunition and explosives into Punjab to carry out terrorist strikes in major cities of the country.
They also said that the ISI, in collusion with foreign based pro-Khalistani entities, is planning to use gangsters and local criminals in Haryana and Punjab to accomplish its terrorist agenda.
Haryana Police on Thursday claimed to have foiled a major terror attack bid with the arrest of four ‘highly radicalised’ Punjab-based terrorists, who were in touch with the ISI, from the Bastara toll plaza in Karnal in a joint operation with their Punjab counterparts and Central security agencies.
A large cache of arms, ammunition and explosives were seized from their possession. The accused persons were going to deliver the explosives at Adilabad in Telangana, the police said.
Besides key accused Gurpreet Singh, who had met Rajbir Singh, an associate of Pakistan-based handler Harjinder Singh Rinda, in jail, the other suspects have been identified as Bhupinder Singh, Amandeep Singh and Parminder Singh, all from Punjab.
They were arrested from the toll plaza when they were on their way to Delhi in a white Toyota Innova.
Rinda’s name had cropped up in connection with the blast in a court in Ludhiana last year.
Additional Director General of Police (law and order), Sandeep Khirwar, said the police have recovered three IEDs, one Pakistan-made pistol, 31 cartridges and Rs 1.30 lakh in cash from the arrested persons in Karnal.
Officials said the weapons were air-dropped using a drone at the behest of Rinda in Ferozepur, Punjab. During interrogation, Gurpreet confessed that they received the explosives from across the border.
Recently, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), on ISI’s behest, had posted a message on social media threatening the chief ministers of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab that banning the Khalistani campaign might lead to an armed conflict, the sources in the intelligence network said.
SFJ is a US-based separatist group that supports the secession of Punjab from India as Khalistan.
Four suspected 'Khalistani' terrorists were arrested in Karnal, Haryana. Security personnel said a weapon consignment had been delivered to them via drones.
The four suspects were identified as Gurpreet, Amandeep, Parminder, and Bhupinder who belong to Punjab.
The police have recovered a pistol and 31 live cartridges, 3 IEDs, 6 mobile phones and cash amounting to Rs 1.3 lakh. “The weapons were air-dropped using a drone by Khalistani terrorist Harjinder Singh Rinda from Pakistan in Ferozepur district,” an official said.
Rinda had sent the consignment using an app along with a location in Adilabad. The accused also received arms and ammunition in Ferozepur in the past.
An FIR has been registered against six people. Apart from the four arrested, Pakistan-based Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) terrorist, Harvinder Singh Rinda and Batala-based Rajveer Singh also figure in the FIR.
pistol and ammunition seized from the suspected terrorists in Karnal.
PUNJAB TO PAKISTAN: HOW HARJINDER SINGH BECAME A TERRORIST
Harjinder Singh is from the Tarn Taran district of Punjab. At the age of 11, Rinda shifted to Nanded Sahib in Maharashtra with his family. As per police records, Rinda, at the age of 18, had killed one of his relatives in Tarn Taran over a family dispute.
In Nanded Sahib, he started extorting money from local traders and killed at least two people. Once a student leader, Harjinder Singh aka Rinda Sandhu, who is currently hiding in Pakistan, is wanted by the Chandigarh Police in four criminal cases, including murder, attempt to murder, extortion and under the Arms Act. These cases were registered between 2016 and 2018. Investigations have revealed that Rinda entered Pakistan through Nepal using a fake Indian passport.
Besides these, Rinda is facing more than a dozen criminal cases in Punjab and Maharashtra.
The 35-year-old ISI stooge Rinda, who, according to sources, is in Lahore, is also suspected of carrying out a terror attack at the Nawanshahr Crime Investigating Agency (CIA) building on November 8 last year.
After entering Pakistan, Rinda along with other 'Khalistani' terrorists, was tasked with the revival of terrorism in Punjab.
WHAT CM KHATTAR SAID
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said: The arrested suspects are associated with a terrorist organisation. According to the input received from Punjab, they have no relation with Haryana."
Indian Americans have expressed outrage over a citation issued by the general assembly of the US state of Connecticut recognising an anniversary of the so-called “declaration of Sikh independence”.
In the “official citation” dated April 29, the Connecticut general assembly congratulated the pro-Khalistan organisation World Sikh Parliament “in recognition of the 36th anniversary of the declaration of Sikh independence”.
“This initiative is from a few fringe elements who have no interest in the state of Connecticut, but promoting their own personal divisive agenda,” said Thomas Abraham, chairman of the influential Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO).
“Indian American community in Connecticut consists of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis. All these communities live together as one Indian community and Connecticut state has no business to comment on issues pertaining to local issues in India or supporting fringe elements to promote their divisive agenda,” Abraham said.
GOPIO has written to Connecticut State Senators and Assembly Representatives who introduced this citation to dissociate themselves from it.
“There are 20 million Sikhs living peacefully with all other communities all over India and this citation goes against the integrity of India,” said Ashok Nichani, president of Connecticut chapter of GOPIO.
The citation has resulted in outrage among Indian Americans with many of them urging President Joe Biden's administration to condemn it.
Meanwhile, the Indian Consulate in New York condemned the citation and termed it an “attempt by some mischievous elements to use the name of the Assembly for their nefarious purposes”.
“These vested interests seek to divide communities and promote bigotry and hatred,” the consulate said.
In a fresh provocation, terrorist outfit Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) warned Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann and DGP Viresh Bhawra against taking action against the Khalistan supporters who are accused in the Patiala violence case. SFJ founder Gurpatwant Singh Pannu was heard inciting communal tensions in a video by claiming that Sikhs gave a fitting response to the "Hindu extremists" in Patiala. He also cautioned Mann and Bhawra against following a policy pursued by the late CM Beant Singh failing which they will have to face consequences.
Singh was assassinated in a bomb blast on August 31, 1995. In the video, Pannu also asked the police to not disrespect family members of the Sikhs named in connection with the Patiala clash. Moreover, he warned that the children of AAP leaders and police officials studying in Australia, the UK, Canada and the US will be forced by SFJ to return back home if the children of the accused are harassed.
4 persons were injured when a clash took place outside the Kali Mata temple in Patiala on April 29 between the members of an outfit called Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray) and some Khalistan supporters. Brandishing swords and sticks, the miscreants espousing the separatist cause were seen taking on the Sena workers and this was followed by stone-pelting from both sides. Subsequently, the local authorities imposed a curfew in Patiala and three senior cops- SSP Nanak Singh, IGP Rakesh Agrawal and SP Harpal Singh were transferred.
Coming under fire from the opposition over this major law and order incident, Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann told the media on April 30, 'This was a clash between two political parties and not between two communities. In Punjab people live in peace. A probe is going on over who instigated the violent incidents. No one will be spared". On May 1, prime accused Barjinder Singh Parwana was remanded to 4-day police custody by the District Court. Parwana, a disciple of the Sikh seminary Damdami Taksal, has made controversial comments on the UAPA and 1984 riots in the past and is alleged to be the mastermind of the April 29 clash.
On January 5, PM Modi who was scheduled to inaugurate projects worth Rs 42,750 crores and address a joint BJP-PLC-SAD(D) rally in Ferozepur, returned to Delhi after a brief security breach. Around 30 km away from Hussainiwala, the Prime Minister's convoy was blocked by some protestors leading to him being stuck on a flyover for 15-20 minutes. While the Supreme Court constituted a 5-member inquiry committee headed by former SC judge Justice Indu Malhotra, Pannu claimed responsibility for the PM's security breach in a pre-recorded call sent to some lawyers.
On Sunday, the Indian World Forum raised concern over the US State provocation of pro-Khalistani groups. The forum stated that the resolution passed by the US State of Connecticut influences and promotes Khalistan and thereby challenging the sovereignty of India. This comes days after the clashes between Shiv Sena and pro-Khalistan groups in Punjab, US state of Connecticut recognised April 29 as the ‘Anniversary of the declaration of Sikh Independence’.
Indian World Forum Raises Concern
In an exclusive conversation with Republic Media Network, the Indian World Forum President, Puneet Singh Chandhok condemned the resolution and said, "The Sikhs living in India are the law-abiding citizens who even have any differences or grievances with the government still remain within the system and seek their demands within the judicial system. Unfortunately, Anti-India elements sitting outside the country and working at the behest of different countries and security agencies have been again and again trying to sabotage and disturb the communal harmony in the state of Punjab in particular".
"With such resolution being passed by the state of Connecticut in the US, it will be clearly influencing a separatist ideology that Sikhs of India don't advocate. There were certain differences during the 1984 riots, certain resolutions were passed. Sikhs always thrive for a progressive and prosperous India and never strive to disrupt the peace of any country. It's shocking to know that the state of Connecticut's general assembly has passed an official citation and the Mayor has tendered his resignation. Such activities clearly instigate a separatist ideology that we don't advocate. I was brutally attacked on August 25, 2018, by the Khalistan agents working at the behest of ISI Pakistan and by the activists of Sikhs for justice. To date, I have not received justice from the US authorities instead they are more interested in passing such a kind of resolution which indirectly promotes Khalistani ideologies," said Indian World Forum President.
Puneet Singh Chandhok stated, "This is totally unacceptable and I strongly raised my concern on the highest level that the US administration should take note of it and take appropriate action so that such kind of activities that disturb the harmony and integrity of any nation should be immediately stooped".
A US-BASED telecom service provider was used by Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, chief of banned pro-Khalistan group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), to make pre-recorded threat calls to several Supreme Court lawyers on the day the apex court was to hear the case related to the security lapse during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Punjab on January 5, Delhi Police has found in its probe. The police are now procuring more details under a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) with the US, The Indian Express has learnt.
“During investigation, we initially found that calls were made using a US-based telecom service firm. We then approached them and they provided details of an account holder, who had booked the account to make all these calls. All the documents belonged to Pannu, but the account holder’s name was not Pannu,” a senior police officer said.
Later, after multiple communications with the service provider, the police were told that the account holder had changed his name to Pannu. It was found that the firm intimated the account holder about the probe following which he changed his name.
“After establishing Pannu’s role, the police are now procuring more details under MLAT and communicating with the concerned agency for further help,” an officer said.
Although the Delhi Police had registered several FIRs against Pannu for sending threat messages, this is the first time they have found his “direct involvement”.
The development comes months after the Delhi Police registered the first FIR in connection with the threat calls.
In January, shortly before the Supreme Court took up a petition seeking a probe into the breach of the Prime Minister’s security, some lawyers of the top court complained of receiving pre-recorded messages from a number registered outside India. The messages accepted responsibility for blocking the PM’s convoy in Punjab and warned the court against doing anything that will help the government.
Deepak Prakash, an advocate on record, also lodged a criminal complaint with Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana in this connection. In a communication, he said the “callers have claimed themselves to be a group from the United Kingdom and are calling from untraceable numbers…”.
“All Advocates have been receiving such threatening calls, which indicate that they want to bring hatred, contempt and hostility to disrupt the government and public peace and tranquility if the Hon’ble Supreme Court hears the PM security breach case,” he wrote.
Asthana asked the northern range of the Special Cell to investigate the matter following which it lodged an FIR.
UK regulator Ofcom has suspended the licence of Khalsa Television Limited which broadcasts to the Sikh diaspora on its pro-Khalistan Punjabi TV channel KTV after one of its programmes called on UK-based Sikhs to travel to Punjab to engage in violent crime and disorder to achieve a separate Khalistan state.
The licence was suspended with immediate effect on Thursday when UK foreign secretary Liz Truss landed in Delhi.
“The presenter of the programme made a number of statements throughout the programme which, taken together, promoted violent action, including murder, as an acceptable and necessary form of action to further the Khalistani cause. This was a serious breach of our rules on incitement of crime and disorder,” Ofcom said in its written decision.
Over the course of the 95-minute live discussion programme, Prime Time, broadcast from KTV’s studios in West Bromwich on December 30, 2021, presenter Jagjit Singh Jeeta, a Khalistan advocate, called on Sikhs to emulate Sikh militants of the past and travel to Punjab to engage in violence, up to and including murder, to further the pro-Khalistan cause, Ofcom's decision stated.
The presenter made repeated references to having direct contacts with Sikh militants, including a good rapport with Resham Singh Babbar, the alleged head of the German branch of the Babbar Khalsa, Ofcom said.
“Can you compare yourself with Sant Jarnail Singh (Bhindranwale)? Can you become Satwant Singh, Beant Singh? Can you become Kehar Singh? Can you become Sukha and Jinda?” the presenter asked during the programme, hitting the table. “All of them have embraced martyrdom. Not one fled the arena.”
Ofcom said it considered the suggestion that a long list of militants and assassins were to be emulated because they “embraced martyrdom” and did not flee “the arena”, coupled with the suggestion that work must be carried out “under the table”, was an indirect call to action. Ofcom found that the presenter was advocating murder as an acceptable way to take Khalistan when he said: “Either with the support of the community or through the power of the gun, we will take it.”
Ofcom added it was concerned that a comment — “Bhai Manjit Singh must be listening to me. I am asking you to lead the community” — was a direct request for Manjit Singh, who along with Rajinder Singh Mughalwal murdered a Sikh leader in Southall, for allegedly disrespecting the Sikh faith, to assume leadership of the Sikh community. “We considered that audiences were likely to understand this as a call for further action to be taken of a kind up to and including murder.”
The presenter disapproved of Pakistan ISI’s alleged involvement in the Khalistan movement, saying: “Our Sikh men, those who are sitting in Pakistan are controlled by the ISI. According to me it would have been better if they were martyrs than to have gone to Pakistan. All the sacrifices that Sant Baba Jarnail Singh and all the other warriors made was better. At least they did not become puppets of ISI…”
He also made references to bombs or “packages”, suggesting that Sikhs in Pakistan have carried out bombings on behalf of the ISI. “Both countries carry out bomb blasts in each other’s country, I have proof that they give packages," he said. “Because they are puppets of Pakistan in India and puppets of Punjab in Pakistan.”
Khalsa Television, which has 21 days to make a representation to Ofcom, said it felt Ofcom had a vendetta against the channel, that there was no “call to arms” in the programme and instead it was a call to “positive democratic action” in India.
The banned “Punjab Politics TV” operating from the United Kingdom (UK) had been spreading hate against India and propagating pro-Khalistani sentiments in the country and in Punjab for the last one year.
Sources from the intelligence agencies have confirmed that this social media channel and application was launched by pro-Khalistan sympathisers just ahead of the Punjab elections, and was being widely circulated in the hinterlands of Punjab with the agenda of keeping some political party out of power in the state and to spread Khalistani sentiments among the people of Punjab.
The digital platform “Punjab Politics TV” bears the company name “Politics Punjab Broadcasting Ltd” and is registered in the UK with the Companies House, under the government of the United Kingdom. The company was incorporated in March 2021 and since then, it has been active both in the UK and in Punjab. Intelligence agencies have said that they were tracking the activities of this digital media since the last six months when it became quite active in Punjab, keeping in mind the recently held Assembly elections in the state. The intelligence agencies had shared a detailed report with the Ministry of Home Affairs about the activities of this media company and how they had been propagating hate, fake news against Sikhs in India. Following the inputs generated by intelligence agencies, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting went ahead and blocked all the digital assets of the company in India earlier this week. “Politics Punjab Broadcasting Ltd” was incorporated by two individuals—Sukhchain Singh and Baljinder Singh in March 2021. While Sukhchain Singh is a British citizen, Baljinder Singh, the other director of the company, is an Indian citizen. Both Sukhchain and Baljinder are believed to have links with the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) and are considered as close associates of secessionists and Khalistani leaders like Gurpatwant Singh Pannun and Jagjeet Singh.
However, Baljinder Singh had resigned from the directorship of the company in July 2021, just three months after incorporating the company. “Punjab Politics TV’’ is run from a quiet suburban neighbourhood in West Bromwhich’s Guns Lane, in Birmingham, UK. The office-cum-studio-cum-residence of this digital platform and its founder is located at unit 2, Plymoth House on the Guns Lane, which is predominantly a quiet residential area.
The Sunday Guardian carried out detailed research on the digital platforms of the banned “Punjab Politics TV” and it has come to the notice of this newspaper that this media company was incorporated just with the intention of propagating Khalistani sentiments in India, where various individuals linked with the SFJ and other pro-Khalistani groups have been regular guests at the shows hosted by this platform on the free video streaming application YouTube.
Activists with the SJF like Jagjeet Singh, (former resident of Jammu and Kashmir, now residing in the US), who has been booked for sedition by the Punjab government, Bikramjit Singh, Ranjit Nagara, among many others, have been regular guests and hosts for this channel and its platform, both visual as well as digital print. Further search into the details of this platforms YouTube channel also showed that “Punjab Politics TV” just four months back hosted a programme on “Referendum 2020”, with clear banners of “Punjab Khalistan” with a slew of guests discussing how the Sikhs in India have been marginalised, how “genocide” on Sikhs is being carried out and that Khalistan was the ultimate answer and solution for the freedom of Sikhs.
The channel had also run several programs on the politics of Punjab during the election phase in Punjab, where SFJ sympathisers coming as guests were trying to influence voters to vote in one way or the other. Shows like “Punjab Bolda”, “Politics Punjab Da” were being run regularly on their digital channel during the elections.
Such programs and discussions are a regular part of the channel’s propaganda and all this propaganda is still being run live on YouTube and can be accessed through a VPN server on the internet.
The channel has also been propagating “Justice for Deep Sidhu”—the Punjabi singer who recently passed away in a road accident— claiming that his “accident was a conspiracy” and that it was a murder.
This stand has also been taken by SFJ and SFJ has taken a provocative stand against the Indian government and went to the United Nations demanding that the UN investigate the death of Deep Sidhu. Both the channel and SJF are claiming Deep Sidhu as “Saheed Deep Sidhu” and have also launched a separate website Saheeddeepsidhu.net. All this comes after the Indian government banned “Punjab Politics TV”.
An Indo-Canadian mediaperson and host of a Punjabi-language talk show network in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) was assaulted by a group of three persons, for apparently criticising pro-Khalistan elements in Canada.
Deepak Punj, host of Frontline Radio, was accosted by three young men at around 12.30pm local time on Wednesday, while he was preparing to enter the building housing his studio.
The day prior, he had featured a show during which he had criticised the display of Khalistan flags and anti-India slogans during a vigil in Brampton, a GTA town, on Sunday.
That, he told the Hindustan Times, appeared to be the provocation for the attack. “They asked me if I did a show on this topic, and then attacked me.”
One of the as yet unidentified assailants was armed with a handgun, while another hit Punj on the head with an empty beer bottle and punched him.
Punj said he reported the assault to local law enforcement and it was being investigated.
He said the attackers spoke to him in English and Punjabi, and he provided the police with the last three digits of the licence plate of the vehicle they were travelling in as well as its make.
“I’m being harassed because I’m from Punjab and I oppose Khalistan,” he said.
Punj said he also criticised New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh on his programme for his hypocrisy. He said while Singh had repeatedly supported the anti-farm laws protests in India, when it came to the truckers’ strike in Ottawa, he not only opposed that agitation but even helped the minority Liberal Government pass the Emergencies Act through the House of Commons.
The trigger for Punj’s programme was the vigil at Brampton City Hall on Sunday, which has already drawn the ire of the Indian government.
India has formally expressed “serious concern” over the appearance of Patrick Brown, Brampton’s mayor, at the vigil, in a diplomatic representation or demarche to Global Affairs Canada, the country’s foreign ministry.
The vigil was for Deep Sidhu, who emerged as a significant figure during the anti-farm laws protests in India, was arrested for violence at Red Fort on Republic Day last year, and died in an accident this month. The event was organised by Brampton councillor Harkirat Singh.
India’s concern was related to flags of the secessionist Khalistan movement being seen in the backdrop to Brown’s speech, as other attendees held placards reading #IndiaKills.
The demarche denounced Brown’s reference to the farmers’ protests as interference in India’s internal affairs, particularly at a time when an emergency has been imposed at the national and provincial levels in Canada to counter an agitation by truckers.
Responding to queries sent to Brown’s office on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the mayor said, “Mayor Brown was invited to speak at a vigil by local Brampton residents. This was a vigil, not an anti-India protest. Mayor Brown has visited India on 20 occasions and from 2006-14 was the Chair of the Canada-India Parliamentary Association.”
But like many Indo-Canadians who were incensed with Brown attending and addressing the vigil, Punj believes otherwise, as, he said, the vigil featured “anti-India stuff”.