The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has launched a probe against designated terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, head of the banned outfit Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), for releasing a video on social media in which he has sought the Balkanisation of India through its military, people familiar with the development said.
The video, uploaded last month on various social media platforms, shows Pannun instigating soldiers belonging to Punjab, West Bengal, and Maharashtra to desert, close the borders of their respective states, and save their families. “In the latest video, Pannun is propagating the idea of Balkanisation (division of a country into several small political units) of India, openly spreading disaffection in the country, and making imputations prejudicial to national integration,” said an officer on condition of anonymity.
SFJ is a secessionist organisation that supports the secession of Indian Punjab as Khalistan.
The US-based leader of SFJ is already under investigation in multiple cases for radicalising Sikh youth for the purpose of reviving militancy in Punjab and the creation of Khalistan under the banner ‘Punjab Referendum 2020 for Khalistan’ apart from organising demonstrations and on-ground campaigns outside India’s diplomatic missions in the UK, Canada, US, Germany and other countries.
He has already been declared as an “individual terrorist” under the fourth schedule of UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Act) and his properties in Punjab have been attached.
A chargesheet filed by NIA in December 2020 against Pannun, UK-based Paramjit Singh Pamma and Canada-based Hardeep Singh Nijjar, stated that SFJ, floated under the guise of a human rights advocacy group with offices in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, is a front organisation of Khalistani terrorist outfits operating from foreign soils, including Pakistan.
“Under this campaign, numerous social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube channels, and a number of websites have been launched, which are being used to propagate sedition as well as enmity on the grounds of region and religion, to radicalise impressionable youth, to cause disturbance to peace and harmony, and to raise funds for terrorist activities,” another officer said.
Multiple agencies are also investigating the source of funding of Khalistani operatives as it is suspected that Pannun and his associates based in India receive funds through non-governmental organisations apart from other modes.
SFJ is also accused of trying to instigate farmers sitting at Delhi’s borders in protest against three farm laws.
India’s attempts to issue an Interpol red notice against Pannun have failed so far but NIA has already sent a request to the US seeking information on his activities. Pannun resides at 167-05, Powel Boulevard, Unit-22 White Stone, New York, where he meets other co-conspirators as well, according to Indian intelligence agencies.
Over 40 websites linked to SFJ were blocked by the Indian government last year for propagating Khalistani activities.