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Business News/ News / India/  Who is Gurpatwant Singh Pannun? Know more about Sikh separatist leader at the center of ‘assassination bid’ in US

Who is Gurpatwant Singh Pannun? Know more about Sikh separatist leader at the center of ‘assassination bid’ in US

US officials have reportedly foiled a plot to kill Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. The issue has been raised by the US government with Indian authorities and necessary follow-up action will be taken. Indian authorities have expressed concern and surprise.

A member of United Hindu Front organisation holds a banner depicting Gurpatwant Singh Pannun during a rally along a street in New Delhi on September 24 (AFP)Premium
A member of United Hindu Front organisation holds a banner depicting Gurpatwant Singh Pannun during a rally along a street in New Delhi on September 24 (AFP)

US officials have reportedly averted a plot to murder Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. The Sikhs for Justice chief is designated as a terrorist in India and had recently come under the scanner for ‘threatening’ Air India passengers. The White House said that it had taken the matter up with Indian authorities at the highest levels “with utmost seriousness".

“We are treating this issue with utmost seriousness, and it has been raised by the U.S. Government with the Indian Government, including at the senior-most levels. Indian counterparts expressed surprise and concern," National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Indian authorities said in a statement that the US side had “shared some inputs" about terrorists and organized criminals that were a “cause of concern" for both countries. New Delhi said that they had “decided to take necessary follow-up action". The development also comes two months after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed there were “credible allegations" linking the Indian government to the death of another Sikh separatist leader – Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

According to a Financial Times report citing unnamed sources, US federal prosecutors have also filed a sealed indictment against at least one alleged perpetrator of the plot. The publication cited one person familiar with the matter to add that one person charged in the indictment is believed to have left the US.

Who is Gurpatwant Singh Pannun?

Pannun is a Canadian and American citizen who works as the general counsel of Sikhs for Justice. The pro-Khalistan lawyer has been a key organizer of nonbinding referendums that seek a separate Sikh state – held in countries with large Indian diasporas such as Canada, the UK and Australia. An American phase of the voting will begin at the end of January 2024 in San Francisco, he revealed in a missive to Bloomberg on Thursday.

“India wants to kill me for running the referendum campaign. India’s transnational terrorism has become a direct challenge to the sovereignty of the United States," he claimed.

Pannun was born in Khankot village on the outskirts of Amritsar — the son of a former Punjab State Agricultural Marketing Board employee named Mahinder Singh. He is believed to have graduated from Punjab University in the 1990s and founded the SFJ in 2007. The New York-based organisation advocates for an independent Sikh state called Khalistan to be carved out of India.

The Indian government banned the SFJ in 2019 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for its anti-India activities. A year later Pannun was declared an "individual terrorist" under the UAPA for promoting secessionism and allegedly encouraging Punjabi Sikh youth to take up arms.

In September this year, the SFJ chief had urged Hindu-Canadians to leave Canada amid a diplomatic row between India and Canada over the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Pannun had claimed during an earlier interview that Nijjar had been his "close associate" for over 20 years and was like a "younger brother" to him. He blamed India for the latter's death.

Earlier this month the separatist leader had again made headlines after threatening a global blockade and insisting that Air India would not be allowed to operate. He also claimed that the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi would be renamed and remain shut on November 19 — a day he highlighted would coincide with the Cricket World Cup final.

"We are asking the Sikh people not to fly via Air India. From November 19, there will be a global blockade. Air India won't be allowed to operate. Sikh people, don't travel by Air India after November 19. Your life can be in danger," Pannun had said in a viral video.

The National Investigation Agency registered a case against the 'listed individual terrorist' this week under various sections Indian Penal Code and UAPA over his threats.

(With inputs from agencies)


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Published: 23 Nov 2023, 05:34 AM IST
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