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Pakistan’s push to Khalistan campaign concerns India

On June 28, 2019, Faridkot police arrested 24-year-old Sukhwinder Singh Sidhu on charges of spying for the Pakistani intelligence since February 2016.

india Updated: Jul 08, 2019 10:44 IST
Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sukhwinder Singh Sidhu,Sikh Jathas,Pakistan
Interrogation details of Sidhu, accessed by Hindustan Times, revealed that Sidhu was recruited by Rawalpindi when he visited the neighbouring country as part of a Jatha from India to visit Sikh holy shrines in Pakistan in November 2015 as part of Guru Parab celebrations.(HT Photo)

Although India is looking forward to operationalise the Kartarpur corridor with Pakistan at a July 14 meeting, it is seriously concerned over Sikh pilgrims being recruited by Rawalpindi and used for promoting pro-Khalistan campaign “Referendum 2020.”

On June 28, 2019, Faridkot police arrested 24-year-old Sukhwinder Singh Sidhu on charges of spying for the Pakistani intelligence since February 2016. It is alleged that at the behest of his Pakistani handlers, Sidhu had relocated near Moga Army Cantonment and was reporting on the movement of Indian Army units and traction of the so-called referendum campaign among Punjab’s Sikhs via social media platforms. Interrogation details of Sidhu, accessed by Hindustan Times, revealed that Sidhu was recruited by Rawalpindi when he visited the neighbouring country as part of a Jatha from India to visit Sikh holy shrines in Pakistan in November 2015 as part of Guru Parab celebrations.

According to South Block, Pakistan is blatantly misusing the visit of four annual Sikh Jathas from India to Pakistan under the Bilateral Protocol of Visits to Religious Shrines, 1974. “We have raised this matter bilaterally with Pakistan time and again as not only the Indian Sikh Jathas are targeted to recruitment, the Sikhs coming directly to Pakistan from Canada, UK and Germany are tutored on the so-called referendum campaign, which is largely funded by Islamabad,” said a senior Indian diplomat.

Sidhu is not the first one to be recruited by Pakistani agencies.

Earlier, Talwainder Singh (2013), Sukhpreet Kaur and Suraj Pal Singh (2012), Naib Singh and Bhola Singh (2009) have been arrested by the Punjab Police for carrying out espionage activities at the behest of Rawalpindi.

Interrogation records show that each one of them was approached and recruited by Pakistani agencies while on a pilgrimage to 18 Sikh shrines in Lahore, Sheikhpura, Nankana Sahib, Narowal and Hassan Abdal near Rawalpindi. Apart from a gap of two to three years post Kargil war, the Sikh Jathas are going to Pakistan for seven to 10 days continuously since 2004.

While Indian agencies will screen the pilgrims to Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur once the corridor is activated, South Block feels that the chances of recruitment by Pakistani agencies will be limited by the fact that a pilgrim has to return to his home country the same day.

According to security agencies, Pakistani intelligence not only targets gullible Sikh youth in Jathas for espionage but also to carry out terror attacks on the Indian side of Punjab.

Jagroop Singh, alias Rupa, who visited Pakistan along with a Jatha in November 2016, was imparted arms training arranged by Pakistan-based fugitive Sikh militants Lakhbir Singh Rhode and Harmeet Singh.

First Published: Jul 08, 2019 05:47 IST