SFJ's Gurpatwant Singh Pannun reacts to alleged plot to kill him, puts onus on US for protection
When asked about Air India threat, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said he was saying ‘boycott’ Air India, but the Indian narrative shifted to ‘bomb’ Air India.
Putting the onus on the Joe Biden administration for his protection, Sikhs for Justice chief Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a designated terrorist in India, alleged the Indian government wanted to kill him for running the global Khalistan referendum voting campaign.
“It is a challenge to American sovereignty. It is a threat to freedom of speech and democracy in America itself. But I will let US authorities speak more on this,” Pannun told Time in an interview.
Last week, India said the US shared inputs on a nexus between organised criminals, gun runners and terrorists during the course of recent discussions, and relevant departments were examining them, after the Financial Times reported that American authorities thwarted a plot to kill Pannun on US soil. The Joe Biden administration, too, confirmed that the US, at the senior most levels, raised the concern with India and expected those deemed responsible to be held accountable. India, according to the US, was surprised and concerned when the issue was raised, and told Washington DC that this was not government policy and will investigate the matter.
The remarks by the ministry of external affairs (MEA) came in response to the report in the London-based newspaper which also suggested that the US warned India against any involvement in a plot to kill Pannun, a Sikh extremist the government of India officially designated as a terrorist but who also happens to be a dual American and Canadian citizen.
During the interview, when Pannun was asked that he had reportedly angered Indian officials after issuing a video where he warned Sikhs not to fly on Air India because it would be “life-threatening,” the Khalistani separatist replied, "I was saying ‘boycott’ Air India, but the whole Indian narrative shifted to ‘bomb’ Air India. Somebody has to be a zombie to not differentiate between boycotting and bombing.
Pannun faced charges of terrorism and conspiracy earlier this month, following the posting of the video.
“So they cannot afford for me to be alive as I have achieved a narrative. I'm able to educate, and peacefully and democratically challenge India's narrative of terror and terrorism. There are reports from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the US Department of State in 1994, and other agencies about what transpired between 1984 to 1995. But we haven’t had a peaceful and democratic resolution to the contentious issue that has never been asked since 1950: should Punjab be an independent country? It was never asked of the people of Punjab in 1947, nor has it ever been put up on a ballot," Pannun told TIME.
He added, “We are going to open this question up through the Khalistan referendum voter registration in Punjab on January 26, 2024."
Regarding intelligence reports of Biden discussing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 Summit about India's potential role in an assassination plot targeting him, Pannun was asked by TIME if he had prior knowledge of these reports before they were made public.
The SFJ chief said, “I will say that on this particular question, and this is my official statement, the Indian government and the Modi regime want to kill me, they want to eliminate me for running the global Khalistan referendum voting campaign."
“I have seen how the Indian government wanted to eliminate civil disobedience during Operation Blue Star," he said.
“So I decided I was going to use international laws to hold individuals accountable," he added.
The development came two months after Canada said there were “credible” allegations linking Indian agents to the murder of another Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in a Vancouver suburb. New Delhi has denied the charges and said there was no proof to back the allegations.
In September, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on the floor of the Canadian parliament, said there were “credible allegations” linking agents of the government of India to the killing of Nijjar, another designated terrorist who happened to be a Canadian citizen.
Trudeau’s charge led to a major diplomatic rupture between Canada and India, besides raising questions in other western capitals including Washington, which is both Ottawa’s closest ally and a fellow member of the Five Eyes alliance, the world’s premier intelligence network.
The US asked India to cooperate with Canadian authorities and expressed its concern. India termed Trudeau’s allegations absurd, said this was not government policy, and added that if Canada had something specific to offer, Indian would be willing to look at it. New Delhi also used the moment to expose what it saw as Ottawa’s permissive environment for terror, violence and organized crime under the rubric of free speech.