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Centre bans pro-Khalistan group SFJ, Capt Amarinder hails move

The decision to ban the SFJ, which has been pushing for ‘Sikh Referendum 2020’ as part of its secessionist agenda, as an “unlawful association” was taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet.

mumbai Updated: Jul 11, 2019 00:40 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Sikhs for Justice,SFJ,US-based pro-Khalistan group
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun is the legal adviser of the US-based group.(HT Photo)

The Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a US-based pro-Khalistan group, was on Wednesday banned by the Centre for its alleged anti-national and subversive activities in Punjab and elsewhere.

The decision to ban the SFJ, which has been pushing for ‘Sikh Referendum 2020’ as part of its secessionist agenda, as an “unlawful association” was taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet. The outfit was declared outlawed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act), 1967 as “it is in close touch with the militant outfits and activists and is supporting violent form of extremism and militancy in Punjab and elsewhere to carve out Khalistan out of territory of India,” according to the notification issued by the Union home ministry.

The ban has been slapped in consultation state with governments, including Punjab, after intelligence agencies raised a red flag about its subversive activities and support to militancy. Welcoming the Union government’s decision, Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh said the organisation deserved to be treated as a “terrorist organisation”. He termed the move as the first step towards protecting the nation from secessionist designs of the ISI-back organisation.

“SFJ’s activities went beyond being unlawful and posed a major threat to the very existence of our nation. The central government will have to take more proactive measures to aggressively crack down on it and its affiliates or operatives in the interest of national security,” Amarinder said in a statement. The SFJ, which has been campaigning that Sikhs’ rights are not protected in India, was started in 2007 as a human rights advocacy with its legal adviser Gurpatwant Singh Pannun as the most vocal member. However, the group emerged as the face of the separatist campaign in just a few years. Its ‘Sikh Referendum 2020’ campaign, which was launched in 2014, is being allegedly funded and promoted by the ISI of Pakistan through a clandestine operation codenamed ‘Express’, according to security agencies.

Though it began by running an online campaign and putting up posters in Pakistan and several European countries, security agencies received information that SFJ activists in USA, Canada, UK and Malaysia were involved in recruiting young radicals through various social media platforms and funding/motivating them to carry out various types of violent acts.

In the last three years, Punjab police have registered half-a-dozen criminal cases against SFJ leaders and operatives abroad and their supporters in Punjab for carrying out targeting right-wing leaders, torching of liquor shops and other acts of violence.

First Published: Jul 11, 2019 00:40 IST

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