Canada says taking SFJ's Air India threat ‘seriously’, enhanced security
In a video SFJ’s general counsel Gurpatwant Pannun warned Sikhs, “Don’t fly Air India after November 19, your lives may be in danger.”
Canada has informed India that security for Air India flights operating to and from the country’s airports has been enhanced even as law enforcement has said the matter is being investigated and taken “extremely seriously”.
These developments follow a video posted by the secessionist group Sikhs for Justice or SFJ on Saturday. In the video SFJ’s general counsel Gurpatwant Pannun warns Sikhs, in Punjabi, “Don’t fly Air India after November 19, your lives may be in danger.” That sentence is repeated twice. In a statement issued along with the video, Pannun called for a ‘Global blockade’ of the airline from Vancouver to London. In a statement on Thursday, Pannun said he was “calling for a boycott” of the airline and not issuing a threat.
On Thursday, a senior Indian official confirmed to the Hindustan Times that the Canadian Government had responded to the request for enhanced security to Air India flights.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Canada’s Minister of Transport Pablo Rodriguez told the outlet the Globe and Mail, “Our government takes any threat to aviation extremely seriously. We are investigating recent threats circulating online closely and with our security partners.”
Meanwhile, the outlet Toronto Star reported that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or RCMP is investigating the threat. “The RCMP takes all threats to national security very seriously, including threats made online,” a spokesperson said.
Pannun’s statement was of serious criminal intent: India
India’s High Commissioner to Ottawa Sanjay Kumar Verma, in a statement, said Pannun’s statement was of “serious criminal intent, punishable in all legal jurisdictions” and added that should be taken cognisance of by Canada.
However, Pannun has denied any violence was intended in the video. “There is no threat,” he said. “RCMP has every right to investigate a terror threat. And if they consider that calling for boycott of Air India as a civil disobedience or a movement and specifically the Indian businesses, if that is a terror, then so be it, let them investigate,” he added.
Air India operates multiple weekly direct flights between the Canadian cities of Toronto and Vancouver to New Delhi.
The targeting of Air India is reminiscent of the circumstances leading up to what remains the worst incident of terrorism in Canadian history. On June 23, 1985, the bombing of Air India flight 182, the Kanishka, by Khalistani terrorists, led to loss of 329 lives, while two baggage handlers in Tokyo’s Narita airport died from a blast from another bomb on another airplane.
The day continues to be commemorated in Canada as the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism. However, extremist groups continue to venerate the person considered the mastermind of the attack, Talwinder Singh Parmar. In fact, in June this year, pro-Khalistan elements took out a rally in his memory to the memorial for victims of the Air India terror attack in Toronto.