America has recently alleged that Delhi is conspiring to kill an American citizen involved in the Khalistan movement to establish an independent Sikh state out of India. It is even alleged that an Indian national working with Indian government officials hired an assassin for around one hundred thousand dollars to kill the Sikh leader. But that didn’t work because the hired killer was actually an agent of the US intelligence agency.
According to the BBC report, the focus of Washington’s allegations against Delhi is Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a dual citizen of America and Canada. This New York-based lawyer is believed to have once been the spokesperson of an organization called ‘Sikhs for Justice’.
Sikhs for Justice was banned by the Indian government in 2019 for campaigning for an independent Sikh state of Khalistan. Delhi has denied any involvement in the conspiracy to kill Pannun, citing that he is on the most wanted list for violations of the law.
Why so much controversy around Pannun?
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun was declared a ‘terrorist’ by India in 2020. He is on India’s most wanted list in nearly two dozen cases, including sedition cases. Even last September, the government confiscated his properties in Amritsar and Chandigarh.
Pannun, however, has denied all allegations leveled against him by the Indian government. He claims that he is only a rights activist who believes in Khalistan.
In the 1980s and 1990s, India brutally suppressed Sikh insurgencies. A section of Sikhs, however, still continue to campaign for Khalistan. Among them, Pannun is an active supporter of the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) campaign. The SFJ was formed in 2007 mainly to take into account the Sikhs who were affected by the riots after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 in India.
Pannun was born in Nathu Chak village of Punjab. Later his family started living in Khankot village of Amritsar. After schooling in Ludhiana, he was a law student at Chandigarh University in the 1990s. A former Punjab Police official confirmed that Pannun was active in student politics at that time. After many years he moved to America. After getting a degree in management and law there, he started working as a business consultant.
Pannun started to attract everyone’s attention after 2021. Because, as soon as known Indian politicians visited America, Pannun’s organization started filing cases against them accusing them of playing a role in riots against Sikhs. He was making the cases based on an Act of 1789. That law states that wherever human rights are violated anywhere in the world, it can be tried in American courts.
These cases brought Pannu into discussion. Through this, his anti-India campaign was also strengthened. In the same year, he announced the organization of a global referendum of Sikhs for the establishment of Khalistan. Sikhs of Indian origin voted in the UK, Canada and Australia.