NEW DELHI — Foreign-based, pro-Khalistan Sikhs For Justice, declared an "unlawful association" by India July 10, is learned to have links with Pakistan-based terrorist organizations and has taken to social media to push its "fake anti-India narrative" and to recruit and radicalize youth for carrying out violent acts.
This became apparent when the US-based outfit supported the Feb. 14 Pulwama attack in Jammu and Kashmir that left 40 CRPF personnel dead when a suicide bomber struck a bus carrying paramilitary personnel on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, said a highly-placed source requesting anonymity.
The source said that the SFJ and its secessionist campaign titled 'Referendum 2020' is also supported by Pakistan.
"The group recently had sought political support from Pakistan to 'liberate Punjab from Indian occupation', as Islamabad was inciting it to avenge its own failure to prevent secession of East Pakistan (Bangladesh) in 1971," said the source.
Till late 2018, the source said, the official website of SFJ - www.sikhsforjustics.org and "Referendum 2020" — www.2020referendum.org —were sharing domains and sourcing content from a Karachi-based website http://snip.pk.
The source said that the personal websites of several SFJ activists, including that of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor of the group, were also found linked to the same Pakistani website.
SFJ regularly associated with other diaspora-based pro-Khalistan elements, Kashmiri separatists and pro-Pakistan groups to carry out anti-India activities in countries like the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, and Australia, said the source, adding India is investigating 11 criminal cases against the group and its leadership on various charges.
SFJ's primary objective is to establish an independent and sovereign country in Indian Punjab and it openly espouses the cause of Khalistan and for that it challenges the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India, said the source, who is privy to the development in the investigation.
He said that SFJ from time to time has been making numerous attempts to instigate Sikh soldiers and Sikh security personnel against India.
Formed in 2007 with Avtar Singh Pannun as its President along with and Gurpatwant Pannun, the source said SFJ is running its secessionist campaign for the last three years in the garb of so-called unofficial Referendum 2020 for the "self-determination of Sikhs" which it plans to hold in November 2020 in India and in countries where the Sikh diaspora exists.
The main promoter of the SFJ is Gurpatwant Pannun, a New York-based attorney who practices as a lawyer for asylum seekers in the US, said another official in the Home Ministry.
Wanted terrorists in India — Hardeep Singh Nijjer and Paramjit Singh Pamma — are the principal proponents of the outfit and 'Referendum 2020' in Canada and the UK, respectively, said the official.
India July 10 declared Sikhs For Justice as an unlawful association under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
The decision was taken at a Union Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The fringe group is run by a few radical Sikhs with foreign nationalities in the US, Canada and the UK, a Home Ministry statement said.
According to another official in the intelligence establishment, SFJ has no support base in India and the response to its programs among the Sikh diaspora has been "very poor.”
"Its event at Trafalgar Square, London on August 12, 2018, was attended by only 200 persons. However, the leadership of SFJ is misusing the freedom of expression in a democratic society to conspire for terror attacks in India, " said the official.
In the absence of ground support, the official said, Gurpatwant Pannun and other promoters of SFJ have resorted to "social media" to push their "fake anti-India narrative" and to recruit and radicalize youth for carrying out violent acts on their behalf.
"He has not stopped at this but has been challenging the sovereignty of India by giving a call for burning the Indian tricolor on Republic Day this year and by threatening the elected leadership of the country."
The official said that not only has Gurpatwant Pannun attempted to instigate the country's security personnel, he has even threatened them and their families for being part of counter-insurgency operations.