The National Investigating Agency (NIA) has issued notices to dozens of Sikhs in India and abroad, suspecting that the farmers’ protest involve many banned Khalistai groups. The apex investigating body sent the notices based on an FIR that it filed against the US-based outfit ‘Sikhs For Justice (SFJ)’ that is a pro-Khalistani group based out of the US.
The NIA thorugh its notice has summoned the president of Lok Bhalai Insaf Welfare Society (LBIWS), Baldev Singh Sirsa at its headquarters in New Delhi on Sunday. LBIWS is one of the many groups that is in talks with the Centre over the new farm laws that were announced by the Modi government in September 2020. Reacing to the notice served to him, Sirsa alleged that, “First, the government tried to derail the farmers’ agitation through the Supreme Court, now it is using the NIA.”
The NIA bases the charges on its FIR that alleges funds are being raised by unlawful means for the farmers’ protests, while Khalistani groups are covertly supporting the agitation from overseas- countries including the US, Germany and Canada.
The FIR that was filed in December 2020 reads, “The Union government has received information that Sikhs for Justice an ‘Unlawful Association under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and other Khalistani terrorist outfits, including but not limited to Babbar Khalsa International, Khalistan Tiger Force and Khalistan Zindabad Force along with their frontal organisations have entered into a conspiracy to create an atmosphere of fear and lawlessness and to cause disaffection in people and to incite them towards rising in rebellion against the Government of India.”
Notice has also been served to Gurpatwant Singh Pannun who is based in the US, and heads the SFJ. The FIR accuses Pannun of indirectly leading the campaigns (famers’ protests) that involves “designated terrorists that includes UK-based Paramjit Singh Pamma and Canada-based Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
The national co-ordinator of Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, Abhimanyu Kohar has clarified that “A number of transporters, among others supporting the farm protests, have been sent notices by the NIA. We have raised strong objections with the agriculture minister on the issue and asked why the government is trying to suppress the protests,” Mintu Malwa, the founder of Ludhiana-based organisation ‘Humanity’s Service’ said that the NIA’s notice intends to clamp down on the protests that are against the three new laws. “We are satisfied that our voice has reached the right place. We told the official who sent us notice that we got this letter because we support the farmers,” Malwa said in a Facebook live on January 15.
These apart, the NIA also served notices to many Sikh journalists and activists. Jasveer Singh who is a journalist associated with KTV UK told The Wire after receiving the notice that, “I am not associated with SJF in any way…I was not even aware that a case was filed against SFJ. I had left the Singhu border to be with my family.” He was summoned to New Delhi on January 18.
Activist Deep Sindhu who also has been summoned by the NIA said, “This notice has been sent to mount pressure on me as I have been supporting the farmers since months.” Referring to NIA’s notice that has also been served to his brother Mandeep Singh, Sindhu added, “Sending the notice to my brother is totally unreasonable. My family just supported me in my activism but never participated in any of the activities. Still, I will not bow down before them.”
Haryana’s Gurnam Singh Chadauni of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BHU) reacted to the notices and alleged that, “We are protesting peacefully in a democratic manner. Even the Supreme Court said we are protesting in a Gandhian way. We have not received any money from SFJ. They are bent upon their Khalistani jibe but now the people from every state are here.”
Last week, Attroney General KK Venugopal told the Supreme Court that the Indian government has inputs of “Khalistani infiltration” in the agitation going on in the outskirts of Delhi. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Kahattar in Novermber last year had said that his government had inputs on involvement of “separatists” in the farm protests. Later, the BJP’s IT Cell also claimed that the protests have “Khalistani and Maoist” links. However, no allegations have been proved till now.
As of now, the SC has put an hold on the implementation of the new farm laws, seeking to end protests that are going on for over 50 days.