Gurpatwant Pannun faced charges of terrorism and conspiracy in November, following the posting of a video on social media where he was interpreted as making threats against passengers flying with the national carrier, Air India.
Pannun had his situation addressed by the White House, expressing “utmost seriousness” and engaging with Indian authorities at the highest levels.
On November 22, a spokesperson from the Ministry of External Affairs said the information shared by the US was a “cause of concern for both countries.”
Also Read: Who is Gurpatwant Singh Pannun? Know more about Sikh separatist leader at the center of ‘assassination bid’ in US
Meanwhile, the accusations of India’s potential role in the thwarted assassination attempt arise amid renewed concerns about violence stemming from resurgent calls for Sikh separatism.
In an exclusive interview with the TIME, speaking on what reasons might the Indian government have for being involved in a plot to assassinate him, Pannun said that they (the Indian government) cannot afford for me to be alive as he has achieved a narrative.
“So they cannot afford for me to be alive as I have achieved a narrative. I’m able to educate, and peacefully and democratically challenge India’s narrative of terror and terrorism. There are reports from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the US Department of State in 1994, and other agencies about what transpired between 1984 to 1995. But we haven’t had a peaceful and democratic resolution to the contentious issue that has never been asked since 1950: should Punjab be an independent country? It was never asked of the people of Punjab in 1947, nor has it ever been put up on a ballot,” Pannun told the TIME.
Also Read: US provided more specific information than Canada’, says Indian envoy
He further highlighted, “We are going to open this question up through the Khalistan referendum voter registration in Punjab on January 26, 2024.”
Regarding intelligence reports of US President Joe Biden discussing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 Summit about India’s potential role in an assassination plot targeting him, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun was asked by the TIME if he had prior knowledge of these reports before they were made public.
Also Read: Explained. India’s contradictory response on assassination attempt claims of Nijjar, Pannun
He said, “I will say that on this particular question, and this is my official statement, the Indian government and the Modi regime want to kill me, they want to eliminate me for running the global Khalistan referendum voting campaign.”
“I have seen how the Indian government wanted to eliminate civil disobedience during Operation Blue Star,” he told the TIME, “so I decided I was going to use international laws to hold individuals accountable.”
Also Read: 39 years of Operation Bluestar: Pro-Khalistan slogans at the Golden Temple, security beefed up
The attempted assassination plot that has been uncovered by the Financial Times, and to which the Biden administration has given its statement, is not about me anymore. It is a challenge to American sovereignty. It is a threat to freedom of speech and democracy in America itself. But I’ll let US authorities speak more on this.
Also Read: How to prevent re-run of events like blue star
Explaining the significant presence of Sikh diaspora communities, particularly in countries like Canada and the US, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun stated that Sikhs who migrated from 1984 to 1997 did so in response to India’s suppression of the Sikh community. “They moved because of their persecution based on their religion and political opinion. They are still moving because of that.”
Also Read: Pro-Khalistani Nijjar supporters heckle Indian envoy Taranjit Singh Sandhu in New York Gurdwara
However, Disagreeing with experts who suggest that within the Sikh community in India and, to some extent, the Sikh diaspora, there is less urgency for a separatist homeland compared to other issues such as farmers’ protests, high debt, and drug addiction, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said, “No. That’s why (the experts) are professors and we are revolutionaries who work on independence. They work on research papers, and we work on changing the narrative and bringing the facts out.”
Also Read: Why India Worries About the Push for a Separate Sikh State
In response to India’s dismissal of Canada’s assertions regarding potential involvement in the assassination plot, Pannun emphasized his American identity.
“I am an American, and if somebody is trying to assassinate me, I think it is the responsibility of the Biden administration and US authorities to do something. We will be watching how (the Biden administration) will react. Do they value business, or do they value democracy? Do they value human rights, or a rogue state like India, which has already proved that it will use terror and violence and that it is not a trusted partner?” Pannun told the TIME.
Furthermore, addressing inquiries about the implications of issuing a video where he cautioned Sikhs against flying on Air India, stating it would be “life-threatening,” Pannun clarified that his message was to “boycott” Air India.
“I was saying “boycott” Air India, but the whole Indian narrative shifted to “bomb” Air India. Somebody has to be a zombie to not differentiate between boycotting and bombing,” Pannun added.
Also Read: ‘Don’t fly by Air India on Nov 19’ warns Khalistan extremist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun
Pannun had said in the one-minute-37-second video that was circulating on social media that they are asking Sikh people not to fly via Air India on November 19. “There will be a global blockade. Air India won’t be allowed to operate. Don’t travel by Air India on November 19 or your life will be in danger.”
“It is the same day 19th November on which the final match of the World Terror Cup will be played,” he said adding that Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport will remain shut on November 19.
In July 2020, Pannun was designated a terrorist by the Union home ministry and two months later, the government ordered the attachment of his properties under Section 51A of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
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Updated: 28 Nov 2023, 03:21 PM IST