November 10, 2023
IN ONE OF THE MOST RECENT AND ALARMING THREATS issued on November 4, 2023, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun released a video warning Sikhs not to fly in Air India aircraft after November 19 as their lives could be in danger. Pannun is a name that strikes fear and anger in the hearts of many Indians. A Canadian resident, he is a designated terrorist and firebrand founder of the banned outfit, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a group that advocates for the creation of a separate and independent state of Khalistan for the Sikh community in India.
Pannun claimed that Air India would not be allowed to operate flights on November 19 and that there were plans to blow up the airline’s aircraft. The threat also coincided with the date of the final ICC One-Day International World Cup, 2023, match, scheduled to be held in Ahmedabad on November 19. Pannun calls the World Cup a ‘World Terror Cup’, implying that it is a reminder of the “oppression” of Sikhs by the Indian government.
The demand for a separate Sikh state found resonance among the larger masses after the Indian Army’s Operation Blue Star in 1984 aimed at flushing out militants holed up in Amritsar’s Golden Temple, the holiest shrine in Sikh religion. This period resulted in tens of thousands of deaths in Punjab and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, India’s prime minister at the time, by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984.
Pannun has also warned that Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport will remain shut on November 19 and that its name would be changed to ‘Shahid Beant Singh, Shahid Satwant Singh Khalistan Airport’, in remembrance of Mrs Gandhi’s Khalistani assassins.
PRECURSOR TO RECENT THREAT
On September 18 this year, Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, landed a bombshell as he claimed in Parliament that there was “credible evidence” connecting India to the murder of Canadian citizen and activist (read chief of the Khalistan Tiger Force) Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, in a parking lot outside a gurdwara in Canada’s Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18. Nijjar had been marked down by India as a “terrorist” in 2020. Quick to take up the cudgels for the slain terrorist whom he called ‘brother’, Pannun took a jingoistic stance, warning all Hindus residing in Canada to leave the country immediately.
Pannun had since become irrepressibly aggressive, accusing the Indian High Commissioner to Canada, Sanjay Verma, of complicity in Nijjar’s killing. The SFJ has not only issued repeated calls for the expulsion of Verma and some other Indian diplomats in Canada, but also put up ‘death threat posters’ against them.
1985 AIR INDIA FLIGHT BOMBING
Pannun’s threat has come as a chilling reminder of the 1985 Air India bombing, which was the deadliest terrorist attack involving an airplane until the catastrophic 9/11 events. A bomb planted by Khalistani extremists exploded on Air India Flight 182 from Montreal to India via London, killing all 329 people on board, mostly Canadians of Indian origin. Another bomb intended for one more Air India flight went off at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, killing two baggage handlers.
A Sikh extremist, Ripudaman Singh Malik, was found guilty in connection with the Flight 182 bombing, widely believed to have been the handiwork of Canada-based Sikhs in retaliation to the deadly 1984 storming of the Golden Temple by the Mrs Gandhi-led Indian government.
OUTRAGE AND CONDEMNATION
Pannun’s threat has sparked outrage and condemnation from the Indian government and the international community. India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has lodged a strong protest with the US and Canada, where Pannun is believed to have supporters and sympathizers. The MEA has urged both these countries to take immediate and stern action against Pannun and his associates and to prevent any possible attacks on Air India flights or Indian interests.
The MEA has also assured the public that the security of Air India flights and IGI Airport has been beefed up and that all necessary measures have been taken to ensure that the passengers and staff are safe. The MEA has also appealed to the Sikh community not to fall prey to Pannun’s propaganda and to reject his divisive and violent agenda.
Pannun’s threat has equally been met with both resistance and support from the Sikh diaspora, especially in Canada, where many Sikhs have denounced his actions and expressed solidarity with Air India. Some Sikh groups have also organized rallies and events to show their love and loyalty to India and to counter Pannun’s hate speech.
Pannun is based in New York, US, where he works as a legal adviser and spokesperson for SFJ. He has been using social media platforms to spread his propaganda and incite violence among the Sikh diaspora. Pannun has also been involved in several terror incidents and threats against India and its leaders and is currently wanted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on sedition charges and in 22 criminal cases. He has also been organizing so-called referendums in various countries to seek support for Khalistan, despite having no legal or democratic legitimacy.
Pannun is a fugitive and a terrorist who has no regard for human lives or the law. He is a threat to the peace and harmony of India and the world and must be brought to justice. His threat to blow up Air India flights is a cowardly and despicable act that must be prevented at all costs. The Sikh community, known for its bravery and patriotism, must not let Pannun tarnish their image and reputation and must stand united with India against his evil and divisive designs.
WHO IS GURPATWANT SINGH PANNUN?
- Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, aged between 45 and 50 years, was born in Khankot village of Punjab’s Amritsar district and studied law at Guru Nanak Dev University
- He then served as a lawyer in Punjab and Haryana High Court
- His father, Mahinder Singh, was once employed by the Punjab State Agricultural Marketing Board
- Pannun moved to New York, US, where he became the legal adviser and spokesperson for Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a banned outfit that seeks to achieve the dubious independent state of Khalistan in India through self-styled ‘referendums’
- Pannun has been organizing so-called ‘referendums’ in various countries in support of Khalistan despite having no legal or democratic legitimacy
- Pannun has been involved in several terror incidents and threats against India and its leaders and is currently wanted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on sedition charges and in 22 criminal cases