By Rajnish Singh
New Delhi, Sep 23 (IANS): As thousands of Indian farmers protest against the three contentious agriculture-related Bills passed by Parliament, banned US-based secessionist group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) is trying to fish in troubled waters, declaring a grant of $1 million for farmers in Punjab and Haryana in lieu of their support for Khalistan.
This new offer from the SFJ has alerted security and intelligence agencies, which have promptly shared the latest inputs with law-enforcement wings in both the states.
Authorities have directed the state police forces for "quick action" against such elements trying to pursue an anti-India agenda amid a critical situation vis-a-vis the farmers.
Capitalising on the ongoing protests by farmers, the SFJ said it would distribute $1 million among farmers who had defaulted on agricultural loans.
"From October 1 to October 8, any farmer -- irrespective of his faith -- can register 25 votes for the Khalistan Referendum 2020 and get a grant of Rs 5,000 as assistance to repay their agricultural loans," SJF said. The security agencies have since received inputs on the latest offer by SFJ.
Dubbing the Indian government's new farms Bills as a "colonial agenda to ultimately turn the farmers landless", SFJ General Counsel, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, said in his announcement that "the Modi government wants to enslave the farmers of Punjab and Haryana by turning them into destitutes. The SFJ has included farmers of Haryana also because we consider Haryana as part of Khalistan".
The two Houses of Parliament have passed The Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020. The Bills, after President's assent, will be notified as laws.
Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, a leader of NDA ally Shiromani Akali Dal -- which enjoys significant support among the Sikh peasantry in Punjab and Haryana -- had resigned from the Union Cabinet, hours ahead of voting in the Lower House on the two earlier Bills on September 17.
It is pertinent to mention here that in furtherance of the SFJ's "door-to-door" voter registration drive between September 21 and October 20, the Sikh radical group is learnt to have so far recruited more than 400 'Referendum Ambassadors' to register votes from 12,000 villages across Punjab. Each such recruit is paid Rs 7,500 for registering votes from his assigned geographical area.
The SFJ adopted the new tactic as its online 'Referendum 2020' voter campaign on Canadian and Russian portals could not gain much traction, an intelligence officer as well as two National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials had earlier told IANS on the condition of anonymity.
The SFJ had earlier announced to hold its 'Referendum-2020' campaign in November this year. Earlier this month, the group had offered Rs 3,500 each as grant on monthly basis to woo Punjab farmers ahead of its anti-India 'Referendum-2020'.
Based on the National Investigation Agency's recommendation, the Ministry of Home Affairs had, in the beginning of September, ordered attachment of properties of SFJ's key leaders -- Gurpatwant Singh Pannun and Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Pannun is the SFJ's General Counsel while Nijjar is 'Referendum 2020' Canada coordinator.
The NIA said that the SFJ, headed by Pannun, is presently making efforts to propagate the 'Referendum-2020' on the social media.
The SFJ is also trying to hold meetings in the US and other countries to instigate and mobilise the Sikh diaspora for its illegal activities.
The MHA declared the SFJ as an 'unlawful association' under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act through a notification dated July 10 last year. The MHA, in a notification dated July 1, had designated Pannun, Nijjar and seven other pro-Khalistanis as 'terrorists' as per the Act's Fourth Schedule.
The SFJ had chosen Punjab, Delhi, and Jammu and Kashmir to launch its online voter registration on July 4 for 'Referendum 2020' through different portals but reportedly did not succeed.
The SFJ is backed by Pakistan-based handlers in providing money and logistic support to radical Sikh elements in Punjab to carry out subversive activities. Even though Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence has been backing the malicious SFJ campaign, with a large number of Pakistani Twitter handles tweeting in favour of the exercise, the secessionist agenda of the SFJ has been rejected by the Sikhs across India.