US-based Sikh activist renews threats to India – media
A US-based Sikh activist at the center of an assassination plot foiled by the FBI last year, who is also designated a “terrorist” by New Delhi, has threatened to “sabotage” Monday’s inauguration ceremony of the new Ram Temple in Ayodhya, India, CNN-News18 reported, citing officials.
In an audio clip, which RT could not verify independently, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun can be heard egging on accomplices to carry out an “action” at the local airport, “where everyone will be busy heading towards Ayodhya.” Maharshi Valmiki Airport was recently inaugurated by the country’s prime minister as part of an infrastructural upgrade drive in Ayodhya.
The outlet cited an official who said that “all forces” were “on alert” at the event, and that the audio clip would be shared with America and Canada as “evidence.” Security has received a major boost in Ayodhya because of the temple dedication ceremony, as well as for upcoming Republic Day celebrations.
New York-based Pannun heads Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a group seeking to carve out Khalistan, a separate nation-state, from northern India’s Punjab state. Last week, the activist dared the Indian Prime Minister to attend Friday’s Republic Day celebration, which will feature French President Emmanuel Macron as chief guest, without security cover.
“If you are a popular leader, come to Delhi on Republic Day without security,” Pannun was quoted as saying by The Indian Express, based on video footage that went viral. “The SFJ will raise the Khalistani flag and avenge the killing of Shaheed Nijjar,” he added, referencing the assassination last year of prominent Khalistan movement leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada.
Pannun was a target of a failed murder plot allegedly involving Indian government agents, a US court claimed in November last year. The indictment said that Nikhil Gupta, an Indian national, had tried to recruit a murder-for-hire to kill Pannun. Gupta, 52, who claims to be a businessman from New Delhi, was apprehended in the Czech Republic. Last week, the High Court in Prague approved his extradition to the US.
The case is closely linked to the assassination last June of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, also in Canada. Last September, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau triggered a massive diplomatic row when he alleged that there was an Indian hand in the killing. While New Delhi rejected Canada's claims and urged Ottawa to provide evidence to substantiate its accusation, the Indian government said it had formed a high-level committee to probe relevant aspects of the US indictment.