NEW DELHI: India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) has filed a case against Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Sikh separatist leader and general counsel of Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), for allegedly threatening to prevent Air India from operating globally and warning passengers of potential danger to their lives. The NIA stated that security forces are on high alert following the threats issued by Pannun, who advocates for the establishment of an independent Sikh homeland called Khalistan, separate from India.
The case against Pannun has been registered under various provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 and sections of the Indian Penal Code, according to the NIA’s statement.
“In his video messages released on November 4, Pannun threatened that Air India would not be allowed to operate in the world… urging Sikhs not to travel on Air India flights from Sunday, claiming a threat to their lives,” the NIA reported. The authenticity of the video messages, widely circulated on social media.
Sikh Community Campaigning for Independent Khalistan State
Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), led by Pannun, has been campaigning for Khalistan and was designated as an “unlawful association” by India in 2019. Pannun himself was listed as an “individual terrorist” in 2020. The SFJ has offices in Britain, Canada, and the United States, as mentioned on its website.
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a U.S. resident with reported dual citizenship in the United States and Canada, has faced Interpol’s rejection of two requests by India for a red corner notice, according to reports from October last year.
The threats against Air India have prompted investigations in Canada, India, and other countries where the airline, owned by the Tata Group conglomerate, operates, according to the NIA. The agency also highlighted Pannun’s previous threats to disrupt railways and thermal power plants in India.
Air India has a historical connection to Sikh militants, as it was targeted in 1985 by Sikh extremists who were responsible for bombing a Boeing 747 aircraft flying from Canada to India, resulting in the tragic loss of all 329 lives off the Irish coast.