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'Hindus Must Leave Canada' & Other Offensive Remarks: Who's Gurpatwant Pannun?

SFJ was outlawed by the Indian government in 2019 as a terrorist body, owing to the group's secessionist activities.

Updated
India
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(This story was first published on 21 September 2023 and is being republished in light of threats issued by Gurpatwant Singh Pannun against Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport and Air India. You can read that story here.)

Amid a major stand-off between India and Canada over the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) chief Gurpatwant Singh Pannun has issued provocative statements against Indian Hindus in Canada, asking them to "go back to India".

Pannun's remarks: In a video that has gone viral on social media, the pro-Khalistan leader can be heard saying:

"Indo-Canadian Hindus, you have repudiated your allegiance to Canada and Canadian Constitution. Your destination is India. Leave Canada, go to India."
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun

He also said that pro-Khalistan Sikhs have always been loyal to Canada. "They have always sided with Canada and upheld its laws and the Constitution."

Further, he asked Sikhs based in Canada to gather in Vancouver on 29 October to vote on a referendum regarding whether the Indian High Commissioner in the country was behind Nijjar's murder.

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This is not the first time Pannun has issued provocative remarks against Hindus or India for that matter. In fact, his activities over the years have made him one of the most wanted hardliners in India.

Who Is Gurpatwant Singh Pannun? 

Hailing from the Khankot village of Amritsar and a lawyer by profession, Pannun founded the Sikhs for Justice in the United States in 2007 to spearhead the objective of "self-determination" for Sikhs and to establish a sovereign state known as Khalistan.

SFJ was outlawed by the Indian government in 2019 as a "terrorist organisation" owing to the group's secessionist activities, and it declared Pannun as a terrorist in 2020 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

In his bid to promote pro-Khalistan activities in the Americas and other parts of the western world, Pannun was reported to be in close touch with Nijjar, Paramjit Singh of the Babbar Khalsa International, Malkit Singh Fauji of the other prominent Khalistani leaders.

While Pannun has called for an anti-India referendum in Canada in October this year, a similar secessionist campaign was launched in 2018 known as "Referendum 2020" to "liberate Punjab from Indian occupation".

The referendum was allegedly held in Punjab and several cities of North America, Europe, New Zealand, Malaysia, Australia, Singapore, West Asia et al.

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No Stranger To Notoriety

Pannun is known to have not only criticised Indian politicians publicly and on social media time and again, alleging their role in incidents like the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, but also filed cases against a number of prominent leaders – including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former PM Manmohan Singh, and Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Kamal Nath.

Taking cognisance of a complaint filed by Pannun, a US federal court had in September 2013 issued summons to the then PM Manmohan Singh. In his complaint, Pannun had accused Singh of "funding crimes against humanity perpetrated upon the Sikh community in India".

In another instance, former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was forced to cancel an official visit to Canada in 2016 because of a case of alleged "torture" filed against him by the SFJ. The group had filed the case on behalf of a Canadian resident who claimed that he was tortured during Singh's tenure as chief minister of Punjab.

Though a firm proponent of Khalistan, he is often criticised by other pro-Khalistan groups like the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and Dal Khalsa, who don't agree with his methods.

Cases Against Gurpatwant Singh Pannun:

Pannun has been booked in over 20 cases, ranging from sedition to instigating youth in Punjab to take up arms against India.

Here are some of the cases and allegations against the Khalistani leader:

  • A dossier prepared by the Punjab Police has listed a number of secessionist and provocative posts by Pannun on social media. These include assertions that the Pulwama attack "cannot be termed as an act of terrorism” and messages of his overt support to Kashmiri separatists.

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  • In October 2022, the International criminal police organisation Interpol had rejected a request by India to issue a Red Notice against Pannun on the grounds of insufficient information. (A Red Notice is a request to law enforcement agencies across the world to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action.)

  • During the farmers protest in 2021, the National Investigation Agency had filed a case against Pannun over the SFJ's sources of funding.

  • Pannun and the SFJ have extended legal support to stall the extradition of fugitives wanted in India.

  • Pannun is also known to announce rewards for hoisting the so-called flag of Khalistan atop government buildings across the world.

  • In July this year, a video of him threatening Indian diplomats in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York had gone viral. The video was shot days after Nijjar's death. The SFJ chief can also be heard saying that the flag of Khalistan will one day be put up outside the UN building.

(With inputs from The Indian Express.)

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