By Rajnish Singh
New Delhi, Sep 16 | Indian anti-terror agencies have alerted law-enforcement agencies in different states after the banned pro-Khalistan group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) on Wednesday announced to undertake a door-to-door drive for voter registration in Punjab for its secessionist agenda ‘Referendum-2020’.
The US-based SFJ has 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 said on the condition of anonymity.
The secessionist SFJ now plans to cover 12,000 villages of Punjab in 30 days, starting from September 21, for its voter registration campaign. To this end, the SFJ has announced to recruit 1,000 “qualified referendum ambassadors” who will register voters in their respective assigned geographical areas for ‘Referendum 2020’.
The SFJ has promised to pay a monthly stipend of Rs 7,500 each to these so-called referendum ambassadors for their services.
The SFJ had earlier announced to hold its ‘Referendum-2020’ campaign in November this year.
The Indian agencies were alerted after SFJ’s General Counsel Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on Wednesday announced the door-to-door voter registration campaign, saying that “by blocking the access to SFJ’s voter registration websites and mobile apps, India is disenfranchising the people of Punjab”.
“We are now starting a door-to-door voter registration to ensure maximum participation of the populace in the ‘Referendum 2020’, which involves a fundamental question of secession of Punjab from India,” said Pannun, who has been designated a terrorist along with eight others by the Centre.
Earlier this month, the group had offered Rs 3,500 each as grant to woo Punjab farmers ahead of its anti-India campaign ‘Referendum-2020’. The group had announced to distribute the money on a monthly basis to each of the Punjab farmers who have defaulted on agricultural loans, as part of its strategy to woo them ahead of the ‘Referendum-2020’ campaign.
Based on the NIA’s recommendation, the Ministry of Home Affairs had in the beginning of this month also ordered the attachment of properties of the SFJ’s key leaders — Gurpatwant Singh Pannun and Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Pannun’s 46 kanals of land in Khankot village in Amritsar and 11 kanals and 13.5 marlas in Sultanwind suburban in Bhainiwal area in the same district were attached. Nijjar’s 11 kanals and 13 marlas of land in Bhar village in Jalandhar’s Singhpura was also confiscated.
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 get support.
The group has even used the Canadian cyberspace twice for launching its voter registration in Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir.
The group is headed by Avtar Singh Pannun and Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who have been advocating the cause of ‘Khalistan’ as well as the online secessionist campaign for the referendum.
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.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)