By repealing the three farm laws on the pious occasion of Guru Purab, the government has tried to give a set-back to Khalistani and Pakistani forces working to destabilise India under the garb of farmers’ protests. It has been highlighted by the Indian diaspora and Indian security establishments, the ongoing farmers’ protests were being used to threaten India’s national security and sabotage India’s foreign policy interests.

Here is a look at the grave security and foreign policy threats posed by Khalistanis and the ISI under the veil of farmers’ protests.

The then Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, during his meeting with PM Modi on 11th August, stressed that the farmers’ protests can pose a security threat to Punjab, as well as the entire country.

According to a statement issued by Punjab CMO, “Capt Singh had cautioned the Prime Minister that the farmers’ agitation had the potential of posing security threat to Punjab and the country with Pak-backed anti-India forces looking to exploit the farmers who are disgruntled with the government”.

Views of Amarinder Singh were reflected in the statement of Congress leader and Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, who had lost his grandfather and former Punjab CM Beant Singh at the hands of Khalistanis, stating that farmers’ protests were hijacked by vested interests. He urged Home Minister Amit Shah to intervene and control the situation. Speaking to The Tribune, Bittu said, “The agitation has gone out of control. My appeal to farmer leaders is to get its hold back… The situation is getting volatile as attempts are being made to exploit farmers’ protests. I urge Home Minister Amit Shah to intervene.”

READ | Sonia Gandhi reacts on farm laws repeal decision, says ‘truth, justice and non-violence have won’

Legal luminary Harish Salve during a hearing on farmers protests in the Supreme Court stated that Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) was involved in the protests. Representing a petitioner, he said on 11th January 2021 “There must be an assurance that peace is being threatened by a large group of people. Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a Vancouver based organization has put up posters that Rs. 10,000 will be paid to anyone who joins the protest.”

The same arguments were reiterated by Attorney General KK Venugopal in the Supreme Court in January 2021 itself. When the Bench headed by CJI SA Bobde enquired about the charges by one of the parties that Sikhs for Justice was behind the protests, Venugopal said, “These kinds of protests can be dangerous. We have said that Khalistanis have infiltrated the farmers’ protest. We can file an affidavit by tomorrow, along with the report of the intelligence bureau.”

The anti-India sentiments of protestors were reflected on 25th September, when a convoy of the Indian Army was blocked by ‘farmers’ and pro-Khalistan slogans were raised during a protest by farmer outfits in Ambala. Hundreds of farmers had gathered in Ambala on the Bharat Bandh call given jointly by over 30 protesting organisations. Several senior officials under heavy police force in riot gear took a long time and efforts to take the convoy out.

The Indian diaspora members have been cautioning Indian authorities of Khalistani elements trying to launch something like the farmers’ protests since the second half of 2020. The Khalistani elements were mobilising resources and had intensified their activities, as intelligence reports suggested that several online and offline meetings, bike rallies, and car rallies were organised by Khalistani elements across the world. According to media reports, SFJ’s Pannun had started to crowdfund and make money for himself in the name of farmers’ protests. These groups organised several events in Canada, the US, the UK, and Germany to exploit the current sentiment in Punjab, just before the beginning of farmers’ protests. 

The Indian diaspora has been clearly seeing the role of anti-India elements in farm protests since its beginning. Indo-Canadian organisations worked relentlessly to expose the Khalistani and ISI angle in the protests. In February 2021, around 350 vehicles of Indo-Canadians participated in a “tiranga rally” in Vancouver in support of the Indian government. It was also in opposition to the blockade carried out by Khalistani protesters on Republic Day. The participants of the rally were physically attacked by Khalistanis. 

The rally was in response to the Khalistani rally on Indian Republic Day, where Khalistan flags had been hurled. One of the main organisers was Mo Dhaliwal, founder of Poetic Justice Foundation, who was behind the Toolkit controversy. The Poetic Justice Foundation is recognised for its links with Pakistani ISI. 

According to a video, Dhaliwal had said in his hate speech delivered in front of the Indian Consulate on 26 January, “You have to understand the feeling and the emotion that the Khalistan movement is bringing to this. I want people to hear this. The reason why the Khalistani people are so passionate about this is that 40-50 years later, we’re seeing the truth that they predicted in the 1970s. In the 1970s, they wanted an independent land, so that we wouldn’t have to live through this movement.”

Similar developments also took place in the US. India reached out to the US in connection with the probe against the ISI backed Sikhs for Justice. The SJF is renowned for its anti-India propaganda activities and since the beginning of the farmer protests, it had been putting up posts on social media to incite violence. The government of India issued a Mutual Legal Assistance Request to the US for investigation into the matter of the SFJ’s Referendum 2020. It is pertinent to note that SJF’s leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun had announced a reward for anyone hoisting the Khalistanis flag on Red Fort on Republic Day.

Pannun also tried to equate the farmer protests to the Sikh riots. While instigating the Sikhs to pick up weapons and fight, the SJF chief also promised to give foreign citizenship to the protesters. The law is with you and if the Indian government points a finger at you then you and your families will be brought to foreign countries under the laws of the United Nations, Pannu the head of the terrorist organisation also said.

On 3rd February 2021, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi asked a question in the House of Commons and peddled that “UK made weapons may be used in repressing the ongoing farmers protests in India.” He urged the House to disengage defence deals with India. 

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and Preet Kaur Gill came under scanner for her alleged links with Sikh extremists. Both of them had also sponsored a letter amongst the legislators to attack India over farmers’ protests and urge the UK government to take action.

Sikh Federation UK had started a signature campaign to demand the UK government to pressurise the Indian government on farmers’ protests.

Similar stance was taken by alleged  Khalistani sympathisers Jagmeet Singh and Harjeet Singh Sajjan in Canada. 

The worst scenes were seen outside London where Khalistani and Pakistani protesters gathered together on 15th August and held a ‘Black Day’ protest outside the Indian High commission in London. Pro Khalistani slogans were raised along with demands for ‘free Kashmir’. Sikh for Justice and Pakistani High Commission in London were the main organisers of the event. During the rally, anti-India elements carried banners reading free Yasin Malik and displayed the posters of terrorist Burhan Wani. The crowd was so violent that local police had to provide special protection to the Indian High Commission. 

Previously, in december 2020, London police gave full force giving protection to the Indian High Commission as Khalistanis and Pakistanis gathered outside it in support of farmers’ protests. The protestors raised anti-India slogans. This was one of the several rallies organised jointly by SFJ and Pak-origin Brits.

A similar development was highlighted by UK based Sukhi Chahal, who also happens to be the Chairman of Punjab Foundation. He tweeted – “Shameless Pro-Khalistani, US-based secessionist organization called ‘Sikhs for Justice’ of Fake ‘Referendum2020’ thugs trying to hijack and exploit the California Sangat Sponsored peaceful #FarmerProtest #Tractor2Twitter car rally in front of Consulate General of India, San Francisco, California on Dec 5th. Hope the #kisanandolan unions issues a press releasepress release strongly condemning these Fake Khalistani’s Anti-Sikhi cheap publicity act to connect #FarmersProtest with their #Khalistani Dukandari.”

It is important to note that intelligence reports had highlighted in September 2020 that the disinformation networks of the SFJ became active in September 2020 during the ‘rail roko’ campaign. There were reports of two websites being created to mobilize farmers and Pannu even announced one million US dollars to indebted farmers in Punjab and Haryana. The amounts were to be transferred in the first week of October but no such transfers took place. 
 
In December 2020, Maharashtra Cyber Cell had revealed that 12,800 posts have posted on social media in the last fifteen days on the Khalistan topic and over 6,000 on Bhindranwale. An umpteen number of inactive accounts were also activated. 

A look at the literature and art around the protesting sites in NCR could directly reveal the Khalistani connections with the protests. In July, several users shared the photograph of  a banner had a quote in Punjabi that read, “Aaj hunda Bhindranwala je, Modi nu gal ton phad lainda” that means “If Bhindranwale had been here, he would have held Modi by the neck”.

Similarly, radical protesters were seen issuing an open threat to PM Modi at one of the protest sites. An alleged farmer was heard saying, “December 3 ko meeting hai, agar hal koi hua toh thik hai nahin toh…aap jaante nahin…hamare shaheed Udham Singh ne goro ko Canada me jake thoka…Indira thok di…Modi ki chhati mein…”(If no solution is reached at in the December 3 meeting, you don’t know, our Shaheed Udham Singh shot the colonisers in Canada. Indira Gandhi was taken down. Similarly, in Modi’s chest…”).

T-shirts with Bhindranwale’s prints and Khalistani music dominated the farmers’ protest sites along the NCR borders.  

Several Indian agencies are parallely probing numerous cases of money laundering by Khalistani elements to fund the farmers’ protests in India. In february 2021, ​​the media reported that inputs were generated by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) which examined over 20,000 accounts. It had also a suspicious transaction report (STR) with NIA which then shortlisted the names.

Citing top NIA sources, the media reported that generated abnormalities in banking transactions in the past three-four months were observed. While several accounts have been reportedly collecting money in the name of farmers’ protests in the West, the NIA officials were also examining fund collection in Denmark and Sweden. Moreover, a couple of countries were also asked for information about crowdfunding websites.

According to an FIR by the NIA, a huge sum of money has been collected for on-ground campaigns and ‘propaganda’ against the Indian government. The cyber-crime cell of the Delhi Police on Thursday registered an FIR on charges of “sedition”, “criminal conspiracy” and “promoting hatred” against the creators of a ‘toolkit’ on farmer protests.

(The opinions expressed by the author are his own)





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