Weekly The Generation, Year 1, Issue 16
December 19, 2023
An American Sikh who was the target of an alleged assassination plot arranged by an Indian government official has said he is still getting hundreds of threats a day, even as India has claimed it is investigating the murder-for-hire conspiracy.
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a New York-based lawyer, said the threats on social media and other forums have continued unabated since the Department of Justice alleged that an unnamed Indian government official with ties to intelligence – known as CC-1 in a US indictment – arranged to kill the Sikh activist on US soil. CC-1 also appears to have played a role in the murder of another activist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in Canada last June.
“They want me dead. I know that because I am organizing a Khalistan referendum to liberate Punjab from the Indian occupation,” Pannun said in a phone interview. In some cases, Pannun said he is being compared on social media posts with the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in an airstrike ordered by the White House under Donald Trump in 2020.
“They are saying if the US can kill him, why can’t India kill me?” Pannun said.
The 56-year-old activist, who was born in Punjab but moved to the US and became an attorney, was listed as a terrorist by India in 2020 for allegedly challenging India’s domestic security.
In the US he is leading calls for the creation of a separate Sikh state known as Khalistan and is organizing a symbolic referendum to be held in California next month for Sikh voters. He has worked closely in the past with other Sikh activists, including Avtar Singh Khanda, a UK-based Sikh activist who died after a sudden and brief illness at the same time as Indian authorities were allegedly plotting to kill Pannun and murdered Nijjar.
Panuun also points to earlier threats against him that were made inside the Indian parliament, including by an MP who reportedly called for a “surgical strike” against the American activist.
Weeks after the US unveiled details of the alleged murder plot – which was foiled by undercover law enforcement agents – interviews with other Sikh activists have revealed a continued sense of unease about their safety and worries that India will not ultimately be held accountable for waging a campaign of transnational repression.
Last week, a group of Indian American members of Congress, who include influential supports of US president Joe Biden, released a statement condemning the alleged Indian murder plot, which they called “deeply concerning”, and said they welcomed India’s recent announcement that it would establish a committee of enquiry into the matter. “It is critical that India fully investigate, hold those responsible, including Indian government officials, accountable, and provide assurances that this will not happen again,” they said. Any failure to act could risk “significant damage” to the US-India relationship.
In a response to the statement by Ami Bera, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Shri Thanedar, representatives of American Sikh Gurdwaras and other community activists said they believed the lawmakers needed to show greater solidarity with Sikh Americans, who had not explicitly been named in the congressional statement.
Citing the “suspicious” death of Khanda, the murder of Nijjar and the attempted murder of Pannun, they added: “[These] are not isolated incidents. They are part of a disturbing pattern – an international assassination program directed at Sikhs. We urge you to recognize that these acts of violence are not a bug; they are a deliberate feature and pattern of Indian foreign policy.”
Source: The Guardian