In a welcome move on Wednesday, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) banned the Pro-Khalistan Sikh fundamentalist organization, Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) under Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Officials from the Union Cabinet stated that the ban was due to the organization’s anti-national activities. The group’s primary objective is to establish an “independent and sovereign country” in Punjab. The move has been praised by Punjab CM Capt. Amarinder Singh who was quick to endorse the same.
The gazette notification by the government said, “the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) has been indulging in activities prejudicial to the internal security of India and public order and have the potential of disturbing peace and unity and integrity of the country.”
The SFJ, headed by Avtar Singh Pannun and Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, was formed in 2007 and its online support stands at nearly 2 lakh. The organization started a secessionist campaign online in 2014 called the ‘Sikh Referendum 2020’, as part of its separatist pro-Khalistan agenda. A senior official in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) which is led by Amit Shah, stated, “Present government is very clear that anything which might simmer in future needs to be contained.”
CNN News18 reported that Punjab police and the NIA are probing various cases registered against the pro-Khalistan group, SFJ. A senior MHA official stated, “In all 11 cases, investigators have found that the SFJ was providing money and logistical support to local terrorists in Punjab to carry out subversive activities.”
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh has welcomed the decision. In a press statement, he stated, “Though the outfit deserved to be treated as a terrorist organisation, the Government of India has at least taken a long-overdue stand against SFJ, which had unleashed a wave of terror in Punjab in recent years.” Amarinder Singh also expressed his dissatisfaction at the designation of the organization as “unlawful” and not as a “terrorist organization” pointing out that SFJ was overtly being backed by Pakistan’s ISI to fan sectarian flames in Punjab.
However, justifying the ban on SFJ under the unlawful activities act, MHA officials said, “As of now the activities of the SFJ fitted the definition under Section 3 and not under Schedule 1 for declaring a terror organisation. We have to keep a standard of proof since the matter will go to a tribunal.”
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh also called for the centre to take more pro-active measures to aggressively cracking down on the SFJ’s operatives and affiliates in the interest of national security. He further called out for an all out war against the organization which, according to him, poses a major threat to the very existence of the nation. He also said that SFJ’s activities went beyond being `unlawful’. In recent years SFJ had attempted to radicalise naïve and gullible youth in Punjab and to fund them to commit acts of arson and violence.
According to sources, SFJ wanted to use Kartarpur Corridor for propagating their secessionist ideology by radicalizing the pilgrims and for mobilizing terrorists. Even though Pakistan has claimed that they have also banned the SFJ, the MHA hasn’t received any communication in this regard. The countries might discuss the matter in the next Kartarpur meet scheduled for July 14.
At a time when crackdown on terrorism in Kashmir has largely rendered impotent several separatist organisations, Pakistan’s ISI intends to cause disturbances in other parts of India with Punjab as one of its prime areas of focus. India has shown pro-activeness in curbing secessionist activities by banning the SFJ and it is a welcome move appreciated by Punjab CM Capt. Amarinder Singh also. Both centre and state appear to be coordinating towards achieving the goal of crushing Pakistan’s sinister agenda. The move conveys the centre’s strict stance on separatist activities sponsored by India’s adversaries to spark flames of sectarianism in India to weaken the country. By showing little to no tolerance for such Pro-Khalistan activities, the Indian government aims to nip the problem in the bud.