Sikh leader hopes US will respond to India’s plot to kill him on American soil

New York: New York-based prominent pro-Khalistan leader, denouncing India’s plot to kill him on the US soil has said the move was “a challenge to American sovereignty” with the hope that the Biden administration will respond to it.

According to Kashmir Media Service, in an exclusive interview with Time, the mass-circulation American magazine, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, said, the attempted assassination plot that has been uncovered by the FT (Financial Times), and to which the Biden administration has given its statement, is not about me anymore.

“It is a challenge to American sovereignty. It is a threat to freedom of speech and democracy in America itself. But I’ll let U.S. authorities speak more on this,” he said, insisting that he was fighting India’s violence with votes – a reference to SfJ’s referendum for independence. Pannun said he is motivated by one goal: “I wanted to pursue the right of the Sikh community to self-determination.”

The plot, which targeted Pannun, was thwarted following an intervention by the US authorities, the FT reported last Wednesday, citing multiple people familiar with the case.

“I am an American, and if somebody is trying to assassinate me, I think it is the responsibility of the Biden administration and U.S. authorities to do something,” Pannun said. “We will be watching how [the Biden administration] will react. Do they value business, or do they value democracy? Do they value human rights, or a rogue state like India, which has already proved that it will use terror and violence and that it is not a trusted partner?”

On its part, White House Spokesperson Adrienne Watson said Washington had raised the issue with the Indian government, including “at the senior-most levels”.

Pannun’s interview with TIME magazine came a day after the Indian Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, was heckled by Khalistani supporters at the Hicksville Gurdwara in Long Island, New York, on Sunday, as the Sikh independence movement picked up steam. Sandhu was at the Gurdwara for Gurpurab prayers. A video circulating on social media shows Ambassador Sandhu being confronted by Sikh worshippers accusing India of involvement in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh leader in Canada. They also accused him of plotting to kill Pannun. As the situation became tense, the Indian Ambassador beat a hasty retreat from the gurdwara. Outside the Gurdwara, protestors were seen waving Khalistani flags. Two months ago, the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Vikram Doraiswami, was barred from entering a Glasgow Gurdwara, as pro-Khalistan activists blocked his entry.

In his interview with TIME magazine, Pannun said the Indian government had put him on the most wanted terrorists’ list. “For the last three years the whole Indian narrative, backed by the Modi government, has been built on who they declared in 2019 as a terrorist,” Pannun said. “What would you consider terrorism? An act of terrorism is when you’re bombing or killing innocents, or even when you’re killing for a political goal. A political assassination is also an act of violence.”

“I’m aware of the threats to my life, which I really do not care about. But I will not respond back with violence. I will not use a bullet. I will never incite the people of Punjab who are working with me to go and take violence as the path,” he added.

Replying to a series of questions, Pannun said, “We have never been given an opportunity to present our case just because India has labeled us as terrorists. They were able to successfully kill hundreds of thousands of Sikhs in Punjab in the name of counter-insurgency. There are reports from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the U.S. Department of State in 1994, and other agencies about what transpired between 1984 to 1995.”

“But we haven’t had a peaceful and democratic resolution to the contentious issue that has never been asked since 1950: should Punjab be an independent country? Should the people of Punjab, after going through the genocidal violence, still want to be associated with the Union of India? It was never asked of the people of Punjab in 1947, nor has it ever been put up on a ballot. We are going to open this question up through the Khalistan Referendum voter registration in Punjab on January 26, 2024. So they cannot afford for me to be alive as I have achieved a narrative. I’m able to educate, and peacefully and democratically challenge India’s narrative of terror and terrorism,” Pannun said.

“The people of Punjab have a right to self-determination. They have the right to their economic resources which are being plundered by India. And nobody has done it in the past,” he added.

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