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Govt bans ‘unlawful’ pro-Khalistani group

The Centre on Wednesday banned Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a US-based pro-Khalistan group, for its alleged anti-national and subversive activities in Punjab and elsewhere.

The decision to ban the SFJ, which has been pushing for ‘Sikh Referendum 2020’ as part of its secessionist agenda, as an “unlawful association” was taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet.

The outfit was declared outlawed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act), 1967. “[SFJ] is in close touch with the militant outfits and activists and is supporting a violent form of extremism and militancy in Punjab and elsewhere to carve out Khalistan out of the territory of India,” a Union home ministry notification said. Officials said the ban has been slapped in consultation with state governments, including Punjab, after intelligence agencies raised a red flag about its “subversive activities and support to militancy”.

Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh welcomed the ban. He said SFJ deserved to be treated as a “terrorist organisation”. Singh termed the move as the first step towards protecting the nation from secessionist designs of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)-backed organisation.

“SFJ’s activities went beyond being unlawful and posed a major threat to the very existence of our nation. The central government will have to take more proactive measures to aggressively crackdown on it and its affiliates or operatives,” Amarinder said in a statement.

The SFJ has maintained that Sikh rights are not protected in India. It started in 2007 as a human rights advocacy group with its legal adviser, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, as the most vocal member. The group emerged as the face of the separatist campaign in a few years. The ISI allegedly funds and promotes its ‘Sikh Referendum 2020’ campaign, which was launched in 2014 through a clandestine operation code-named ‘Express’, according to security agencies.

The SFJ began by running an online campaign and putting up posters in Pakistan and several European countries. The Punjab police have registered half-a-dozen criminal cases against the SFJ leaders and operatives abroad and their supporters in the state for targeting rightwing leaders over the last three years.

First Published:
Jul 11, 2019 00:26 IST

Source: HindustanTimes