Evidence gathered from social media secures conviction in Khalistani case

India collects evidence from WhatsApp and Facebook servers in the U.S.

July 12, 2019 09:31 pm | Updated 09:31 pm IST - New Delhi

File photo shows apps for WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and other social networks on a smartphone in Chennai.

File photo shows apps for WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and other social networks on a smartphone in Chennai.

India got help from WhatsApp and Facebook servers in the U.S. to secure conviction in a 2018 Khalistani terror case.

Security agencies have been asked to focus on cases involving Khalistani elements as India seeks to restrict the movement of suspects based in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Australia involved in the conspiracy.

“The convictions by courts can help us build our case against these pro-Khalistani groups and convince countries to choke their funds and restrict their movement,” said a senior government official.

Security agencies have raised concerns on Pakistan using the yet-to-be-inaugurated Kartarpur corridor to push the Khalistani agenda from across the border.

This week, a Lucknow court convicted five men for plotting to kill former Punjab Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, whose leadership they believed was responsible for several incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in the State in 2015. They also held Mr. Badal responsible for the killing of Sikh protesters in police firing in subsequent protests.

The five men looted weapons from a police station in Uttar Pradesh on October 2 last year to kill Mr. Badal, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said.

One of the convicts Jarman Singh was part of WhatsApp groups that promoted Referendum 2020, an online campaign for Khalistan. The campaign was being advocated by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), banned by the Home Ministry on July 10. An official said SFJ was being investigated in as many as 11 cases, including one registered by the NIA in January. U.K resident Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal adviser of the SFJ, was named in the FIR.

The NIA found that Jarman Singh was “highly motivated and radicalised to the so-called cause of creation of Khalistan.” It filed a chargesheet on April 11 and within three months the trial was completed.

A chargesheet filed by the NIA on April 11 said, “Jarman was in contact with international numbers of Dubai, Australia and Canada. He was a member of a WhatsApp group by the name of Referendum 2020.”

The NIA said the accused “shared motivational songs on Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was killed in Operation Blue Star in 1984.”

“In order to have access to his chats, requests were forwarded to WhatsApp and Facebook Inc. to preserve the contents. In response to a request, Facebook and WhatsApp’s legal division preserved the accounts as well as sent some information for further investigation,” the NIA said.

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