Canada silent on NIA pleas on Khalistani elements

“The wanted accused have been masterminding killings and terror activities in Punjab and other parts of the country, in conspiracy with the local gangsters and their men,” a senior government official said.

June 23, 2023 11:44 pm | Updated June 24, 2023 09:09 am IST - NEW DELHI

The National Investigation Agency headquarters in New Delhi

The National Investigation Agency headquarters in New Delhi | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Several requests from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for the extradition and deportation of terrorist operatives and pro-Khalistan elements, who are wanted for their alleged involvement in cases of terrorism, murder and other related offences, are pending with the Canadian authorities, according to government officials.

Among the persons of interest is Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) member Lakhbir Singh Sandhu alias Landa (originally from Tarn Taran in Punjab), for whom the agency has announced a reward of ₹15 lakh. Recently, a close associate of Landa was arrested for allegedly carrying out the Rocket-Propelled Grenade attack on the Punjab police intelligence headquarters in Mohali in May 2022. As alleged, Deepak was involved in multiple cases of violent terrorist and criminal offences, including killings.

Landa’s aide Arshdeep Singh Gill alias Arsh Dalla, is also based in Canada and is linked to the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), whose chief Hardeep Singh Nijjar — a “designated” terrorist having connections with the banned “Sikhs For Justice (SFJ)” — was gunned down by two assailants in Surrey on June 18.

Dalla was designated as an “individual terrorist” by the Ministry of Home Affairs on January 9, 2023. In February, the NIA arrested six persons related to terrorist-gangster-drug smuggler nexus cases, including Dalla’s associate Lucky Khokhar, a resident of Bhatinda (Punjab). He had provided arms and ammunition to Dalla’s men in Punjab. The weapons were used to kill one Paramjit Singh in Jagraon (Punjab) in January.

According to the NIA, Dalla has been involved in the smuggling of arms, ammunition, explosives and improvised explosive devices from across Pakistan and inter-State borders in the country for banned outfits like BKI, Khalistan Liberation Force, and International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF).

Yet another accused wanted by the agency is Canada-based Satwinderjeet Singh alias Goldy Brar, who is an accused in the killing of Pradeep Kumar, a Dera Sacha Sauda follower, in Faridkot in November 2022. He also works for Landa.

“We have been making constant efforts to get such elements deported, but the Canadian authorities are yet to take appropriate steps in this direction. The wanted accused have been masterminding killings and terror activities in Punjab and other parts of the country, in conspiracy with the local gangsters and their men,” a senior government official said.

The official noted that both the Centre and Punjab government have held meetings at various levels to bring such elements back to the country from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Australia and other countries, for a fair trial. “In February 2018, the then Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had handed over a list of nine Khalistani operatives to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,” the official added. Those named on the list were alleged members of BKI, ISYF and KTF, including Nijjar.

“Despite repeated requests, stringent action is not being taken against elements like SFJ’s United States-based chief Gurpatwant Singh Pannun who also make attempts to create communal disharmony using social media platforms. He was booked by the NIA in December 2020, along with Nijjar and Paramjit Singh Pamma, who lives in the United Kingdom,” the official said.

Another official pointed out that earlier this month, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had criticised the Canadian government for “giving space” to extremists, separatists and those advocating violence. In response to a statement by the Canadian National Security Adviser, who had described India as one of the “top sources of foreign interference in Canada”, Mr. Jaishankar had said that if there was anyone who had a complaint, it was India.

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