NIA summons farmer leader, TV journalist in fresh case against Sikhs for Justice

40 persons to be examined in the case.

January 16, 2021 06:36 pm | Updated 10:34 pm IST - New Delhi

A view of National Investigation Agency (NIA), in New Delhi. File

A view of National Investigation Agency (NIA), in New Delhi. File

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has summoned around 40 persons to be examined as ‘witnesses’ in a fresh case registered against the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a foreign-based group that advocates secessionist and pro-Khalistani activities in India.

A senior government official said the summons were served to “ascertain details relating to the investigation”. The notices sent on January 15 include those sent to a farm leader, a TV journalist, a cable TV operator, tourist bus owner, an actor, a sweet shop owner and other businessmen, who have been asked to appear at the NIA’s Delhi headquarters from January 18-21.

Also read | NIA files charge sheet against 10 persons for supporting Sikhs For Justice

The notices have been issued under Section 160 Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)-Police officer’s power to require attendance of witnesses in FIR no 40/2020 under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

When asked that some farmer leaders engaged in a dialogue with the Centre have also received summons, the official said, “They need to be examined as witnesses to ascertain details of the investigation. A number of people have been called and we are not aware about their profession or they are involved in farmers agitation or if they are engaged in dialogue with the government.”

Last week, the Supreme Court had suspended the implementation of the three farm laws until further notice and appointed a committee to resolve the issue. The farmers’ unions have so far held nine rounds of discussions with two Union Ministers — Narendra Singh Tomar and Piyush Goyal — that have remained inconclusive. The leaders raised the issue of various government agencies sending notices to people associated with the agitation with the Ministers.

Also read | India blocks 40 websites of Sikhs For Justice

The Hindu spoke to some of the persons summoned by the NIA.

Jasveer Singh Muktsar, a journalist with the U.K.-based TV channel KTV who has been covering the protests at Delhi border said, “I have been asked to appear before the NIA on January 18. I shall be going there with my legal team. I do not know why I have been summoned. I am a journalist covering the protest.”

Nobeljit Singh, a clothes shop owner from Hoshiarpur who has also been asked to appear on January 18, said. “I have been at the forefront to protest against the three black laws — whether it was staging a sit-in at toll plazas or protesting against BJP leaders. I have also been to Singhu border and the NIA notice reflects the Centre’s oppressive policies.”

Also read | NIA files charge sheet against 16 foreign-based ‘Khalistanis’

Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu, who campaigned for BJP’s Sunny Deol in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha constituency during the 2019 general elections has been summoned to appear on Sunday.

Ranjit Singh of the Damdami Taksal, Amritsar, said he and his friends have organised several langars (food stalls) at Tikri and Singhu border and also distributed books and other items there. “I and 16-17 other young leaders have also received notices. We have no connection with the SFJ. This is a ploy to implicate us in a false case. I agree that we accept donations to organise langars but that is from friends and known people. We returned from Delhi only last week,” he said.

Pardeep Singh, a dairy farm owner from Ludhiana, said he was among the first lot to reach Delhi’s border on November 26 and stayed there for a month. “I paid from my own pocket to participate in the protest. In Punjab all villages have families living in foreign countries and they might be sending money. Is it a crime? While no action is taken against BJP leaders for giving hate speeches, minority communities are targeted. We have a right to protest peacefully. Our actions did not lead to any violence. Then why summons under UAPA?” He said he received the summons on WhatsApp and will appear before the agency on Sunday.

Also read | After Punjab CM asks, Google removes ‘Sikh Referendum’ app from Play Store

The NIA registered a fresh case against the SFJ on December 15 where it alleged that large amounts of funds being collected by Khalistani terrorist outfits are being sent through NGOs to pro-Khalistani elements based in India. The FIR said designated terrorists such as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Paramjeet Singh Pamma, Hardeep Singh Nijjar and others spearheaded campaigns to collect huge funds for on-ground campaign and propaganda against the government of India that includes staging demonstrations against Indian missions in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Germany.

The SFJ was first banned in 2019 by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and on government’s request Twitter had taken down the account of Pannun. In the past five years, 14 cases have been registered against the SFJ where more than 40 people have been arrested.

Farmers from Punjab and Haryana have been leading the protest against the three farm laws passed by the Modi government in September. Large groups of farmers and their families have been sitting in protest at Delhi’s border since November 26.

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