New Delhi: New Delhi Pro-Khalistani group The Sikhs for Justice was on Wednesday banned by the government for its alleged anti-national activities, officials said.
US-based The Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) pushes for Sikh Referendum 2020 as part of its separatist agenda. The group's primary objective is to establish an "independent and sovereign country" in Punjab. It openly espouses the cause of Khalistan and in that process challenges the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India, another official said. A meeting of the Union Cabinet decided to declare SFJ as outlawed under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, a home ministry official said. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh hailed the Union government's decision, saying the group deserved to be treated as a "terrorist organisation". Singh termed the move as the first step towards protecting the nation from "anti-India or secessionist designs" of the ISI-backed organisation. "Though the outfit deserved to be treated as a terrorist organisation, the government of India has at least taken a long-overdue stand against the SFJ, which had unleashed a wave of terror in Punjab in recent years," Singh said in a statement issued here.
With this step, the Centre has finally shown its much-needed intent to crack down on the organisation, which was "overtly being backed by Pakistan's ISI in its conspiratorial campaign" over 'Sikh Referendum 2020', launched in 2014, said the CM. He, however, asserted that the central government would have to take more proactive measures to aggressively crack down on SFJ and its affiliates or operatives in the interest of national security. "SFJ's activities went beyond being unlawful and posed a major threat to the very existence of our nation," said Singh. The recent years had seen blatant attempts by SFJ to radicalise, fund and motivate some poor and gullible youngsters of Punjab into committing acts of arson and violence, Singh pointed out. The outfit had also been making efforts to enlist the support of gangsters and radicals in the state and exhorting them to fight for the "liberation of Punjab" from the Indian government, he added.
The chief minister said that the Punjab Police, over the last three years, had registered several criminal cases against such youngsters as well as SFJ leaders based in various countries and working under the command of SFJ promoters, operating from US, Canada, UK, Malaysia, etc. The recovery of arms and ammunition from them has exposed a major network, spread across various south-eastern, western and even African countries, and using money transfers through hawala channels to finance the violence and illegal activities, he added. Singh further accused the SFJ of even trying to instigate Punjab Police personnel to revolt against the state government, besides issuing threats and intimidating him, the state's jails minister, and senior police officers of Punjab, including former and present DGPs. "Besides, the outfit had been targeting Sikh Army soldiers through a dedicated social media campaign and instigating them to desert the Army and work for promotion of Referendum 2020 instead," he said. Singh also mentioned the incident wherein some SFJ activists were seen wearing T-shirts of 'Referendum 2020' and waving the 'Khalistani' flag at the world cup cricket match between India and England at Edgbaston, Birmingham during the ongoing Cricket World Cup.