New Delhi: In a move to prevent anti-national activities, the government has banned the pro-Khalistan outfit, The Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), and declared the group an “unlawful association” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. “(SFJ) is in close touch with the militant outfits 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”.
The US-based secessionist party pushes for Sikh Referendum 2020 as part of its separatist agenda and has its top leadership base in US, UK and Canada. 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, an official said.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh supporting the Union government's decision, said 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.
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.
SFJ is known to be radicalising Sikh youngsters by distorting reality, fanning communal hatred and promoting secessionism in the garb of an unofficial referendum for self-determination of Sikhs. SFJ plans to hold the referendum in November 2020 across India and other countries with a notable Sikh diaspora. Home Ministry sources said the ban on SFJ will strengthen India's case for cooperation from US, UK etc in cracking down on its activities abroad. Ahead of Republic Day this year, SFJ gave calls to Sikhs in the US and Canada to “burn the Tricolour”.