India is facing growing international criticism and pressure over its alleged involvement in a series of assassination attempts against Sikh separatist leaders in the West.
The latest incident occurred on November 15, 2023, when Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a prominent Sikh activist and lawyer based in the U.S., survived a shooting attack outside his home in New York. Pannun is the legal adviser of Sikhs for Justice, a banned group that advocates for the creation of Khalistan, a separate homeland for Sikhs in India.
The U.S. authorities said they had arrested two suspects, who confessed to being hired by the Indian intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), to kill Pannun. The U.S. State Department said it had raised concerns with India about the reports of the assassination plot and urged it to respect human rights and the rule of law.
This was not the first time that India was accused of targeting Sikh separatists in the West. In June 2023, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, another Sikh activist and Canadian citizen, was gunned down outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed that Indian agents were behind the killing and demanded an apology from India.
India has also cracked down on the supporters of Khalistan within the country, banning several groups and arresting dozens of activists on charges of sedition and terrorism. India has also sought the extradition of some Sikh leaders from the West, but has faced legal and diplomatic hurdles.
The issue of Sikh separatism has strained India’s relations with some of its key allies, such as the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., where large Sikh diaspora communities reside. The Sikh activists have also used the platforms of these countries to voice their grievances and demands, and to mobilize support for their cause.
The tension between India and the Sikh separatists has also sparked fears of a resurgence of violence in Punjab, which has been relatively peaceful in recent years. Some analysts have warned that India’s heavy-handed approach could alienate the Sikh population and fuel radicalization among the youth.
The Sikh separatists, on the other hand, have vowed to continue their struggle for self-determination and justice, and to expose India’s alleged human rights violations and atrocities against the Sikh community.