Outsourcing Violence: Indian assassination plots on American soil

Outsourcing Violence: Indian assassination plots on American soil

U.S. authorities accused the Indian government of plotting to assassinate Indian political critics and activists in North America in November 2023, including Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in New York and several others in Canada.

Pannun, a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, is a key member of the Khalistan movement seeking a separate nation for Sikhs. The Indian government accuses him of terrorism, alleging acts of sedition and secessionism.

The November 2023 criminal indictment states that the Indian government ordered Nikhil Gupta, an Indian National, to attempt to kill Pannun in New York.

Alongside the indictment, an image was revealed, showing an unidentified individual, allegedly described as an Indian government employee, offering $100,000 to Gupta to arrange the assignment.

Unbeknownst to Gupta, he delegated the task to an undercover officer from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency whom he believed was a hitman.

“Finish him brother, finish him, don’t take too much time,” Gupta said. Although the indictment prioritized the assassination, Gupta mentioned that he did not want the killing to occur during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington.

While the assassination plan targeting Pannun was spotted and foiled by the U.S. government, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, another Sikh activist in Surrey, B.C., Canada, was shot dead in June 2023.

Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and long-time leader in the local Khalistan movement in Surrey, a city with one of the largest Sikh populations in Canada, was labeled a terrorist by the Indian government and called for his arrest.

Following Nijjar’s death, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused India of involvement in the killing. However, the Indian government rejected the accusation, calling it “absurd.”

“This indictment is all about Narendra – who has consistently employed violence to quell and silence dissent and criticism of his political agenda,” Pannun said in an interview with CBC News.

In response to the widely publicized indictment, the Indian government vehemently denied the accusations and vowed to conduct an investigation into the U.S. allegations. They also claimed to take the “necessary follow-up action” based on the findings of the investigation.

Pannun and Nijjar are not unique cases. Sikh activists and dissidents have received threatening messages from the Indian government indirectly in the past few years. Many of them have been advised to take precautions and “stay away from the public eyes.”

“I don’t fear physical death because the contentious issue is not the threat to my life. It is instead the existing threat to the people of Panjab,” Pannun said.