The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has, so far, questioned 12 people in connection with its Khalistani funding case and claims that the investigation is not linked to the ongoing farmer agitation.
The agency said a total of 45 people have been summoned and they are "from all walks of life." However, most of those who have been questioned or sent notices claim they are associated in some way with the current agitation.
The NIA also said that those being questioned are not being treated as accused. "We usually carry out searches on the premises of accused before summoning them. None of the people who have been summoned in this case were raided. They were all given notices under Section 160 of the CrPC to appear as witness," a top officer of NIA told CNN-News18.
He, however, added that if the investigating officer at a later stage of investigation feels that the person summoned should be treated as an accused, then a call on the matter can be taken at the time.
The NIA has also countered allegations of intimidation. "Ask all those who have appeared if anyone misbehaved with them? Whoever sought time to appear has also been given time," another NIA officer said.
On Sunday, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)'s Sukhbir Singh Badal had said the NIA summons were the government’s tactics to intimidate agitating farmers. “Strongly condemn Centre's attempts to intimidate farmer leaders and supporters of Kisan Andolan by calling them for questioning by NIA and ED. They aren't anti-nationals. And after failure of talks for the 9th time, it's absolutely clear that GOI is only trying to tire out farmers,” Sukhbir Singh Badal said in a tweet.
Jasveer Singh Muktsar, one of the journalists summoned, wrote on Twitter that he had informed the NIA that due to a family matter, he would not be able to attend hearing on Tuesday, adding that it has now been postponed.
Update on NIA noticeI explained NIA that due family matter I will not be able to attend hearing on 18/01/2021. NIA has postponed hearing to future date. Thanks for your support. 🙏 #FarmersProtest pic.twitter.com/k9rzvfp7pt— JasveerSingh Muktsar (@jasveermuktsar) January 17, 2021
Non-government organisation Khalsa Aid said three persons from their group have been called for questioning. Another Ludhiana-based NGO, Manukhta di Sewa, has also received summons. Others who have been sent notices include Gurcharan Singh of Jarikpur village near Rajpura, Tajinder Singh Randhawa of Amritsar and Gurinder Singh of Mohali -- all of them working for web-based news portals -- and Jang Singh from Ludhiana. Social worker Gurpreet Singh ‘Mintu malwa' of Jagraon has also been summoned.
The NIA is investigating allegations of funding by Khalistani secessionist groups like ‘Sikh for Justice’ (SFJ) through various NGOs to carry out anti-India activities. Summons have been sent to several individuals associated with the ongoing farmer protests.
Khalsa Aid said the question of receiving foreign funding does not arise as it does not have FCRA clearance. "One of our trustees appeared before the NIA on Friday, the director of Khalsa Aid, and one more person will appear next week. We have nothing to hide. We have told NIA that our bank accounts, our social media handles everything is open for scrutiny," a spokesperson told CNN-News18.
The organisation has been organising langar, washrooms and other facilities at the Singhu border, one of the sites of anti-farm laws stir. "We have set up washing machines, foot massagers, more than 100 bathrooms, provided truckloads of mineral water bottles and also food at langars. All of this have comr from Indian donations only," Amarpreet Singh of Khalsa Aid told CNN-News18.
NIA officials said that if those summoned can prove to the satisfaction of the investigating officer that the money in their account is actually donation received then they should have nothing to worry. "We have come across cases where money is coming to accounts from abroad and in minutes it is being forwarded into someone else's account. If this is genuine remittance from family, why is it being forwarded? If it is donation we need to find out if the person donating has the kind of income to donate such large amounts," an official said.
Inputs from the Intelligence Bureau have also said that SFJ was routing crores of money to the farmers’ protests.
The NIA has, meanwhile, has turned its headquarters at the CGO complex in Delhi into a fortress with police barricading the road leading up to the office. Movement towards the NIA office was restricted even as many of those summoned, mainly from Punjab, went in to meet officers.