New Delhi The Union Cabinet on Wednesday announced to ban Sikh fundamentalist organisation Sikhs For Justice(SFJ) under Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for its alleged anti-national activities, officials said.
Elaborating on the reasons for the ban, the gazette notification by the government said, "Whereas the Sikhs for Justice has been indulging in activities prejudicial to the internal security of India and public order and have the potential of disturbing peace and unity and integrity of the country."
The SFJ, headed by Avtar Singh Pannun and Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, was formed in 2007, but has come to prominence only in the last 5 years as it started advocating a separate Khalisatn state. It also started an online secessionist campaign, the ‘Sikh Referendum 2020’. The group's primary objective is to establish an 'independent and sovereign country' in Punjab.
Home Ministry officials said 8 to 10 people comprise the SFJ. However, it's online support is close to 2 lakh. "Present government is very clear that anything which might simmer in future needs to be contained," a senior MHA official said.
Punjab Police has registered 10 different cases against the SFJ and it's members, while the NIA is also probing the group in one case. "In all 11 cases, investigators have found that the SFJ was providing money and logistical support to local terrorists in Punjab to carry out subversive activities," a senior MHA official dealing with the matter told CNN News18.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has welcomed the ban, but also said that Punjab government would have preferred if the SFJ was labelled as a terror organisation and not just under Section 3 which makes membership of the SFJ unlawful. He termed the move as the first step towards protecting the nation from "anti-India or secessionist designs" of the ISI-backed organisation.
Explaining the decision of not labelling the SFJ as a terror organisation, MHA officials said, "As of now the activities of the SFJ fitted the definition under Section 3 and not under Schedule 1 for declaring a terror organisation. We have to keep a standard of proof since the matter will go to a tribunal."
Pakistan had, in April this year, claimed that it has also banned the SFJ. But India’s Ministry of Home Affairs said they haven't received any formal communication from Pakistan in this regard. The government's decision comes just ahead of the next meeting on Kartarpur. Indian intelligence agencies have warned that Sikh fundamental organisations like SFJ plan to use the Kartarpur corridor to further their secessionist agenda by radicalising pilgrims who travel to Pakistan.