Wednesday, December 06, 2023
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UK PM Rishi Sunak asked to come clean on risks posed to Sikh activists

Sikhs asking questions to PM Sunak after Avtar Singh Khanda's mysterious death in UK, three days before Nijjar's assassination

Britains Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak attends a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London, Britain March 3, 2021. — Reuters
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak attends a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London, Britain March 3, 2021. — Reuters  

LONDON: The Sikh Federation UK has called upon Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to come clean on the serious risks posed by the Indian state agents to Sikh activists in the country

The calls grew amid a judge-led inquiry into the mysterious death of pro-Khalistan activist Avtar Singh Khanda on the back of planned and actual assassinations of Sikh activists in Canada and the United States.

Sikhs have been asking questions to Rishi Sunak after the sudden and mysterious death of 35-year-old Avtar Singh Khanda on June 15 this year in Birmingham, three days before the assassination of Canadian Sikh leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil. 

The Guardian this week published an investigation questioning the role of local police and revealing that the Indian state had kidnapped the sister and mother of Khanda in India days and hours before his sudden death and threatened him on the phone.

Sikh Federation said: “It is now clear the West Midlands Police, who are in special measures, did not carry out a proper investigation by looking into death threats Avtar Singh Khanda was receiving from serving Indian police officers and neglected to conduct any interviews or trace his movements leading up to his death. Avtar Singh Khanda released a video in April, exactly two months before he died giving details of pressure being exerted on him and threats and harassment of his family in India by Indian police over a four-day period. He specifically mentioned the direct threats and harassment of numerous members of his family by Rupinder Kaur Bhattti, the additional deputy commissioner of police in Ludhiana who was telephoning him in the UK. GCHQ will have a record of such calls and threats and must have informed British intelligence.

“The bungled and incomplete investigation by the West Midlands Police indicates they had no basis to conclude there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Avtar Singh Khanda. The backtracking by the West Midlands Police and recent revelations from the US and Canada raise serious questions about the senior coroner’s decision not to order an autopsy into the mysterious death of Avtar Singh Khanda. The senior coroner should not simply have relied on the sub-standard West Midlands Police investigation," it added. 

“The incompetence of West Midlands Police is also highly embarrassing for Home Office and FCDO Ministers. In recent responses to over 100 MPs who have written to raise concerns on behalf of Sikh constituents about the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and the mysterious death of Avtar Singh Khanda, they have categorically stated reliance on the ‘thorough’ investigation by the West Midlands Police.

“The situation demands an inquest into Avtar Singh Khanda’s mysterious death that will almost certainly need to become a judge-led inquiry into his death. Only a judge-led inquiry will be able to get to examine the failings of the police, coroner and British intelligence, especially on the back of planned and actual assassinations of Sikh activists in Canada and the US," said the federation. 

The Sikh Federation said that an Indian RAW intelligence officer, understood to be a former Indian police officer was expelled from the UK in the summer at the request of British intelligence. This came before Canadian PM Justin Trudeau made allegations in the Canadian Parliament on September 18 and expelled the head of RAW in Canada.

It said: “What is not clear is what activities was the Indian RAW intelligence officer or ex-police officer carrying out in the UK for which he was expelled in the Summer and why did India not respond in a tit-for-tat move as they did with Canada. Was this the penalty the Indian authorities accepted for targeting Avtar Singh Khanda, the illegal activities of India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the UK and putting out a “hit list” of 20 Sikh activists living abroad, including up to seven from the UK on Indian television in July. Following Justin Trudeau’s revelations British intelligence officers no doubt fed by relevant communications gathered by GCHQ started telling journalists and others there was foul play involved in the mysterious death of Avtar Singh Khanda.

“However, it appears Rishi Sunak and his ministers have silenced British intelligence as they have no political appetite for exposing wrongdoing by the Indian authorities against Sikh activists on UK soil. It is clear Rishi Sunak and his ministers are far more interested in appeasing the Indian government to help with a trade deal by demonising Sikh activists in the UK by calling them extremists, although they have presented no evidence to back this up.”

The Sikh Federation said that India’s spy chief taking instructions from Modi was behind the assassination campaign.

It said: “There is increasing speculation that the US indictment released last week that refers to the role of CC-1, Nikhil Gupta’s co-accused was taking direct instructions from Ajit Doval, India’s National Security Adviser who reports directly to Narendra Modi. The Five Eyes nations will know the identity of CC-1 and who he reports to. This may explain India’s reluctance to take action despite pressure from the Canadian and US administrations that has led to expulsions of Indian RAW intelligence officers from the US, Canada and the UK in recent months. Over 350 Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations wrote an open letter to Rishi Sunak on 24 April 2023 raising many concerns about ignoring Sikhs and the demonisation of Sikh activists in the UK to appease India. A follow-up letter was sent on 19 June 2023 following the mysterious death of Avtar Singh Khanda and the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

“Rishi Sunak has yet to respond to the range of issues raised, including why as PM he went out of his way to meet Ajit Doval on 4 February 2023 but has not offered the same courtesy to the National Security Advisers from the US and Canada (close allies of Britain) who might have told him to be careful who he meets and assassination plots involving Ajit Doval. Rishi Sunak has shown his total incompetence by completely avoiding the issue of the safety and security of Sikh activists in the UK at PMQs last week.”