What is the Sikhs for Justice group at the center of the Patiala clashes?

Formed in 2007, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) is a US-based separatist group that seeks to secede Punjab from India as Khalistan

Clashes erupted in Patiala, Punjab on April 29, 2022. Image: ANI

Two people, including a policeman, were injured in Patiala on Friday when two groups clashed during an “anti-Khalistan” march.

The clash took place outside the Kali Mata temple when members of a group calling themselves “Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray)” launched a “March of Khalistan Murdabad”.

Some Sikh activists, including Nihangs, staged another march against the Sena event.

Near the Kali Mata temple, the two groups came face to face and threw stones at each other.

A Sena leader said the outfit planned the march in response to the Sikhs for Justice announcement to mark “Khalistan’s founding day” on April 29.

Also Read: Punjab: Curfew imposed on Patiala after clashes erupt at anti-Khalistan rally

Sena leader Harish Singla said Gurpatwant Singh Pannun of Sikhs for Justice had announced to observe April 29 as the “Founding Day of Khalistan”.

“To respond to this, the Sena had also decided to scrap the ‘Khalistan Murdabad March’ on April 29,” he said.

What is the pro-Khalistani group?

Formed in 2007, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) is a US-based separatist group that seeks to secede Punjab from India as Khalistan.

The group was founded by Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, a law graduate from Panjab University and currently a lawyer in the United States. He is also SFJ’s legal counsel.

The group had launched a secessionist campaign, “Referendum 2020”, seeking to “liberate Punjab from Indian occupation”.

In 2018, Pakistan also allowed the SFJ to open a “Referendum 2020” office in Lahore to facilitate voter registration and provide information to Sikhs about it, according to a Times of India report.

The Indian government banned the group in 2019 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The Home Office noted: “Under the guise of the so-called Referendum for Sikhs, SFJ in effect espouses secessionism and militant ideology in Punjab, while operating from safe havens on foreign soils and actively supporting by enemy forces in other countries.”

According to a report from Indian Express, a Canadian think tank released a report accusing Pakistan of fueling the Khalistan movement in Canada.

The report mentioned Sikhs for Justice among other groups. In 2020, the government also declared Pannun a designated terrorist under UAPA and ordered the seizure of his property.

The government also banned 40 websites linked to the pro-Khalistan group in July 2020 for “a campaign to register supporters for its cause”.

With contributions from agencies

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