Pro-Khalistan hotheads now have the US administration's attentionUS-based Khalistani separatists now have the attention of the US government, and at the highest level. Author : Rakesh Behal
US-based Khalistani separatists now have the attention of the US government, and at the highest level.
"We condemn the acts of violence against the Indian Consulate in San Francisco," Jake Sullivan, the US National Security Advisor, said in a tweet on the violence at the Indian consulate in San Francisco last week.
"We are committed to the safety and security of these facilities and the diplomats who work within them. The State Department is in touch with local law enforcement on next steps to be taken in this matter," he added.
John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesperson, had expressed similar sentiments at a news briefing earlier in response to a question.
Khalistani separatists, who were behind the San Francisco attack as demonstrated by the graffiti #FreeAmritpal they left behind, could now be the target of the investigation that is underway, ending their years of operating under the radar of American security and law enforcement agencies.
The Indian government has been quietly pushing the United Stats to act against Khalistani separatists, especially after the emergence in recent years of Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, whose New York-based Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) has been behind frequent protests outside Indian missions here.
The Indian government had declared Pannu a terrorist under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 2020 along with others, saying "these individuals are involved in various acts of terrorism from foreign soil. They have been trying to revive militancy in Punjab".
India is also understood to have provided American authorities documents and materials of Pannu's involvement in these activities, with, it's also understood, evidence of his backing by the Pakistani spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence.
Khalistani separatists exist on the margins of the Sikh American community, and their numbers are understood to have been dwindling over the years. They remain active locally, but lobby for their respective lawmakers in support of nominations and appointments of members from the community.
In 2013, some of them were among the organisers of the Sikh Congressional Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, which made headlines as the first religion-based congressional caucus. The Indian government had expressed concern pointing to the presence of Khalistani separatists among the organisers and the caucus dropped out of headlines just as quickly. It has remained active, although in an extremely low-key way.
The Sikh American community lobbies for the US Congress and the administration aggressively, especially to address the issue of rising hate-crimes against members of the community, going back most prominently to the 2012 massacres at a gurdwara in Wisconsin, and general assimilation, including in US military. The Sikh Coalition and Sikh Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) lead these efforts most effectively. And they have had nothing to do with Khalistani separatists.
While operating under the radar of US authorities, the separatists had been ramping up their activities - from frequent flag burning outside the Indian embassy in Washington to defacing a statue of Mahatma Gandhi. The attack on the Indian mission in San Francisco was the most egregious of them all.