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FBI Warns More Sikh American Activists Of Death Threats
"I was told that there was a threat on my life and on a few other Sikhs, and whoever wanted to kill us would be using local gangs to make the hits."
Sept 25, 2023 | 4 min. read | Original Reporting
Two Sikh activists have spoken to Baaz, sharing that they were called by the FBI shortly after the assassination of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June and warned that there is intelligence of “threats against Sikh activists in America.”
One of those warned is Sukhwinder Singh Sidhu, a member of Sikhs for Justice in California.
“I was told that there was a threat on my life and on a few other Sikhs, and whoever wanted to kill us would be using local gangs to make the hits,” he shared.
“They told me to move to a safe location if I could and to stay away from locations where I could be easily tracked.”
The FBI also called Bobby Singh, a youth Khalistan activist from Sacramento, California, who shared similar details.
"People constantly state it’s easy to live in foreign countries to advocate for Khalistan," he shares, "It’s not. Nobody knows what people go through until they enter the battlefield."
Canada has claimed, using intelligence partly provided by Five Eye allies, including the United States, that India is behind the killing of Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, on Canadian soil.
Sikhs believe India's BJP Hindu Nationalist government has exported their persecution of and extrajudicial actions against minority communities to the diaspora, in an affront to international rules-based order.
Both Bobby Singh and Sukhwinder Singh are on a larger FBI list, they were told, and are being monitored for safety. However, they were not told where the threat was coming from other than it was related to their community advocacy work. They were also told disclosing the source of the threats may jeopardize ongoing investigations.
When asked what safety measures would be afforded to them, the FBI informed them that there was no security detail, but they could utilize their Second Amendment rights.
Both activists are involved in the organizing of the Khalistan Referendum in California, and are active members of their local Sikh community. Bobby Singh also has cordial relations with local law enforcement as he frequently organized protests and rallies with police support.
This past Saturday, The Intercept also reported that three other Sikh Americans, including Pritpal Singh of the American Sikh Caucus Committee, were either visited or called by the FBI with similar warnings.
“I was visited by two FBI special agents in late June who told me that they had received information that there was a threat against my life,” Pritpal Singh told The Intercept. “They did not tell us specifically where the threat was coming from, but they said that I should be careful.”
Sikh organizations are calling on the American government to take the safety of Sikhs seriously as Western allies of Canada begin to more vigorously scrutinize India and its far-right Hindu Nationalist government.
The Sikh Coalition, in an earlier letter to President Biden, shared details of how Sikh Americans have faced foreign interference in the US.
“The Sikh Coalition has also received reports from individuals in the United States receiving threatening messages after attending peaceful protests critical of the Indian government. We are also aware of instances of Indian government agents stopping individuals arbitrarily and with false charges to elicit information about Sikh communities in the United States. And finally, we have been notified of situations in which individuals in the United States who have expressed criticism of the Indian government have had their family members in India face harassment at the hands of Indian authorities.”
The organization goes on to urge President Biden to “take further action to assure Sikhs, Muslims, and other Indian diaspora religious minorities in the United States are safe from similar acts by foreign actors.”
US Secretary of State Blinken did share in a press conference regarding Nijjar’s assassination that the American government is “extremely vigilant about any instances of alleged transnational repression, [and is] something we take very, very seriously.”
But the California Sikh Youth Alliance (CSYA) believes America can do a lot more.
“Recent revelations serve to substantiate and highlight the necessity for increased protections for Sikh activists in the United States,” they told Baaz in a statement.
“While we appreciate the FBI’s steps to ensure our safety, we call for wider protections against foreign interference,” they added, calling on American authorities to disrupt “India’s spy networks” and reframe America’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.
“For far too long, Canada & the U.S. have overlooked the livelihoods of their Sikh constituents, in order to further geo-political ambitions," they added.
America has taken a stronger position against India in the days after Prime Minister Trudeau’s explosive speech accusing India of violating Canada’s sovereignty. The New York Times reported that India's actions "shocked" American officials as a democracy assassinating a citizen of another democracy is unheard of, putting Modi in the company of other autocratic leaders instead.
Sikh Americans wait and see if that means real repercussions for India and a stop to foreign interference. Nonetheless, Bobby Singh remains defiant.
“I believe in the Shaheedi concept. No matter how many revolutionaries die, the revolution continues."
Jaskaran Sandhu hails from Brampton, Canada, and is the co-founder of Baaz. He is a Strategist at the public affairs and relations agency State Strategy. Jaskaran also previously served as Executive Director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada and as a Senior Advisor to Brampton’s Office of the Mayor. You can find Jaskaran on Twitter at @JaskaranSandhu_
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