New Delhi: The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor on 9 November may symbolise a rare gesture of peace in the history of two warring neighbours, but there is also a growing concern in India that the route may be misused by pro-Khalistan outfits in Pakistan to revive militancy in Punjab.
The Narendra Modi government in July had given a dossier to Pakistan, naming people who promote pro-Khalistan and anti-India activities, and asked it to keep a check on them to ensure that the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor goes smoothly.
Following this, pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla was removed from Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC). He was, however, replaced by Ameer Singh, who is also considered to be a pro-Khalistan leader.
According to intelligence agencies, apart from Chawla, there are other pro-Khalistan leaders in Pakistan, who have emerged as “threats” as they are attempting to revive the Khalistan movement. ThePrint takes a look at the leaders who are on the radar of Indian investigating agencies.
Gurjit Singh Cheema
Considered one of the most “active” handlers of alleged Khalistani terrorists, Cheema is associated with the Pakistan-based International Sikh Youth Federation, which has been banned by India, and has been on the radar of Indian investigating agencies for years.
Cheema is also an accused in the targeted killings of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Shiv Sena leaders in Punjab in 2016-17.
In 2018, Cheema also figured in the nine-member list of Khalistani terrorists that Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh handed over to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
According to intelligence sources, he has been involved with recruiting and training youngsters from Punjab in India for the ‘Referendum 2020’ campaign.
‘Referendum 2020’ is a campaign by separatist Sikhs for the creation of Khalistan.
In July 2016, Cheema allegedly transferred money to one Sukhmanpreet Singh to help him set up a module in Punjab. He is also said to be closely associated with Lakhbir Singh Rode, nephew of slain terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and brother of former Akal Takht Jathedar (leader) Jasbir Singh Rode.
After a request to Interpol, a red corner notice has also been issued against Cheema this year.
Harmeet Singh alias PhD
Harmeet Singh leads the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), which has also been banned by India, and is on the Interpol’s list of most-wanted.
He is one of the main conspirators in the killings of socio-religious leaders, including RSS’ Punjab vice-president Brigadier (retired) Jagdish Gagneja and member Ravinder Gosain in Ludhiana, between October 2016 and December 2017.
According to a charge sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the day-to-day coordination of the conspiracy to eliminate the RSS leaders was done by Harmeet Singh. The NIA said the plan was part of a conspiracy to destabilise Punjab.
Harmeet Singh is also an accused in the attack on Shiv Sena leader Amit Arora in Ludhiana in February 2016. He was named in the NIA charge sheet in the case.
Ranjeet Singh alias Neeta
Ranjeet Singh is the president of banned organisation Khalistan Zindabad Force. He used to operate in Jammu and Pathankot.
Ranjeet Singh is believed to have links with terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
According to the intelligence agencies, Ranjeet Singh has been arrested twice — once while attempting to detonate a bomb at Gurudwara Tall Sahib in Jammu in 1990 and another in Mumbai in September 1993.
Ranjeet Singh had escaped from police custody in 1995 and went to Nepal before leaving for Pakistan.
According to the intelligence agencies, he has been involved in the shipping of arms and ammunition to Khalistani terrorists in India.
In September this year, Punjab Police had arrested four men who were allegedly planning terror strikes in the state and had recovered five AK-47 rifles, pistols, satellite phones and hand grenades from their possession.
The investigation into the case revealed that the module was backed by Ranjeet Singh, who had allegedly successfully re-organised their terrorist group to revive militancy in Punjab.
According to police, Ranjeet Singh with the help of sleeper cells had radicalised and recruited local members to make the module operational. The weapons, police had said, were delivered from across the border using drones.
According to data available with the South Asian Terror Portal (SATP), Ranjeet Singh has been allegedly involved in a series of terror cases, including the Jhelum Express blast (Ambala, Punjab) in December 1996, bus explosions in Pathankot, Punjab, in April and June 1997, Shalimar Express blast (Jammu) in June 1998, Sealdah Express blast (Jammu) in February 2000, Pooja Express explosion (Jammu) in January 2000 and blast in a bus at Sirhind, Punjab, in March 2000.
Wadhwa Singh is the chief of banned outfit Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) and was allegedly involved in the 2007 Shingar Cinema blast in Ludhiana, Punjab.
He had also allegedly supervised the assassination of late Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in 1995.
According to intelligence agencies, there have been strong inputs of BKI’s presence in Punjab. A source in the NIA told ThePrint that the organisation is being funded by the ISI.
The source also revealed that the organisation has been involved in recruiting youngsters from Punjab. A red corner notice has also been issued against Wadhwa Singh by Interpol on India’s request.
According to a source in the security establishment, a fund-collection drive was undertaken by the BKI in August 2001 on the direction of Wadhwa Singh to allegedly facilitate terrorist activities in India.
Wadhwa Singh is also said to have arranged the supply of RDX and weapons in Gurdaspur in 2001 to eliminate Parkash Singh Badal, the then chief minister of Punjab. The attempt was foiled, and 15 kg RDX, 5.5 kg PETN, three AK-47 rifles, 600 cartridges, 14 grenades and other items were recovered from five BKI militants.
Wadhwa Singh is also said to have developed a nexus with Kashmiri militants in 2000, according to intelligence sources.
Lakhbir Singh Rode
Rode is the founder of banned organisation International Sikh Youth Federation and is the nephew of Bhindranwale.
According to intelligence agencies, Rode is responsible for handling many sleeper cells across India, Europe, the UK and Canada, and has been involved in several efforts to execute terror attacks in India. He is wanted in India in various cases of arms smuggling.