The Punjab police today booked five members of a US-based group on charges of sedition and promoting enmity between different groups after “provocative” posters came up at more than 40 places in the state. An official statement here said Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered a crackdown on the New York-based organisation, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), following complaints of “deliberate attempts to vitiate the state’s atmosphere”. Of the five persons booked, three reside in the US. The chief minister, who also holds the home portfolio, directed the police to ensure that no outfit succeeds in whipping up passions “which Pakistan’s ISI could exploit to its advantage”. A police probe showed that a campaign – titled “Punjab Independence Referendum 2020” – was managed by the Baba Hanuman Singh Enterprise agency, which was “hired by the SJF through its legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun”, the statement claimed. Besides Pannun, the others who have been booked are — Jagdeep Singh, who hails from Fatehgarh Sahib and is now based in New York and Jagjeet Singh, a resident of J&K, and now living in the US city, as per the statement.
The two accused based in India have been identified by the police as Gurpeet Singh, a resident of Mohali (Punjab), and Harpunit Singh of Nanak Nagar in Jammu and Kashmir. All five have been booked for promoting “enmity and disharmony between different groups, and committing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony through visible representations”, the release said.
“Such acts have disturbed and are likely to disturb tranquillity in Punjab, and are further likely to cause fear/alarm, ill-will and a feeling of insecurity among members of different communities/groups residing in the border state of Punjab,” the police said in an FIR.
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Investigations are on to uncover various financial and operational linkages between persons based in India and abroad, said a police spokesperson, alleging that the SFJ had been actively trying to “destabilise” Punjab for the past several months. The chief minister had recently said any attempt to create disharmony or to revive terrorism in the state would be nipped in the bud.