UK police warn British Khalistani supporters of ‘threat to life’ from India

UK police issue “Osman notices” after calls for investigation into sudden death of Khalistani activist

Demonstrators gather across from the High Commission of India in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on September 25, 2023. —REUTERS
Demonstrators gather across from the High Commission of India in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on September 25, 2023. —REUTERS
  • Sikh leaders warn that Indian govt trying to silence them.
  • Indian government connection makes sense, says Sikh man.
  • Sikh Federation UK says Sikh leaders taking protective measures.

LONDON: Pro-Khalistan Sikhs living in Britain have been warned by the UK’s counter terrorism police that their lives are in danger amid the rise of Khalistan activism and state-sponsored intimidation by Narendra Modi’s regime, according to media reports.

The Times has reported that pro-Khalistan Sikhs in the UK have been handed “Osman notices”, in which West Midlands police warned of a “threat to life” against them. British Sikh activists fear they could be linked to assassinations planned in the United States and Canada by agents of the Indian regime.

The UK police issued Osman notices after calls for further investigation into the sudden death of Khalistani activist Avtar Singh Khanda, 35, who campaigned for a separate Sikh state and died suddenly and mysteriously in Birmingham in June. Sikhs For Justice Canada chapter leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar who was killed a few days later by the Indian state agents on Canadian soil. Khanda’s family and Sikh groups have said they suspect he was killed in a possible poison attack by the Indian regime.

Osman threats letters are issued by the UK police to warn of a death threat or risk of murder to the prospective victim. An Osman Warning (called “a threat to life warning”) is issued when police have enough information to be aware of the risk of danger but not enough evidence to arrest the potential killer. The issuing of Osman notices to Sikhs, which are ordinarily associated with warring organised crime gangs and allow police to warn a potential victim, underline the extent of such tensions.

Sikh leaders in Britain have warned for a long time that the Indian government is clamping down on dissent in the diaspora and is trying to silence separatists who want an independent Sikh state known as Khalistan.

One Sikh given an Osman warning told the paper that he originally believed the threat came from religious fundamentalists in the West Midlands community, who targeted him because he was not afraid to speak out about their rhetoric. However, since Indian agents were accused of a murder in Toronto and of plotting assassination in New York of Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) founder and leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, he believes it’s the Indian state.

In November 2023, the US State Department accused an agent of the Indian government of directing the attempted assassination of American citizen Pannun on US soil. The indictment made public also provided new evidence that the Indian agents killed Nijjar and were desperate to kill Pannun.

The man, whose brother and father were also handed an Osman notice in West Midlands, said: “An Indian government connection would make sense because myself and my dad are vocal in the community and we are independent. I’ve posted stuff on Twitter and Instagram against the regime. There’s a lot of serious stuff going on in the Sikh community and I don’t think it’s impossible.”

He acknowledged that it would be a “rather big conspiracy” but added that the option was now “impossible to ignore because of international events”.

US prosecutors said in November the Indian intelligence agency had recruited Nikhil Gupta, an Indian citizen, to pay a hitman $100,000 to carry out Pannun’s assassination in New York.

In the UK, Sikh community leaders have warned that peaceful protesters legitimately calling for Khalistan independence have been placed on lists by the Indian government, labelling them enemies of the state.

Jas Singh, of the Sikh Federation UK, said Sikh leaders were taking protective measures, including not travelling alone. “There is a really heightened sense of concern.”

Jas and other community leaders are calling for a formal inquest into the death of Khanda who died suddenly in Birmingham City Hospital within days of having been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and a blood clot in his lungs.

The Indian authorities had blamed Khanda for pulling down the national flag at a March protest at the Indian high commission in London. He was named in its state press but the Metropolitan Police confirmed he had not been arrested as part of its investigation. Sikh activists claim that efforts to have a private autopsy were blocked and believe it is no coincidence that Khanda’s death followed weeks of coverage in the Indian state media.

The Sikh man given the Osman warning, who is in his thirties, said he had tried to find out from West Midlands police who was behind the threat against him and his family, but was told that they could not give any more information.

“They’ve just told me to take security steps to protect myself,” he said. “The police haven’t done anything else.”

The man said he had heard of other warnings being handed out since he, his brother and father were given the warnings in March. “Something stinks, it doesn’t make sense. If it were the Sikh fundamentalists, they’ve seen us lots of times on our own since then and done nothing. In the context of what happened in Canada, and these international threats, it’s really making me wonder what’s going on.”

At the weekend, a large number of Sikhs gathered at Guru Nanak Gurdwara, Smethwick, on the call of Federation of Sikh Organisations (FSO) to express their deep concern over the recent high-profile examples of transnational repression in Canada, USA and the UK by the Indian government targeting Sikh activists in the diaspora. Sikh leaders said they were angry at the silence of the UK government led by Rishi Sunak, over the transnational repression by the Indian government.

They said that while the Canadian government and US administration have publicly exposed the Indian government who ordered terrorist acts targeting Sikh activists on Canadian and US soil, the UK government under Sunak was in cahoots with the Indian regime.

Resolutions were also passed condemning the UK government, under Sunak for demonising and targeting Sikh activists to appease India by dishonestly introducing the phrase “Pro-Khalistan Extremism” in UK government vocabulary to appease India rather than address the threat to the safety and security of Sikh activists in the UK.

Dabinderjit Singh, the Principal Adviser of the Sikh Federation (UK), said: “These resolutions are a signal to all UK politicians in General Election year who visit Gurdwaras hoping to speak that they will be put on the spot on the false demonisation of Sikhs and transnational repression by the Indian government.

“The Labour Party and its leaders have made promises to the Sikh community and there are high hopes an incoming Labour government will adopt a positive approach to the concerns of the Sikh community. We must have a radically different approach to India. The likes of Sunak as PM and Priti Patel as Home Secretary have unashamedly used their positions to target British Sikhs to appease India without proper challenge.”

A spokesperson for West Midlands police said: “We received information that suggested that members of a family may have been at risk of harm. We have processes in place when we receive information about threats to people, and in line with our duty of care, family members were made aware and advice provided.”

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