The recent seizure of the explosive-laden car at the railway station in Ambala came following a trail of inputs provided by Intelligence Bureau and Delhi Police that a car was headed for Delhi via Ambala with explosives and detonators. The owners of the car and those responsible for keeping the explosive, detonators and timers in the car have not yet been traced. The sources from the Delhi Police say that the car had probably come to Ambala from the Jammu area and that the improvised explosive device materials found in the car were meant to be used for causing an explosion in Delhi around Diwali. The explosive materials were designed to be used in a joint operation of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI).
This incident presses the panic button fuelling the fears once again whether the Khalistan Movement that took thousands of lives in 1980s and early 1990s is going to be revived. Of course, Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), now under pressure from the United States for its nefarious and sinister roles in Afghanistan, is all set to ensure that Indian Punjab and Kashmir burn again. Security agencies are probing the angle if the explosive was sent from Pakistan by fugitive Jagtar Singh Tara of Khalistan Tiger Force. Tara, who was convicted of Beant Singh assassination case and escaped from Burail jail, could have a hand resurrecting Punjab militancy.
It could have led to a catastrophic mishap had this cache of explosives not been seized in the nick of time from Punjab militants by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police. Though, it may just be the tip of the iceberg, the real show may be waiting in ambush. However, it’s an eye opener that has shaken the security agencies out of their slumber. That Babbar Khalsa International joined forces with LeT is suspected to have had this carload of arms and ammunition to strike terror. Mass killing and targeting politicos and VIPs was the modules designed.
It has been the strategy of Pakistani ISI to outsource terror assignments, as it is known for sponsoring terrorism that is believed to have been maintaining the pressure on militant groups like Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF), Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) and their collaborators in European and North American countries to revive Punjab militancy. Punjab militant groups, more specifically Babbar Khalsa, target on important political leaders. As seen earlier in Punjab, attempts by BKI, KZF and KTF cadres to revive militancy in the state and target VIPs and Dera heads, continued. On the militancy front, though Punjab remained peaceful there was a continuous pressure from Pakistan’s ISI on militant groups. The intelligence assessment points out that Punjab terrorists are not only moving from Uttar Pradesh (UP) to Nepal but they were also active in Goa and Maharashtra.
A PEEP INTO BABBAR KHALSA’S PAST
Although the terrorist-secessionist movement for Khalistan was comprehensively decimated in 1993, there still remain a handful of terrorist outfits chiefly supported by Pakistan and some non-resident Indian Sikh groups who continue to propagate the ideology of Khalistan. One of the most prominent among them is the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI). It is among the oldest and most organised Khalistan terrorist groups. The organisation at present is predominantly active in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland and Pakistan. Current leadership resides with Wadhawa Singh Babbar, with Mehal Singh Babbar as deputy Jathedar. Presumed headquarters is located in Lahore.
Available evidence suggests that the Babbar Khalsa is part of a terrorist network sponsored by Germany-based terrorist groups as well as Pakistan’s external intelligence agencythe Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to revive terrorism in the Indian Punjab.
Media reports in August 2001 said a joint committee was formed in Germany to coordinate the activities of major terrorist organisatoins abroad. Gurdial Singh Lalli of the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), Resham Singh of Babbar Khalsa and Harmeet Singh of Kamagata Maru Dal of Khalistan are the prominent leaders of this committee. The ISI is also reportedly keen on forging coordination between Khalistani terrorists, terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir and some fundamentalist groups.
Interestingly, the Pakistan government appointed Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Javed Nasir, a former chief of the ISI, as the Chairman of Pakistan Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (PGPC), the body that administers Sikh shrines in Pakistan. The PGPC was formed in 1999. According to intelligence reports, Sikh terrorists camping in Pakistan are working under the direct supervision of General Nasir. Media reports in April 2002 said the ISI has entrusted the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) with the task of reviving terrorism in Punjab. The LeT will impart arms training to groups like the BKI, the ISYF and the Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF). Reports also said the LeT has opened at least eight camps in Pakistan to train the Khalistanis. These are at Kot Lakhpat, Chakwal, Gujranwala, Mianwali, Peshawar, Attock, Shahidan Da Banga and Gulbarg in Lahore.
Available evidence also suggests that the BKI has established a nexus with Dawood Ibrahim, the fugitive Indian underworld kingpin residing now in Karachi. The terrorists were liasoning with the Dawood Ibrahim gang in Mumbai through whom they disposed of stolen cars and trucks to amass money, which was then sent to Wadhwa Sigh for procuring arms and ammunition.
The outfit had shocked the world in 1985 when some of its members triggered a mid-air explosion on Kanishka, an Air India flight, off the coast of Ireland, killing the 329 passengers and crew members. Talwinder Singh Parmar, one of those involved in the bombing, was killed in an encounter in 1992.
The next huge strike was in 1995, when Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh was assassinated by a BKI team. Dilawar Singh, a former constable with Punjab police, acted as a human bomb at the Punjab Civil Secretariat. Ten surviving members of the team were later arrested.
Police officials say the organisation had flourished during the Khalistan movement, roping in more and more youths, but the arrest of those involved in the Beant Singh assassination was considered a blow to the outfit. But it did execute occasional strikes, investigating agencies say.
Some reports have indicated that efforts were made by the ISI to help the BKI establish bases in China, but these initiatives were reportedly thwarted by the Chinese, who were not enthused by the project. However, recent intelligence reports have cautioned the government about renewed efforts by the ISI and Pakistan-based terror groups, including Babbar Khalsa International, to send consignment of arms, explosives, fake currency and drugs for spreading terror-incidents and drug menace in the state and disrupting its economy.
The internationally banned outfit had not carried out any major terror strikes over a decade except for two attacks on cinemas in 2005 and 2007 but investigating agencies say they had always been apprehending a revival. Police across the country have been arresting men they call BKI members, and have been recovering explosives and arms from them. These militants were supposedly being monitored by BKI chief Wadhawa Singh from Pakistan.
September 16: BKI and ISYF were slapped sanctions under the Executive Order 13224 terrorist groups in June 2002 by the US.
March 13: Khalistani militant Jagtar Singh Tara, who was involved in the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, is reportedly planning to launch his own outfit, Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) breaking away from the parent outfit BKI.
January 29: Former Deputy Speaker of Punjab, Bir Devinder Singh, reportedly received a threatening email from militant outfit Babbar Khalsa International (BKI).
November 4: Jaswant Singh and Surender Singh were arrested from Punjab, who allegedly confess to having killed former terrorist Ajit Singh Poohla in jail.
October 23: Makhan Singh was arrested with currency from UP.
October 17: Karanbir Singh was arrested with arms and explosives from Punjab; he escapes the following day.
July 22: Four operatives including top leader Paramjit Singh Pamma were arrested from the UK over killing (in Patiala, 2009) of Rulda Singh, Punjab unit chief of Rashtriya Sikh Sangat.
July 18: Four militants were arrested from Punjab with weapons and explosives, including Harmohinder Singh, mastermind of 2007 cinema blast.
June 12: Balwinder Singh and Manjinder Singh were arrested from Punjab with a pistol and ammunition.
May 8: Two kilograms of explosives was found in a car in Punjab; BKI involvement suspected.
March 29: Piara Singh with RDX was arrested from Punjab, which police claim he had smuggled from Pak.
March 25: Three militants said to be in touch with Italy-based BKI militant Jasvir Singh Jassi, who allegedly gave them weapons to kill Baba Bhaniarwala, were arrested from Punjab.
By Ashok Kumar
According to the noted strategic analyst B Raman, of the various Khalistani terrorist organisations, the BKI, after the Dal Khalsa, has had the longest history of contacts with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).Talwinder Singh Parmar of the BKI, Vancouver, who had masterminded the blowing-up of the Kanishka aircraft of Air India in June, 1985, had been given shelter in Pakistan by the ISI after the terrorist attack on the plane. In 1992, one of the Western intelligence agencies established his presence in Pakistan. The ISI asked him to leave Pakistan. He crossed over into Indian Punjab where he was killed in an encounter by the Punjab Police. Since then other BKI leaders such as Wadhwa Singh had been living in Pakistan.
The ISI started helping the various Khalistani organisations such as the Dal Khalsa, the BKI and the International Sikh Youth Federation in the 1970s with a view to using them to destabilise Punjab. They were given training assistance and supplied with arms and ammunition and explosives.
The ISI believed that the destabilisation of Punjab would weaken the ability of the Indian security forces to deal with terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir and thereby facilitate a change of the status quo in J&K. The ISI was helping the Khalistani terrorists directly as well as through the Jamaat-e-Islami. In addition, when Nawaz Sharif was the Chief Minister of Punjab after the death of Zia-ul-Haq in 1988, the Khalistani terrorists were also in receipt of assistance from the Special Branch of the Punjab Police.
Looking at the records of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism on the Indian turf since 1993, this has triggered as many as 120 terror attacks resulting in deaths of over 1,200 civilians and leaving over 4,000 injured. The Punjab Police have experienced operational difficulties dealing with the terror threats emanating from the militant outfits due to the spillover of Pakistani network into Indian territory, increasing use of cyber space, use of different routes to Pakistan for availing training by terrorists and continued flow of funds. The IB stays tuned with the telecommunications officials in order to arrive at a technical solution to deal with the spillover of telecom signals from Pakistani mobile services companies.
The ISI had code-named the operation for using the Khalistani terrorists to destabilise Punjab and weaken the capability of the Indian security forces in J&K as the K-2 project–meaning the Kashmir-Khalistan project. The JEI and jihadi terrorist organisations under the control of the ISI such as the LeT were also sought to be used for the execution of the K-2 project.
LET BHULLAR DIE IN IGNOMINY, NOT IN GALLOWS
How many of you have heard of the so-called Khalistan terrorist movement, which spread death and destruction across Punjab and Delhi for 14 years between 1981 and 1995?
How many of you have heard of the repeated hijackings of Indian Airlines aircraft by the Khalistani terrorists in the 1980s?
How many of you remember the military operation in the Golden Temple, Amritsar, in June 1984, to flush out a group of Khalistani terrorists who had taken shelter there?
How many of you remember the desertions of some Sikh soldiers from the Army and the assassination of a Brigadier by some angry Sikh soldiers after the Golden Temple operation?
How many of you remember the assassination of Indira Gandhi by some of her till then highly trusted Sikh bodyguards, enraged by the Golden Temple operation, in October,1984?
How many of you remember the blowing-up of the Kanishka aircraft of Air India in 1985 and the 1986 assassination in retirement of Gen. A.S.Vaidya, who was the Chief of the Army Staff at the time of the Golden Temple operation?
How many of you remember the assassination of Beant Singh, the Chief Minister of Punjab, in 1995?
These are distant memories now. The Khalistan terrorist movement almost died in the months following the assassination of Beant Singh.
It is 95 per cent dead, but the embers are still there.
In Pakistan in the form of some remnants of the terrorist movement who have been given shelter by the Pakistan Government.
In the West, in the form of some recalcitrant individuals, who are not prepared to say die.
Even in our own country in the form of some individuals here and there in Punjab and Delhi.
They are without influence, without following, but not without lingering traces of the anger which initially gave rise to the movement.
The fact that for 16 years since 1995, the embers have remained embers and are slowly dying their natural death goes to the credit of the people of Punjab, who have ignored them with the contempt they merit.
Is it wise to give these discredited elements a source of new anger that they could exploit in an attempt to give themselves a new lease of life?
This is a question that the Government should carefully consider before it goes ahead with its reported decision to send Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, a notorious Khalistani terrorist, to the gallows in implementation of a long-pending death sentence awarded to him by a court.
Even if there is only a five per cent chance that his death could be exploited by the remnants of the Khalistan movement to re-kindle the embers, should we take the risk?
What do we hope to achieve by carrying out his death sentence?
We don’t need to teach any lesson to anybody 16 years after the movement went into a state of living death.
We don’t need to do any justice to the relatives of the victims of the Khalistan terrorist movement years after their painful memories have faded.
Executions have rarely ended any terrorist movement. Living ignominy has.
Like the ignominy of Carlos, the dreaded international terrorist of the 1970s and the 1980s. He was as dreaded in those years as Osama bin Laden was in the subsequent years.
Where is Carlos, the jackal, now?
Nobody knows. In some unheard of jail in France, spending a life sentence, almost forgotten by his old followers and the people. His movement is dead since 1994.
Nothing wipes out the persona of a terrorist more decisively than ignominy.
Let Bhullar die in ignominy and not in the gallows.
By B Raman
“The recovery of the explosive-laden car and the source information of the Delhi Police indicate an attempt by the ISI to revive the K-2 project”, argues Raman. Prakash Singh, one of the most distinguished IPS officers of the country and former Director General of the Border Security Force agrees with Raman’s view. “ Khalistani extremists are very much influenced by the ISI. Security must remain beefed up round the year, particularly on special occasions and festivals. This cache is from across the border and could wreak havoc if timely action would not have intervened and foiled the bid. ISI has been funding Babbar Khalsa through different various routes with the intention of spreading terror, rather targeting some politicians as this militant outfit is known for. These chinks in the security system can be plugged only if they are checked at the grassroots level, it’s time to act rather than being sitting ducks” , Prakash Singh concludes adding on.
‘The Pakistani ISI, time and time again, has been backing up many terrorist outfits for 15-20 years and this Babbar Khalsa is also influenced by it. Their attempts have been foiled many a time in the past. With leads developed and tip-off followed these militants were caught much before they could execute the plan. Our electronic surveillance and human intelligence have been effective otherwise they would not have been nabbed. This Ambala episode was planned weeks before, its base seems in Nepal. During this part of the year, I mean when Diwali is round the corner terror- strikes are more likely. Keeping in view, the police machinery should revamp itself,’ says Dr Ajay Sahini, Executive Director of leading think-tank Institute for Conflict Management.
Of course, some of the important factors that were prevailing in the 1980s with regard to Khalisatan Movement are not available today, making thereby the resurgence highly unlikely. Noted columnist Rajinder Puri has written once in his column ‘My Word’ that the late Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was actively promoted by former President Zail Singh and Sanjay Gandhi with the consent of Indira Gandhi. At that time while the Congress party headed by Indira Gandhi ruled the Centre, the Akali party governed Punjab. Bhindranwale was promoted by Congress in order to divide moderate Sikhs led by the Akalis from the fundamentalist fringe encouraged to support Bhindranwale. Thereby Mrs. Gandhi sought to weaken and oust from Punjab the Akalis. It is unlikely that the Congress party, despite all its notorieties, will resort to such a strategy today and pursue a short term political goal by sinking to such a low political level.
Besides, people of Punjab will never support Khalistan, given the fact that they have been cheated badly by the Khalistanis in the past. Ordinary Sikhs lost their family members and income, but the Khalistani leaders made crores of rupees both in India and abroad. They also cannot understand why these Khalistani leaders are supporting Pakistan, whose Punjab, including Lahore, was the capital of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the greatest Sikh leader. If at all, there is a case for Khalistan then it should be in Pakistan with Lahore as capital.
Moreover, India of 2011 is not the same as India of 1980s. It is now an emerging power both economically and militarily. No major global power is going to support the Kahlastani terrorists; they will do everything to support India and will not allow their territories and financial institutions to be abused by anti-India elements.
By Syed Wazid Ali and Sudhanshu jain