Interview: Punjab CM Amarinder Singh Says Pakistan’s ISI Is Supporting Pro-Khalistan Groups

Singh claimed that the ISI is attempting to revive the Khalistani movement, which wants a separate homeland for Sikhs.

Jalandhar, PUNJAB—Pakistan’s Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) is attempting to revive the Khalistani movement, which wants a separate homeland for Sikhs, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh told HuffPost India.

Earlier on Wednesday, Singh had said that police had arrested one man in connection with the grenade blast in Amritsar that killed three people and injured over 20.

“One Bikramjit Singh has been arrested and search for another accused, Avtar Singh, is on,” Singh told reporters. He also called the Amritsar attack a “pure act of terrorism” and said ISI was behind the attack.

In written replies to HuffPost India‘s questions, Singh also said that Referendum 2020, which has been initiated by the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) group, is part of a conspiracy to “plunge Punjab back into the dark days of terrorism”.

Edited excerpts:

Punjab has seen a rise in terror activities over the past few years—these include communal attacks, targeted killings, attacks on police stations and now the Amritsar blast. Is this an attempt to revive the Khalistan movement in the state?

I have stated earlier too that there seems to be a definite attempt by forces inimical to the Indian nation to revive terrorism, especially through the revival of the Khalistani movement in Punjab. Terrorist groups working at the behest of the ISI-backed KLF (Khalistan Liberation Force) and other groups based in Pakistan are clearly working on a conspiracy to destabilise Punjab, to promote their agenda to keep tensions alive at the border in order to maintain peace within their country. Many of these outfits have spread their wings to other countries, like the US, UK and Canada, and are routing terror via them. The Referendum 2020 movement is part of this conspiracy to plunge Punjab back into the dark days of terrorism.

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So who is of more concern to Punjab—the ISI or pro- Khalistani groups?

There is no difference between the two. The so-called Khalistani groups are a creation of the ISI, which is giving full support, in the form of manpower and weapons, to the Khalistani activists. The KLF links that have been found in the Nirankari Bhawan attack have also been traced to ISI. So they are all of serious concern to us.

The so-called Khalistani groups are a creation of the ISI, which is giving full support, in the form of manpower and weapons, to the Khalistani activists.

Sikhs for Justice, which claims to be a rights advocacy group, has offered to provide legal support to three arrested Kashmiri students who allegedly belong to Kashmiri militant Zakir Musa‘s Ansar Ghawzat-ul-Hind. SFJ is also collecting donations and recruiting members on the issue of Referendum 2020. How seriously do you view this? Have you asked the central government to take this up with the US?

Being a border state, the Punjab government coordinates closely with the centre, particularly the Ministry of Home Affairs, in issues of security concerns. Regular discussions are also held with the central intelligence agencies as part of the monitoring process. I am sure the Union government is already in discussions with the concerned foreign governments on the issue of involvement of SFJ in promoting violent activities in Punjab.

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Have you identified the joint imprints of ISI and pro-Khalistan groups on any terror incident in Punjab since 2014?

ISI footprints have invariably been found in the terror incidents which have taken place in Punjab since 2014. Whether it’s the fidayeen attacks, the targeted killings, attack on Maqsudan Police Station in Jalandhar or the recent attack on Nirankari Satsang Bhawan in Rajasansi on 18th November. The Punjab Police has issued statements from time to time, citing evidence of ISI’s signature in these incidents.

What is your government doing to diffuse the effects of the Referendum 2020 movement in Punjab?

The Punjab government has launched various programmes, such as the ‘Connect With Your Roots’ programme, to show the real situation in the state to the Sikh diaspora living abroad. At the same time, the state police has registered criminal cases in which SFJ promoters based abroad have been found to be involved in instigating violent and terrorist action in the state.