The Justice Department announced that an Indian person was charged with planning to kill a Sikh separatist leader on US grounds and that an Indian government official was also involved in the planning.
In a statement, the Justice Department revealed that 52-year-old Nikhil Gupta was charged with murder for hire “in connection with his participation in a foiled plot to assassinate a US citizen” of Indian descent in New York City. The person who was allegedly the target of the shooting “leads a US-based organization that advocates for the secession of Punjab,” a northern Indian state with a sizable Sikh population, and is a vociferous critic of the Indian government. US authorities alleged that Gupta and other individuals located all over the world collaborated with an Indian government official who oversaw the plan from India.
In compliance with US extradition demands, Gupta, an Indian national, was taken into custody by Czech police. The announcement follows last week’s statement from the White House that it was discussing the matter with the Indian government and was taking the purported plan to kill a Sikh separatist on American territory “very seriously.” That same day, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a citizen of both the US and Canada, was the target of a plot to murder him, according to a story in The Financial Times by US officials. In Pannun’s statement issued after the declaration, he asserts that the attack against him on U.S. territory exemplifies India’s cross-border terrorism, posing a challenge to America’s sovereignty and jeopardizing the principles of freedom of speech and democracy.
Gupta was enlisted in the operation in May 2023, according to the Justice Department, which did not reveal the identity of the purported assassination attempt target. Major diplomatic tensions arose between Canada and India in September after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau connected New Delhi to the June murder of Sikh separatist and Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar. The Canadian charges were deemed “absurd” by New Delhi. However, Trudeau stated on Wednesday that “India needs to take this seriously, as further evidenced by the news coming out of the United States,” which is something that has been discussed from the start. He stated that for a thorough investigation, it is essential for the Indian government to collaborate with us.
Pannun asserted that by orchestrating the assassination of Nijjar in Canada and subsequently attempting to assassinate him on US soil, India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has expanded its strategy of forcefully suppressing the Sikh movement for self-determination onto foreign territories. According to the US Justice Department, Gupta informed undercover US officials after Nijjar’s death that there was no longer a need to delay the assassination of the target in New York City.
Responding to these developments, a spokesperson for the Indian government stated on Wednesday that the United States had provided information about the connection between organized criminals, gun runners, terrorists, and others. The representative stressed India’s serious consideration of this information, highlighting its potential impact on national security interests. They also revealed the formation of a comprehensive Enquiry Committee on November 18 to thoroughly probe all pertinent aspects of the situation.