Indian National Charged For Conspiring to Assassinate Sikh Separatist Leader

( – U.S. authorities have foiled a plot to assassinate a prominent Sikh leader and have arrested the Indian national who attempted to arrange the murder.

U.S. prosecutors have charged Nikhil Gupta, an Indian national, with murder for hire and conspiracy to commit murder for hire. The target was Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a lawyer for the group Sikhs for Justice. Both Pannun and Sikhs for Justice are ardent supporters of the Sikh separatist movement that seeks to have the Indian province of Punjab become a separate nation-state. Sikhs are a minority in India and have frequently experienced discrimination in the Hindu-dominated state. In fact, talk of Punjabi independence is also considered illegal activity in India.

Gupta was arrested in a sting operation where he reached out to a supposed hitman, who in turn was actually an undercover DEA agent. Gupta reportedly told the agent that they had “so many” targets—beginning with Pannun, whom the Indian government considers a terrorist—and even paid an advance on the hit.

Sought for comment, Pannun laid the blame solely at the feet of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The conspiracy and plot to kill me,” Pannun told news outlets, “come from the government of India.”

This is also not the first time the Indian government has been implicated in attacks against Sikh leaders. A few months ago, Canadian officials, chief among them Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, accused India of being behind the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Nijjar, who was also a vocal Sikh separatist, was gunned down in Surrey, British Columbia.

The killing is expected to throw a wrench into the foreign policy plans of the Biden administration, which has been courting India and other countries in an effort to balance out the growing influence of countries like China and Russia. The murder of Nijar in Canada has already put a massive strain on Canada-India relations, with both countries kicking out each other’s diplomats from their respective territories.

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