Avtar Khanda and a pro-Khalistan conspiracy under the lens during NIA's London visit

The NIA took over the case from the Delhi police which registered an FIR on March 23

'Waris Punjab De' chief Amritpal Singh being brought to Dibrugarh Central Jail in Assam | PTI 'Waris Punjab De' chief Amritpal Singh being brought to Dibrugarh Central Jail in Assam | PTI

Avtar Singh Khanda, who is believed to be roaming freely in London, allegedly holds the key to the trans-national Khalistan conspiracy that led to the rise of Amritpal Singh and culminated in violent acts in Punjab and foreign shores before the tricolour at the Indian High Commission in London was pulled down on March 19. 

A team of the National Investigation Agency is all set to travel to the UK within the next fortnight to meet their counterparts in London and gather information like incident details, and CCTV footage, visit the crime scene, take statements of officials who handled the protestors when they tried to pull down the national flag. The NIA investigation into the series of events that led to the incident in the UK is looking at a larger conspiracy by pro- Khalistan groups operating on foreign soil to destabilize Punjab and create unrest in the country. The NIA took over the case from the Delhi police which registered an FIR on March 23 on the basis of a complaint filed with its special cell against the violent acts in which two officials of the Indian High Commission in London sustained injuries.

The Delhi police FIR named Avtar Singh Khanda, Gurcharan Singh, and Jasvir Singh as key suspects. Subsequently, the union home ministry handed over the case to the NIA smelling a larger conspiracy. Sources said Khanda is learnt to be the brain behind Amritpal and has connections with the banned pro-Khalistan outfits operating in different countries. Khanda is reportedly an asylum seeker in the UK and over the years formed connections with Khalistani terrorists Jagtar Singh Tara and Paramjit Singh Pamma of Babbar Khalsa International. Sources said he has been using the cover of raising issues of human rights violations but he has been instrumental in radicalising youth, providing training and propping them up like Amritpal. 

Senior security officials said the events in the UK are not an isolated incident, but rather a result of the pro-Khalistan network getting activated in support of Amritpal Singh, who is presently detained under the National Security Act and being questioned about his anti-national links and conspiracy to spread unrest in Punjab. 

“The vandalism and violence by radicals in the UK took place because of the police crackdown on pro-Khalistan operatives like Amritpal within the country. The trans-national links are much deeper and further investigation will reveal the networks that have been operating from Punjab to the UK with covert support of Pakistan ISI,’’ said an official. 

The visit of the NIA team to the UK may not be directly connected to the case against Amritpal being probed by the Punjab police but investigators are not ruling out the possibility of the counter-terror agency gathering more information that can trace links back home of Khanda’s involvement in the protests at the High Commission, in turn, spilling the beans on trans-national support to Amritpal and his suspicious UK links. 

Going forward, the NIA may also examine the possibility of slapping a UAPA case in the entire conspiracy. Despite the month-long chase by the Punjab police to arrest Amritpal Singh and central agencies issuing lookout notices against him, Amritpal has so far not been booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. UAPA is slapped in cases that involve conspiracy or acts that threaten national security and are related to unlawful gatherings hatching a conspiracy against the state thereby allowing a chance for the NIA to step in and take over the investigation to probe the inter-state and cross-border linkages. 

Amritpal Singh and his supporters have a dozen FIRs against them for various acts of violence, and incendiary speeches, including the storming of the Ajnala police station. But the lid isn’t shut on the cases so far. NIA’s visit to the UK to investigate the violence in support of Amritpal can open a new dimension of the investigation if the agency is able to link through evidence that Khanda and his supporters have direct links, financial and material, to the unrest in Punjab triggered by Amritpal Singh and the members of Waris Punjab De, the outfit being led by him.

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