Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia

(RNS) — I am a Sikh activist committed to peace, justice and reconciliation who has lived in the United States since 1989 and actively worked on interfaith engagement for over three decades. Never before have I felt as in danger here as I do now.

In October 1984, five years before I came to the United States from India, an American of Taiwanese descent, Henry Liu, was gunned down outside his home in California by two men. Mr. Liu had published a biography critical of the then-Taiwanese president. The U.S. government traced the killings back to an intelligence officer in the government of Taiwan. Within three months, the Taiwan government admitted to its role in the murder of a U.S. citizen on American soil and then worked with the U.S. government to put guardrails in place so this would not happen again.

I recently published an editorial at RNS in which I argued that India must be held accountable for the death of Sikh Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen killed in Vancouver on June 18, 2023. While Canada’s response to this incident was to stand up for its sovereignty and “rules-based international order,” India’s response has been aggressive, geo-political and retaliatory, accusing Canada of being a “haven for terrorists.”

Now, just a few days ago, the U.S. Department of Justice filed charges in a plot to assassinate a Sikh activist and lawyer in New York City. An Indian government intelligence officer was implicated in directing the plan to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Sikh activist and dual U.S.-Canadian citizen. The senior Indian intelligence officer worked with Indian citizen Nikhil Gupta to arrange a hitman. The hitman hired was an undercover U.S. informer.

The U.S. now has evidence that a day after the murder of Nijjar in Canada, the Indian conspirators had conversations indicating it was time to murder Pannun in the U.S. next. Both Nijjar and Pannun were involved with Sikhs for Justice, which was established to hold Indian politicians responsible for the genocidal anti-Sikh pogroms in India in the 1980s.

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