Last week the NIA raided around 1,000 locations in Punjab and Haryana (File).
The NIA on Wednesday detained several people after a multi-state crackdown on the nexus between criminal syndicates in India and Khalistani separatists and terrorists based in countries like Pakistan and Canada, who use these networks for terror-related activities.
The NIA raids - and the focus on links with Canada-based syndicates and criminals - come as Delhi is locked in a major diplomatic row with Ottawa. Last week Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed "credible" information connecting "agents of Delhi" to the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June. Nijjar was a Canadian citizen.
India has rejected the "absurd" allegation and has pointed out Canadian authorities have yet to share evidence. Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has flagged a spike in "organised crime relating to secessionist forces and extremism" in that country.
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Early this morning, the agency raided over 50 locations connected to gangs run by Lawrence Bishnoi and Canada-based Arshdeep Dalla, whom police this week linked to Pak-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other crime bosses. A large quantity of arms, ammunition and digital evidence were recovered during the raid, sources said.
According to the NIA, fugitives like Dalla and Gaurav Patial are based abroad but stay in touch with Khalistani terrorists to secure funding, smuggle weapons and order murders, acts of extortion and to take part in other anti-national activities.
The raids were in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and the national capital region; in Punjab alone the NIA raided 30 locations. These are part of efforts to build a watertight case against the syndicates, most of which are now operated from Dubai and are linked to cases the NIA filed last year under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Some of the raids targeted Canada-based Lakhbir Singh alias Landa; Pak-based Harvinder Singh Rinda, and Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who is based in the United States and is the founder of the banned Sikhs for Justice separatist group. On Monday sources revealed details of the dossier on Pannun, which says he "wants to create countries (by) dividing India".
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Cases have been filed against Bishnoi and gangster bosses Goldy Brar and Vikram Brar, as well as Bambiha, Kaushal Chaudhary, Neeraj Bawana, Dilpreet, and Sukhpreet alias Budha. There are also cases against Sunil, alias Tillu Tajpuriya, who was killed - as police watched - inside Delhi's Tihar Jail in May, and Bambiha, who was shot dead in a 2016 encounter.
Of the other bosses, Bishnoi is in jail in Ahmedabad and Dalla is in Canada.
The NIA last week also seized properties owned by Pannun in Chandigarh and Amritsar. Pannun, wanted since 2019 on charges of promoting and commissioning terrorist acts, faces 22 criminal cases in Punjab alone, including three of sedition.
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Two days before that the agency raided over 1,000 locations across Punjab and Haryana; these were linked to Goldy Brar, who allegedly planned the murder of Punjabi singer Sidhu Moose Wala.
On Monday Mr Jaishankar told the United Nations General Assembly "political convenience" could not determine a nation's response to terrorism. The comment was seen as directed at China and Canada; the latte is home to a large and politically influential Sikh community that is expected to play a major role in the outcome of the next general election in 2025.