November 30, 2023
NEW DELHI – The United States has charged an Indian national for an alleged plot to assassinate an American citizen who advocated for a separate Sikh state in India’s Punjab. The alleged target has been identified by a UK daily as Sikhs for Justice founder Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.
The court document, however, didn’t name the target and instead used “a U.S. citizen of Indian origin who has publicly advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs.”
“The defendant conspired from India to assassinate, right here in New York City, a U.S. citizen of Indian origin who has publicly advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs,” Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said in a statement.
The man, who was charged by the United States, has been identified as Nikhil Gupta. The US has claimed that Gupta was directed by an Indian government employee.
Gupta has been charged with murder-for-hire over the assassination plot and prosecutors said it was orchestrated from India.
The development comes hours after the Indian government informed that a panel has been formed to investigate the inputs shared by the US on the plot.
According to the indictment, Gupta was involved in the international narcotics and weapons trafficking and was alleged recruited by Indian government official in May early this year to assassinate the target.
Gupta, the indictment further alleged, was directed to another person in the US to draw the assassination plans. Gupta was also said to be in the process of meeting a Hitman who could kill the target (Pannun) in New York City.
Gupta is currently in the custody of Czech Republic authorities. He was arrested on June 30 early this year.
The White House has said that it thwarted the alleged assassination plot and that the issue was raised with the Indian government at the senior most level. India, the White House said, reacted with “surprise and concern” and stated that “activity of this nature was not their policy.”
According to a report by Financial Times, the US authorities warned India over its alleged involvement in the plot. The plot, as per the report, was raised by US President Joe Biden during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the New Delhi G20 Summit in September.
This comes just two months after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged that Ottawa has evidence of “credible” allegations linking agents of Indian government to the murder of Canadian Sikh extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June early this year.
While India rejected Canadian PM’s claims as “absurd and motivated”, the issue triggered a massive diplomatic row between Canada and India.