A foiled assassination attempt on a Sikh separatist living in New York has shed light on the killing of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, B.C. in June and the potential involvement of the Indian government.
On Wednesday, a 15-page indictment was filed in a District Court in Manhattan, that alleged an employee of the Indian government directed the assassination. This act was connected to a broader plan to assassinate other Sikh separatists living in Canada.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Indian government official who allegedly ordered the murder in New York sent a video clip of Nijjar’s lifeless body slumped over in his vehicle shortly after being gunned down on June 18 to Nikhil Gupta, an Indian contact who allegedly corroborated in the hit.
Gupta then forwarded the clip of Nijjar’s deceased body to a law enforcement informant, whom Gupta believed was also collaborating in the plot and to another undercover law enforcement officer, whom Gupta thought to be the hitman.
The undercover agent acting as the hitman then allegedly received communication from Gupta, who told him that Nijjar “was also the target” but was “#4, #3” on the list, and “not to worry (because) we have so many targets,” the following day.
According to the indictment, Gupta then told the undercover agentregarding the New York Sikh activist that there was “no need to wait.”
While the target is unnamed in the court filings, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun claimed that he was the target in a statement on X.
Pannun, the general counsel for Sikhs for Justice and a colleague of Nijjar’s, stated that he was in contact with Nijjar one day before his murder.
Both Pannun and Nijjar have advocated for the Sikh separatist movement, fighting for an independent state called Khalistan, carved out from the Indian state of Punjab.
The Indian government labeled Nijjar a terrorist before his murder, a charge which he had denied.
On Wednesday, while speaking with reporters in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the news from the indictment means this issue must be taken seriously.
“The Indian government needs to work with us to ensure that we’re getting to the bottom of this,” he said, according to the Vancouver Sun.
In September, Trudeau accused the Indian government of playing a role in Nijjar’s assassination, sparking a diplomatic fallout between the two nations.
The Indian government has denied any involvement in Nijjar’s assassination.
Two days after Nijjar’s murder, an Indian government official said that the New York target was a “priority now” and that Gupta spoke to the informant, whom he believed was arranging the hit and ordered him to murder the New York target quickly.
Before “the 29th (of June) we have to finish four jobs,” said Gupta, referring to the New York target. Following that, he said, there are “three in Canada.”
In addition, Gupta phoned the informant to confirm that Nijjar was the target he had previously mentioned when referring to the potential Canadian “job,” saying there was a “big target” in Canada on June 12.
“This is the guy, I send you the video. … We didn’t give to (the undercover agent posing as a hitman) this job, so some other guy did this job … in Canada,” said Gupta, according to the indictment.
While speaking with the informant, Gupta also advised him to be more careful following news of Nijjar’s murder. “He will be more cautious, because in Canada, his colleague is down.”
The indictment further alleged that in early June, Gupta had arranged for a $15,000 cash down payment of the $100,000 total payment for the hit.
Nijjar had been warned by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service about threats on his life only days before his assassination on June 18 .
Following the news of the indictment against Gupta, Pannum said, “If death is the cost of running the Khalistan Referendum, I am willing to pay that price.”