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US Justice Dept Says Indian Official Plotted to Kill Sikh Separatist Leader in New York

Newsclick Report |
'Matter of Concern' says India; Several Opposition leaders demand answers from government.

Delhi: The United States has charged an Indian national for conspiring to kill a Sikh separatist leader on American soil. India called the US action “a matter of concern” and  asserted that a high-level probe committee will investigate the case.  

India has constituted a probe team to investigate allegations relating to the conspiracy to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Sikh separatist leader and known to be an American and Canadian citizen. 

On Wednesday, US federal prosecutors charged Indian national Nikhil Gupta of involvement in the foiled plot to kill Pannun.  

"As regards the case against an individual that has been filed in a US court allegedly linking him to an Indian official, this is a matter of concern," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said. "We have said and let me reiterate that this is also contrary to government policy," he added at a media briefing. 

In a press release on November 29, the US Justice Department said, “According to court documents, earlier this year, an Indian government employee (CC-1), working together with others, including Gupta, in India and elsewhere, directed a plot to assassinate on U.S. soil an attorney and political activist who is a U.S. citizen of Indian origin residing in New York City (the Victim).”  

According to the US Justice Department, Indian national Nikhil Gupta, 52, faces murder-for-hire charges following the unsealing of a superseding indictment in the Southern District of New York. The indictment reveals Gupta's alleged involvement in a foiled plot to assassinate a U. citizen in New York City. Arrested by Czech authorities on June 30, 2023, pursuant to the U.S.-Czech extradition treaty, Gupta is accused of conspiring with an Indian government employee ( referred to as CC-1) to orchestrate the murder. 

The press release says, the target, a critic of the Indian government and a Sikh separatist leader, was marked for assassination by Gupta under CC-1's direction. Gupta contacted an undercover US law enforcement officer to hire a hitman, with CC-1 agreeing to pay $100,000 for the murder. An initial $15,000 was delivered as an advance payment, it alleged. 

In a recent case, an associate of the target, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, was murdered  in Canada. . 

The US indictment has sent ripple through India’s political spheres. Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra slammed the government over the news. “Govts may need to do covert rogue operations in national interest. Understood. But in this case Indian govt agent CC-1 recruited Gujarati drug runner who contacted undercover US DEA agent to hire shooter & got caught! There is no glory in this. We look like bungling fools,” she said on X, formerly known as Twitter.  

Noted advocate Prashant Bhushan said on X, “A damning indictment of our govt official seeking to pay an international drug trafficker $150,000&absolving him of charge by Guj Govt, for killing a US Citizen & promising to kill many more! Also confessed of govt involvement in Nijjar's killing in Canada”

Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi also commented on the matter slamming the James-Bond-style assassination plot and saying that the Indian government needs to get the United States on the table regarding Khalistani threats. She said, “Indian official (CC1)  plans an audacious Bond style mission. Plans to eliminate a man who is a citizen/ resident of USA and wanted criminal in India, however the planning that he does to make this Bond mission happen is straight out of a badly written comic book.  

India needs to get America to pay heed to our concerns regarding Khalistani terrorists using their country as a safe haven to issue threats.”  


The Financial Times, citing unnamed sources, last week reported that US authorities foiled a plot to assassinate Pannun, and issued a warning to the Indian government over concerns it was involved in the plot.  

The Washington Post on Wednesday reported that the Biden administration was so concerned after discovering the plot to assassinate the Sikh separatist that it sent CIA Director William J Burns and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to India in August and October respectively to demand investigation and hold to account those responsible.  

(With PTI inputs) 

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