A video of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, head of Sikhs for Justice, warning people not to fly by Air India on November 19th, has created panic and fear amongst travelers.
“We are asking the Sikh people to not fly via Air India on 19 November. There will be a global blockade. Do not travel by Air India or your life will be in danger,” the separatist leader said, repeating the threats in a video circulating on social media.
India is hosting the final match of the international men’s cricket World Cup on the same date.
“It is the same day on which the final match of the World Terror Cup will be played. It will be shown to the world that a genocide of Sikhs happened in India and India did it. When we liberate Punjab, the name of these airports will be Shahid Beant Singh and Shahid Satwant Singh airport,” said Pannun, referencing those who assassinated former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi in October 1984.
The video caused safety concerns among people, and at political and diplomatic levels. The Indian officials said they would discuss the threat with Canadian authorities.
“We shall take up the threat against Air India flights originating from and terminating in Canada, with the concerned Canadian authorities,” India’s high commissioner to Canada, Sanjay Kumar Verma, told the Indian newspaper Hindustan Times.
Vancouver Sun reported that the Canadian government and the RCMP have confirmed they were investigating a possible terror threat. “Our government takes any threat to aviation extremely seriously. We are investigating recent threats circulating online closely and with our security partners. We will do everything necessary to keep Canadians safe,” said Laura Scaffidi, press secretary to Canada’s transport minister.
The newspaper also said India asked Canada to step up security for Air India flights flying out of Vancouver and Toronto, but the transport ministry did not say what measures would be taken at the two major airports.
Even the World Sikh Organization (WSO), strong supporter of Khalistan, called the threats concerning. On Platform X, WSO posted, that the organization was “concerned by reports of an unverified video circulating allegedly threatening travel via Air India. Innuendo or threats, particularly regarding issues as sensitive as airline safety, are unacceptable. The safety and security of all air travelers must be ensured.”
Maninder Gill, MD, Radio India in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on the Canadian government to take strong action against the threat. “The hate and intimidation against the Indo-Canadian community in Canada has reached alarming levels.”
The letter which was copied to various other members of parliament said, “The safety threats have now become open terrorism as one Gurpatwant Pannu of Sikhs for Justice ( SFJ) has openly threatened the India community to attack Air India and warned the Sikh community not to travel Air India as there could be a danger to their lives. This terrorist threat follows the threat to Hindu community by Pannu, where he threatened the Hindu community to “go back” to India. These terrorist threats are haunting the victims of the Air India terrorist attack which killed 329 Canadians, it is akin to rubbing salt on the wounds of the families that never received justice.”
Gill further added that endangering the safety of an aircraft by disseminating false information is an offense punishable with life imprisonment under section 77 of the Canadian Criminal Code.”
Tensions between India and Canada have been high ever since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused India of being involved in the fatal shooting of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar.