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International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF)

Formation

The International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), proscribed in India under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) on March 22, 2002, was founded in the United Kingdom (UK) in 1984 after Operation Blue Star, conducted on June 5, 1984, to flush out Sikh terrorists from the Golden Temple complex, in Amritsar, in the Indian Punjab. Amrik Singh and Jasbir Singh Rode, a nephew of Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale, founded the ISYF. Bhinderawale, a key figure in the secessionist Khalistan movement, was killed in Operation Blue Star. The ISYF has been declared as a proscribed organisation in the UK, along with 20 more outfits, on March 29, 2001. Besides, the ISYF has been disbanded in Canada on February 10, 2002.

The ISYF held its first conference in September 1985 in Walsall. Soon after its formation, the ISYF opened chapters at various places in the UK, Germany, Canada and the USA.

Initially, the ISYF split into two factions––one owing allegiance to Jasbir Singh Rode and led by his elder brother Lakhbir Singh Rode––and the other led by Satinderpal Singh Gill, a former member of the second Panthic Committee. Soon thereafter, more splits occurred and several splinter groups emerged––the Damdami Taksal (DDT), Chaheru, Bittoo and Gill factions. These operate mainly in parts of the UK, Germany, the US.

Objectives

Working towards the establishment of an independent homeland for the Sikhs is the chief aim of the organization. The US State Department's annual Patterns of Global Terrorism, in 1999, lists the ISYF as an active terrorist organization that aspires to carve out of Indian territory an independent Sikh state called Khalistan.

Leadership

The ISYF is presently headed by Lakhbir Singh Rode, also a nephew of Bhindranwale. He is better known for the immense political influence and considerable kinship clout he wielded in parts of Punjab. Security forces in Punjab describe him as a "hardcore terrorist". He reportedly continues to be a successful fund-raiser among Khalistan-supporters abroad. He joined the Khalistan movement in 1982, having returned to the Punjab after spending five years in Dubai. He returned to Dubai in 1986, and from there he arranged to send his family to Canada and followed them, where he headed the outfit. Subsequently, he left behind his family in Canada, where it continues to live, and shifted base to Pakistan, where he has been residing since 1991. Rode lives in Lahore. He is among the 20 most wanted terrorists whose extradition India has sought from Pakistan in the wake of the December 13-, 2001 attack on India’s Parliament by a five-member group of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists.

Other important leaders of different factions of the ISYF abroad include Amrik Singh Gill, Raghvir Singh Johal, editor of Awaz-e-Quom the mouthpiece of ISYF-Rode faction in the UK, Balwinder Singh Chaheru, Parminder Singh Bal and Avtar Singh Kooner. In the past, in Canada, besides Lakhbir Singh Rode, Satinderpal Singh acted as President, and Balbir Singh Brar was the Secretary. Also, Manmohan Singh operated as the spokesperson. At the time the outfit was disbanded in Canada, Amrit Singh Raj functioned as the spokesperson.

Area of Activity

In the past, it operated in Punjab and maintained offices in many countries. At the present, the ISYF’s support-base is spread across the UK, North America, Canada and other Western European countries. The Gurdwara on Ross Road, in Vancouver, British Columbia, reportedly played a pivotal role in the ISYF’s activities in Canada. In Pakistan, Gurudwara Dera Sahib, Lahore, acts as the main centre for its activities.

Activities and Fund-raising

At its peak, the ISYF was involved in terrorist acts including murders, bomb blasts and abductions. The ISYF had been making efforts to execute terrorist acts in India, but had not been successful. For instance, on July 30, 1997, two associates of Lakhbir Singh Rode, who had been reportedly sent to assassinate the then Chief Minister of Punjab, Prakash Singh Badal, were arrested near the India-Pakistan border, close to Amritsar.

Reports indicate that Bhagwan Singh, a leader of the All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) and a close associate of Bhindranwale, S S Bhinder of the ISYF’s Germany chapter, S S Bhullar of Canada and Bhagwan Singh Sandhu had been making attempts to revive the ISYF’s activities in India.

It was earlier reported that the ISYF, in Canada, controlled Gurdwaras in Abbots Fort, New Westminster, Surray, near Vancouver and on Ross Road Street, Vancouver.

The ISYF reportedly raised huge amounts of funds from the Sikh diaspora. For instance, in 1984, it had launched a membership drive, in Canada, and charged five dollars as fees. Those who did not enroll were branded as agents of government agencies. To avoid suspicion most Sikhs became members. Besides, Rode loyalists in the UK, Germany and North America reportedly exercise influence over Gurudwaras and Sikh forums through which they collect funds for the outfit.

Also, the ISYF has established a human rights organisation known as Khalsa Human Rights Group. This group emerged as a powerful fundraising unit of pro-Khalistan terrorists located in foreign countries. Also, it has been reported that it carries out propaganda on alleged human rights violations against Sikhs in India. Further, the group acts as a liaison with other Sikh organisations to unite them in addressing the problems of Sikhs.

The official spokesman of ISYF in Canada, Amrit Singh Raj announced its disbanding there on February 10, 2002, and said after the organization was branded as a terrorist group, its functioning became impossible.

Linkages

The external intelligence agency of Pakistan, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has supported this organization for a long time. It provides training camps, funds, arms and ammunition to the members of ISYF along with other Khalistani groups. Pakistan-based chief of the Babbar Khalsa International Wadhava Singh and chief of the ISYF Lakhbir Singh Rode are said to be among the top Punjab militants who, in league with the ISI, have been assigned the task of carrying out militant activities. The ISI also wants to create a common front between Khalistani and Kashmiri terrorist groups. The ISYF’s links with Pan-Islamist terrorist groups, and more prominently with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), date back to the mid-1990s. The ISYF was reportedly the first Sikh terrorist group to have interacted with ideologues of the Markaze-Dawat-War-Irshad, the parent body of the LeT. At the time, ISYF leaders were believed to have met with Abdul Karim @Tunda and Khwaja Moin and had also opened a dialogue with other Pan-Islamist terrorist outfits for joint action.

Major Incidents

2012

  • October 6: An extensive fundraising campaign is being undertaken by secessionist Sikh groups in Europe and North America at the instance of Pakistan's ISI to revive terrorism in Punjab. Sources in security agencies have informed about movement of banned BKI, KCF, ISYF terror groups in western countries with the aim to radicalise Sikh youth by showing them doctored footage of Operation Blue Star and other propaganda materials.

2011

  • September 16: ISYF and BKI were slapped sanctions under the Executive Order 13224 terrorist groups in June 2002 by the US.

2008

  • March 11: Intelligence sources report that the ISI is making serious attempts to revive Sikh militancy in India by coordinating and establishing linkages among various terrorist outfits with the Sikh extremist leaders. The ISI activities to this extent have been planned from countries like the US, Canada, Germany, UK, France, Norway and Belgium, besides Pakistan in the absence of ground support in India. The various terror groups have established nexus among themselves in terms of financial and logistical support, sharing of information and tactical planning. An intelligence input indicated that representatives of BKI, International Sikh Youth Federation/Rhode (ISYF) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) met in Berlin in June 2007 and decided that financial support would be extended to the LeT and logistical support to the BKI to carry out terrorist actions in India. Another input indicated that Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) had got in touch with a UK-based organisation, Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination (PNSD) for modelling their ‘position paper’ on the pattern of the ‘Sikh Position Paper’.

2007

  • May 3: Intelligence agencies reportedly said that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, are trying to revive militancy in Punjab through sympathisers of Sikh militant groups like the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) and Khalistan Commando Force (KCF). Information has reportedly been sent to the Punjab Police about the plans to target towns of Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Pathankot region. Instructions have also been given to monitor the activities of sympathisers of BKI-Hawara, ISYF-Rode, KZF- Neeta and KCF, who are sending funds through hawala (illegal money transfers) to "re-launch their separatist movement."

2006

  • December 24: Three unidentified terrorists belonging to the Rode faction of ISYF are arrested from Jalandhar. Police recovered 11 kilograms of RDX (Cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine), 11 detonators, four hand grenades, 11 timer devices, two pistols with four magazines, 100 live cartridges, along with a walkie-talkie set from their possession. The explosives recovered were reportedly meant for disrupting 2007 Assembly elections in Punjab.

  • December 23: The Jalandhar Police arrested Paramjith Singh Dhadi and Amolak Singh of the ISYF. Dhadi was arrested while on en route to his ancestral village Gakhal and Amolak Singh was arrested from an unspecified location along with three kilograms of RDX, a hand grenade, three detonators and 50 cartridges.

2004

  • August 18: According to annual report 2003-04 of the Union Home Ministry, Pakistan continues to provide sanctuary to various Sikh terrorist groups and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, was exerting pressure on these outfits to revive terrorist activities in Punjab. The report indicated that Pakistan continues to provide sanctuary to leaders of important pro-Khalistan outfits like the BKI headed by Wadhawa Singh, Khalistan Commando Force led by Paramjith Singh Panjwar and International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) led by Lakhbir Singh Rode. Militant groups like Khalistan Zindabad Force led by Ranjit Singh alias "Neeta" and Dal Khalsa International led by Gajinder Singh also continued to receive sanctuary from Pakistani soil, the report said.

  • April 30: The US includes ISYF in its Terrorist Exclusion List.

2002

  • February 10: Addressing the media in Vancouver, ISYF spokesperson Amrit Singh Raj says the ISYF has been disbanded and will no longer exist in Canada. He says, after the ISYF has been branded as a ‘terrorist’ group, its image stood tarnished and made its functioning impossible.

  • March 22: The ISYF is banned in India under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

2001

  • August 18: At a protest demonstration organised by the ISYF in front of the Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany, the Indian flag is burnt.

  • July: Three factions of the ISYF in Germany strongly condemn Jagjit Singh Chauhan and term his return to India as a betrayal of the Sikh cause and the principles of Jarnail Singh Bhindarawale.

  • May: The ISYF’s Germany unit condemns Wassan Singh Zaffarwal for surrendering to Indian security forces.

  • March 29: The ISYF is declared as a proscribed organisation in the UK, along with 20 more outfits, following the approval of the Terrorism Act 2000 [Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2001] in the House of Lords, on March 27.

  • February 28: The British government proscribes the ISYF as per provisions of Terrorism Act 2000. Following the ban in the UK, ISYF suspends membership drive and the leadership contemplates altering the name of the organisation to International Sikh Federation (ISF).

2000

  • July: The Special Immigration Appeals Committee (SIAC) in the UK declares that two ISYF members, Mukhtiar Singh and Paramjit Singh, are a threat to Britain’s national security.

1997

  • July 30: Two persons linked to the ISYF are arrested near the India-Pakistan border, near Amritsar, after infiltrating into India at the behest of Lakhbir Singh Rode to reportedly assassinate the then Chief Minister of Punjab, Prakash Singh Badal.

1991

  • ISYF launches 'Bhai Amrik Singh Saheed Fund' in the UK reportedly to assist families of terrorists killed in security force operations in Punjab. The UK branch of the ISYF claims later that it had sent 30 pounds each to the next of kin of more than 100 terrorists. It also promises to send more money in the future.

1987

  • May: Satinder Pal Singh, a prominent leader of the ISYF in Canada, procures arms in Lahore and sells them to Khalistan Liberation Force terrorists. The proceeds from the sale are remitted to the ISYF in Canada.

1985

  • November: ISYF holds a convention at the Ross Street Gurudwara, in Vancouver, Canada. Several Sikhs from across the country participate in the meeting. Arjinder Pal Singh Sekhon, an influential religious leader of the Sikhs, makes a speech on alleged state terrorism against Sikhs by the Indian government.

  • Sekhon organises an arms deal in the UK. All ISYF units in Canada, the UK and the USA are directed to raise funds to finance the deal, and targets are assigned.

 

 

 

 

 
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