When all the efforts of Punjab government and Punjab Police are directed to check the spread of the pandemic, US-based Sikhs for Justice, which was banned by India in July last year for alleged anti-national activities, is pushing its secessionist agenda by promising Rs 2000 each for coronavirus positive persons in the state and asking people if they support SFJ or the governments led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Punjab CM Amarinder Singh.
For the past many days, recorded interactive voice response (IVR) messages of SFJ legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun from phone numbers having US ISD code are making their way to mobile phones of residents of Punjab, including lawyers, the top police officers, media and others.
These call messages, which promise Rs 2000 aid to patients, also ask the receiver to ‘press 1’ if they agree with the policies of SFJ or ‘press 2’ if they agree with the policy of Centre government led by PM Modi and Punjab government.
Punjab Police Intelligence Wing chief, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Varinder Kumar, said police were seized of the matter and had discussed the issue with Centre also.
Kumar said the police had earlier got blocked one of the numbers, but Pannun started using another number to send the recorded voice messages. Police believe that recorded messages are being routed through some call centre.
“We took up the issue with telecom operators and recently got one such number blocked which was being used to send such recorded messages. Now, he has started using another number to send the messages. Centre is already aware of the issue and we are taking it up again,” said Kumar.
“He (Pannun) is trying to befool the public. Real purpose of all drama is earning money and this is his source of livelihood. People of Punjab are aware of this and he is not getting any response here. So, he is indulging in all sorts of dramas,” said Kumar.
Another top officer of Punjab Police said, “Pannun offering Rs 2000 to every person testing positive for COVID 19 is a joke. No one wants money from such a person. If he really wants to help coronavirus victims, he should do so in United States which is badly grappling with the disease”
As per Punjab police, Sikhs for Justice is involved in ten criminal cases in the State. Pannun alone was booked in three cases (one registered in 2017 in Mohali district and two in 2018, in Amritsar and Batala police district, respectively) for sedition and other offences. A Punjab police official said “red corner notices in these cases are being followed”.
Having received the recorded messages of Pannun, a number of lawyers on Monday took to social media platforms to oppose the secessionist move.
Advocate Divyadeep Walia tweeted, “@PunjabPoliceInd sir, today I had received two voice calls from the international number by some gurpatwant singh pannu of some ‘sikhs for justice’ organisation claiming votes to free punjab from india and planning to topple congress government in punjab and Modi government in centre…The number is +18336101020. I am attaching screenshots of the call received. His language, act and intention was seditious. He had also claimed to have send Rs 2000 in accounts of young punjabi boys as aid also. pls take legal action.”
Another advocate Amarbir Singh Salar tweeted: “Sir @capt_amarinder ji, I received a call from +1 833 610 1020 claiming to be from Sikhs for Justice (SJF(sic)) & an Automated voice message, SJF (sic) is trying to mislead the youth of Punjab by spreading inflammatory speech of some Mr. Pannu, clearly stating to break Punjab from the Union of India amidst this #COVID 19 pendemic. Kindly take action against the organisation and this person in particular. @DGPPunjabPolice”.
Haryana’s former AAG, ex-copted Member Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana and vice-president, SAS Nagar Shooting Association, advocate Gurvinder Singh Sandhu said in a tweet, “I do not support Sikhs for Justice agenda…they are sending voice messages from +1 8336101020….”.
Another advocate, who did not wish to be named, said, “We have a WhatsApp group of lawyers. Messages in the group started pouring in that members were receiving such calls, not only once but twice. I also received such calls twice and pressed digit two. The moment I pressed digit two, the call got disconnected. Similar experience was shared by many other members. I have been told by one of the members that he had approached Chandigarh Cyber Crime wing in connection with such calls.”
A section of users on twitter, on the other hand, have praised Pannun’s move to offer Rs 2,000 to coronavirus positive tested persons in Punjab.
Earlier, last month, there was another recorded call message from Pannun where he said, “This is Gurpatwant Singh Pannun from Sikhs for Justice . And the message is for [Punjab CM] Capt Amarinder [Singh] and DGP [Dinkar] Gupta. Asin tuhanu pehlon vi aagah keeta si ki Punjab de naujawana te tashadad na karo. Par Bharti dehshatgard hakumat heth tusin corona kehar de dauran vi naujawana te tashadad karan ton baaj nahi aa rahe. Isde nateeje international level te tuhanu kanooni taur te bhugtane painge (We had earlier also warned you that don’t unleash atrocities on youth of Punjab.
But under the rule of militant government of India and amid coronavirus havoc, you are not stopping atrocities on youth. You will have to face the legal consequences of this at international level.”
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