Babbar Khalsa International | Tentacles of Khalistan 

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Jagtar Singh Tara was one of the three main accused in the Beant Singh assassination case.

Jagtar Singh Tara was one of the three main accused in the Beant Singh assassination case.
| Photo Credit: AFP

Yet again, the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) has made headlines with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) announcing a reward of ₹10 lakh each on designated Pakistan-based terrorists Harwinder Singh Sandhu, alias Rinda, and Lakhbir Singh Sandhu alias Landa, who, along with many other pro-Khalistani elements, have been operating from Canada.

Believed to have been formed in the aftermath of the April 13, 1978 clashes in Amritsar, involving the Akhand Kirtani Jatha and the Nirankaris, two opposing sides, the outfit is headquartered in Pakistan’s Lahore and has operated under patronage of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). It is currently headed by 69-year-old Wadhawa Singh, according to Indian security agencies.

The BKI, one of the oldest pro-Khalistan groups, was co-founded by Sukhdev Singh Babbar from Dassuwal (Amritsar) and Talwinder Singh Parmar from Kapurthala, who had migrated to Canada in May 1970. What followed was a series of assassinations, attacks on police forces and bombings at public places.

Over the years, the BKI has spread its network from India and Pakistan to other parts of the world, including Canada, the U.S. and Europe. It has also been operating in close coordination with other banned organisations such as the International Sikh Youth Federation. The outfit has been proscribed in India, Canada, the U.K., the EU, Japan, Malaysia and the U.S.

Plane bombing

On June 23, 1985, the BKI triggered a mid-air explosion aboard Air India 182, killing 329 people, including 268 Canadian, 27 British and 24 Indian citizens. The bomb was planted in Canada. Another plane to take off from Narita International Airport in Japan, Air India 301, was also targeted. However, the bomb exploded before it was planted. Two baggage handlers were killed in the blast.

Wadhwa Singh took over as the BKI chief after Sukhdev Singh Babbar and Talwinder Singh Parmar were killed in police encounters in 1992. Under the leadership of the then Punjab DGP, K.P.S. Gill, most of the pro-Khalistan terrorists were either arrested or eliminated by the police and security forces.

However, the BKI regrouped and on August 31, 1995, executed the assassination of the then Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh through “human bomb” Dilawar Singh at the Chandigarh secretariat. The blast also claimed the lives of 17 others, including three security personnel. In the intervening night of January 21-22, 2004, the BKI’s Jagtar Singh Hawara, Jagtar Singh Tara and Paramjit Singh Bheora, three main accused in the Beant Singh assassination case, escaped from Chandigarh’s high-security Burail jail along with a murder convict after digging a 94-foot tunnel. Hawara and Bheora were arrested within two years, but Tara remained at large.

Tara (in picture) eventually parted ways with the BKI owing to certain differences with Wadhawa Singh and floated another outfit named Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF). However, security agencies have reasons to believe that he continued to enjoy the ISI’s support. In January 2015, he was tracked down to Chonburi in Pattaya, Thailand, detained and brought back to India. Following his re-arrest, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot dead by unidentified assailants on the parking lot of a gurdwara in Canada’s Surrey on June 18, had taken over as the KTF chief.

As per the Ministry of Home Affairs’ notification under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in July 2020, the BKI under the patronage of Wadhwa Singh has been involved in various terrorist attacks, including the Air India Flight 182 bombing; Beant Singh assassination; and Burail jail break.

The NIA has been probing multiple cases involving the BKI and its members. In March, it had filed a supplementary chargesheet against three alleged aides of the outfit’s Harwinder Singh Sandhu, who has been sending consignments of arms, ammunition and explosives from across Pakistan via drones. Wadhawa Singh, who is a designated “individual terrorist”, faces eight cases in India.

His son Jitender Vir Singh and son-in-law Satnam Singh have been operating from Germany.

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