Babbar Khalsa International (BKI, Punjabi: ਬੱਬਰ ਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ, [bəbːəɾ xɑlsɑ]), better known as Babbar Khalsa, is a Sikh militant organisation whose main objective is to create an independent Sikh country Khalistan and uses armed attacks, defense, and armed struggle to accomplish its goal. It operates in Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and some parts of India. It is officially banned and designated as an international terrorist organisation by the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan and India.
It gained notoriety for killing 329 civilians (mostly Canadians) in Air India Flight 182 and for the 1985 Narita International Airport bombing. Despite the killing of innocent people, as the case is with most terrorist organisations, its supporters promote it as a resistance movement. BKI was created in 1978 after clashes with the Nirankari sect of Sikhs. It was active throughout the 1980s in the Punjab insurgency, though its influence declined in the 1990s after several of its senior leaders were killed in encounters with Indian police.
The name Babbar Khalsa is taken from the Babbar Akali Movement of 1920, which fought against the British Rule of India. The modern-day Babbar Khalsa was created in 1978 by Talwinder Singh Parmar and Jathedar Sukhdev Singh Babbar as an offshoot of Akhand Kirtani Jatha with the support of Bibi Amarjit Kaur. After a bloody clash on April 13, 1978, between a group of Amritdhari Sikhs of Akhand Kirtani Jatha and a gathering of the rival Nirankari sect, BKI was created to exact revenge.
On 13 April 1978, the day to celebrate the birth of Khalsa, Sant Nirankari convention was organized in Amritsar to start a new religion with the concept of panj pyarre as sath sitare, with permission from the Akali state government. The practices of "Sant Nirankaris" sect of Nirankaris were considered heresy as the act was intentionally political motivated to hurt the Sikh sentiments, but was opposed by Sikh orthodox leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. From Golden Temple premises, Bhindranwale delivered an angry sermon in which he declared that he would not allow this convention and would go there and cut them to pieces. A procession of about two hundred Sikhs led by Bhindranwale and Fauja Singh of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha left the Golden Temple, heading towards the Nirankari Convention. Fauja attempted approach Nirankari chief Gurbachan Singh but was shot dead by Gurbachan's bodyguard, while Bhindranwale escaped. In the ensuing violence, several people were killed: two of Bhindranwale's followers, eleven members of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha and three Nirankaris. This event brought Bhindranwale to limelight in the media.
A criminal case was filed against sixty-two Nirankaris, by the Akali led government in Punjab. The case was heard in the neighbouring Haryana state, and all the accused were acquitted under political pressure. The Punjab government Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal decided not to appeal the decision. The case of Nirankaris received widespread support in the media and the orthodox Sikhs claimed this to be a conspiracy to defame the Sikh religion. Bhindranwale increased his rhetoric against the enemies[according to whom?] of Sikhs. A letter of authority was issued by Akal Takht to ostracize the Sant Nirankaris. A sentiment was created to justify extrajudicial killings of the perceived enemies of Sikhism. The chief proponents of this attitude were Babbar Khalsa founded by Talwinder Singh Parmar and followers of the widow, Bibi Amarjit Kaur of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, whose husband Fauja Singh had been at the head of the march in Amritsar; the Damdami Taksal led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who had also been in Amritsar on the day of the outrage; the Dal Khalsa, formed with the object of demanding a sovereign Sikh state; and the All India Sikh Students Federation, which was banned by the government.
Babbar Khalsa started targeting people who sympathised with the Nirankaris. In the subsequent years following this event, several murders took place in Punjab and the surrounding areas allegedly by Bhindranwale's group and the new Babbar Khalsa. The Babbar Khalsa activists took up residence in the Golden Temple, where they would retreat to, after committing "acts of punishment" on people against the orthodox Sikh tenets. Police did not enter the temple complex to avoid hurting the sentiments of Sikhs. On 24 April 1980, the Nirankari head, Gurbachan was murdered. A member of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, Ranjit Singh, surrendered and admitted to the assassination three years later, and was sentenced to serve thirteen years at the Tihar Jail in Delhi.
According to C. Christine Fair, Babbar Khalsa was opposed to Bhindranwale and more concerned with propagating sectarian violence and enforcing Sikh personal law than supporting Khalistan movement.
The group wants to establish an independent country for Sikh religion called Khalistan, and uses bombings, kidnappings and murders to accomplish their goals. The sacred places of worship of Hindus have been desecrated by Babbar Khalsa. Although mentioned as objective, Babbar Khalsa were not very motivated in the notion of Khalistan but rather strived to enforcing a rigid code of behavior similar to Islamic Sharia law. In order to achieve compliance, the group often used excessive violence including murders.
The group receives funds and support from the Sikh diaspora located in Europe and North America. Historically, to get the financial and material support needed for opprating terrorist activities BKI has used in-person meetings, public rallies and fundraising events. Parmer organized and featured at Sikh rallies and fundraisers across Canada. Parmar was instrumental in channeling financial support to BKI from overseas Sikh communities. BKI is sponsored by Germany-based terrorist organizations with an aim to revive terrorism in the Indian Punjab.
BKI militants have their presence outside of India in Pakistan, North America, Europe and Scandinavia. BKI at present is active in the US, Canada, the UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and Pakistan. BKI continues its operations from Pakistan with the support of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The group has its headquarters in Lahore, Pakistan.
In 1992, Talwinder Singh Parmar split from the BKI and formed the Babbar Khalsa (Parmar) faction. This happened after serious differences erupted between Parmar and BKI's leadership. The Parmar faction has a presence in the UK, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.
Links with other organizations
Babbar Khalsa is part of a terrorist network sponsored by Germany-based terrorist groups and ISI with plans to revive terrorism in the Indian Punjab.
In August 2001, it was reported that a joint committee was formed in Germany that aims to coordinate the activities of major terrorist organisations abroad. Resham Singh of Babbar Khalsa, Gurdial Singh Lalli of the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) and Harmeet Singh of Kamagata Maru Dal of Khalistan are the prominent leaders of this committee. The ISI supported the coordination between Khalistani terrorists, terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir and other fundamentalist groups.
The Pakistani government appointed Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Javed Nasir, who was a former chief of the ISI, to serve as the Chairman of Pakistan Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (PGPC). PGPC formed in 1999, administers Sikh shrines in Pakistan. According to intelligence reports, the terrorists camps for Sikhs in Pakistan are working under the supervision of General Nasir. In April 2002 it was reported in media that the ISI has entrusted the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) with the task of reviving terrorism in Punjab. The LeT will be imparting arms training to groups like the BKI, the ISYF and the Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF). LeT opened at least eight camps in Pakistan to train the Khalistanis. These camps are located at Kot Lakhpat, Chakwal, Gujranwala, Mianwali, Peshawar, Attock, Shahidan Da Banga and Gulbarg in Lahore.
BKI has also established a nexus with Dawood Ibrahim, the fugitive Indian underworld kingpin who now resides in Karachi. The terrorists were liasoning with the Dawood Ibrahim gang in Mumbai. The terrorists would dispose of stolen cars and trucks through the Dawood gang to amass money, which was then sent to Wadhwa Singh for procuring arms and ammunition. Efforts were made by the ISI to help the BKI establish bases in China, but these initiatives were thwarted by the Chinese.
In February 2004, India had initiated efforts to secure the return of Mehal Singh from Paris, France. He was one of the two principal leaders of the group. In late 2003 he had left for France from Pakistan. His differences with Wadhwa Singh had led to his move. Wadhwa Singh's son-in-law Satnam Singh Malian operates from Germany.
It is officially banned and designated as an international terrorist organisation by several countries.
- Canada banned the group in 2003.
- European Union
- United Kingdom
- United States, In April 2004, the United States added BKI and the ISYF, to its terror list, allowing the US to deny entry (and to deport) any of its members.
Some terrorists acts done in Canada, India and Germany have been claimed in the name of Babbar Khalsa. During his residence in Canada, Parmar continued to lead BKI activities. He was involved in terror financing, recruitment and radicalization of Sikh youths, procurement of small arms and explosives, and the development and coordination of terrorist attacks. After Operation Blue Star the organisation fell into disarray but was able to regroup and remained active.
On the morning of November 19, 1981, Police Inspector Pritam Singh Bajwa and Constable Surat Singh of Jalandhar were gunned down in Daheru village nearby Khanna in Ludhiana district. The militants, who were hiding in the house of Amarjit Singh Nihang, all managed to escape. This act gained Babbar Khalsa and its chief Talwinder Singh Parmar notoriety. Named in the first information report were Wadhawa Singh (current Babbar Khalsa chief, now residing in Pakistan), Talwinder Singh Parmar, Amarjit Singh Nihang, Amarjit Singh (Head Constable), Sewa Singh (Head Constable) and Gurnam Singh (Head Constable).
On June 23, 1985: BKI militants bombed Air India Flight 182 going from Montreal, Canada to New Delhi, India. An improvised explosive device placed inside the cargo hold of the Boeing 747 destroyed the plane with an explosion at an altitude of 31,000 feet in Irish airspace and it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. All 329 passengers were killed, including 268 Canadian, 27 British and 24 Indian citizens. Parmar and Inderjit Singh Reyat were arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on explosive charges, linking the two to the Air India Flight 182 bombing and 1985 Narita International Airport bombing. Parmar was acquitted of all charges. Inderjit Singh Reyat admitted to building the bomb, was convicted in the Air India bombing. Reyat a member of the ISYF, was found guilty of manslaughter for making the bombs and had to spend more than 20 years in prison at Canada, and is the only individual convicted in these attacks as of 9 Feb 2009. The Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182 concluded that, regarding Talwinder Singh Parmar, "[it] is now believed that he was the leader of the conspiracy to bomb Air India flights"
Five Babbar Khalsa members from Montreal were arrested May 30, 1986, for another plot to bomb Air India flights out of New York City. Newspaper editor Tara Singh Hayer was targeted with a bomb at his office in January 1986. Just weeks later, Sikhs from the Hamilton temple along with Air India bombing suspects Talwinder Singh Parmar and Ajaib Singh Bagri were arrested after being wiretapped discussing blowing up the Parliament and kidnapping children of MPs in India. Visiting Punjabi Cabinet Minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu was ambushed in Canada, surviving being shot in March 1986 by four gunmen.
On 8 January 1990, Khalistan Liberation Force in co-operation with Babbar Khalsa, killed DSP Gobind Ram in a bomb blast.
On 7 September 1991, eight Babbar Khalsa militants had an encounter with CRPF personnel near the village of Maujiya. On the militants' side, three were killed: Khem Singh Babbar, Paramjeet Singh Babbar and Gurmail Singh Babbar. The encounter lasted for 24 hours.
On 31 August 1995, Dilawar Singh Babbar assassinated Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh in a suicide bomb attack at the civil secretariat in Chandigarh. Dilawar claimed allegiance to the Babbar Khalsa and four other members of the Babbar Khalsa were named responsible for the killing of Beant Singh.
In 2007, Babbar Khalsa militants were arrested by the Punjab police for a bombing at the Shingar Cinema Complex in Ludhiana on 14 October 2007, in which 6 people were killed and 37 wounded. The police also recovered 2 pistols, 5.10 kg of RDX and 3 detonators from them. The militants had gone to Pakistan with a Sikh Jatha for pilgrimage, where they received the training for making bombs. The group received explosive devices from Pakistan across the international border in Bikaner, Rajasthan.
Four Babbar Khalsa International UK members were arrested and later bailed in July 2010 in connection with the murder of a Sikh leader in Punjab, India.
In March 2017, Balwinder Singh, the head of Babbar Khalsa's operations in the United States, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by Nevada U.S. district judge for conspiracy to launch a terrorist attack in India in 2013. Singh plead guilty to providing funding and materials to a co-conspirator, who was to travel to India to assassinate or maim an Indian government official. The target government official was to be determined upon the co-conspirator's arrival.
The crackdown on Sikh militant organisations by the Indian Government in the early 1990s, followed by government infiltration of the Khalistan movement and the various militant organisations respectively, greatly weakened the Babbar Khalsa, ultimately leading to the death of Sukhdev Singh Babbar (9 August 1992) and Talwinder Singh Parmar (15 October 1992). Parmar had been killed by Indian police in a gunfight per the official sources.
Despite setbacks incurred in the early nineties, Babbar Khalsa is still active underground, although not to the extent it once was. Current leadership resides with Wadhawa Singh Babbar.
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