While political rhetoric surrounding the Kartarpur Sahib corridor plays out in India and Pakistan — with the project caught in a scramble for credit between New Delhi and Islamabad, Gopal Singh Chawla, a pro-Khalistan leader, is back in the limelight after his handshake with Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Chawla was spotted with Bajwa at the ground-breaking ceremony for the long-awaited Kartarpur corridor which will facilitate visa-free travel for Sikh pilgrims to Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur on Wednesday.
Known to be one of the key Khalistani activists seeking a separate homeland for the Sikh community, Chawla is reported to be the general secretary of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. A video accessed by Times Now shows Chawla inciting people in the name of the "Khalistani cause". He can be seen hailing Pakistan for being committed to the 'cause of Khalistan' and slammed India for "trying to convert the nation into Hindustan". The pro-Khalistani leader also called upon the audience to commit to the cause of Khalistan and be "ready for sacrifice".
He could be also be heard likening Khalistan's "freedom struggle" to that of Kashmir and repeated his demand for "Referendum 2020". Various pro-Khalistan organisations headed by 'Sikhs for Justice' demand a plebiscite in Punjab to demand a separate nation under Referendum 2020, Times Now reported.
Stopping Indian dignitaries
Chawla had on 14 April stopped Indian officials from visiting a Gurudwara in Lahore to meet Sikh pilgrims who had travelled from India. In a viral video, Chawla could be heard telling the officials that there are Khalistani supporters inside, reported Times Now.
He was also involved in pasting photos of ‘Referendum 2020’ outside gurdwaras in Pakistan when the Sikh pilgrims from India had visited the neighbouring country on Baisakhi.
Two days earlier, Indian officials were stopped from meeting the Sikh pilgrims when they reached Wagah — the first station after a train crosses over to Pakistan, reported The Tribune.
Links with Hafiz Saeed?
Chawla is also believed to have ties with Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed and the two also seemed to have shared a dais in the past, a picture of which is in the public domain, reports Times Now.
Photographic evidence had also emerged that Pakistan based terror-outfits Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) were backing Sikh militants as LeT chief Saeed was seen with Chawla in Lahore, reported The Tribune. New Delhi has time and again pointed fingers at Pakistan for supporting terrorists forces against India, including Saeed's LeT.
Chawla's alleged connection with Saeed came to the fore again after the Amritsar grenade blast on 18 November in which three people were killed and several injured. The blast occurred at a religious gathering on the outskirts of Amritsar and reportedly took place when members of the Nirankari sect were gathered at Nirankari Bhawan at Rajasansi village near the Amritsar international airport.
A day later, India Today, had revealed pictures of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed meeting Chawla a few months prior, claiming that their meeting could be related to the attack. Senior Congress leader and former Ludhiana MP Manish Tewari agreed with the chief minister, describing the blast as the ISI’s attempt to reactivate the Khalistan file, as reported by The Tribune. Tewari drew linkages between Sunday’s attack and the first Akali-Nirankari clashes of 13 April, 1978 in Amritsar. "It all started on 13 April, 1978 like this. The ISI has activated its Khalistan file again... The recent terror attacks in Gurdaspur, Pathankot and now Amritsar are the ISI's gameplan,” said Tewari.
In an interview on Pakistan's Samaa TV, Chawla can be heard saying: "The Sikh community's bonding with Pakistan is similar to Pakistan's relationship with Saudi Arabia."
Photograph with Navjoy Singh Sidhu
Cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, on Thursday, came under fire once again when his picture with Khalistani activist Gopal Singh Chawla appeared on the social media. Sidhu's picture came a day after Chawla was spotted with Bajwa during the Kartarpur event. The minister had earlier courted controversy by hugging Bajwa when the former had gone to attend the swearing-in of Imran Khan as Prime Minister of Pakistan.
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Updated Date: Nov 29, 2018 13:03:55 IST