Why is NIA seeking to question Khalsa Aid, other volunteers now?

The NGO has recently been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Canadian politicians Tim Uppal and Patrick Brown

Image Courtesy:mensxp.com

In their 11th round of talks with union ministers and officials, the farmers union leaders have once again raised the issue of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) notices being served to those involved in the farmers protest. According to news reports, the farmers’ union leaders have told the government  that these summons are being sent to allegedly harass those supporting the agitation. The Telegraph reported that the government representatives have responded saying they will “look into the matter”.

Meanwhile, according to a lawyer familiar with the matter, the NIA has probably issued around 100 summons to those associated with the farmers’ protest. Many of these people summoned to appear for questioning are mostly supporters, doing voluntary service or sewa, and some are the known leaders of the protest. The summons ask them to come to the NIA headquarter in Delhi and answer questions. According to someone at the protest a person summoned was also asked to submit their bank account details. 

It had been reported earlier that the unions stated that no farmer who has received such notices will appear before the agency as a mark of protest. The NIA, has summoned people in a case related to an organisation called Sikhs for Justice, which allegedly advocates Sikh secessionism and is allegedly aiding the protesters. The most prominent name on that list was that of farm union leader Baldev Singh Sirsa. 

Summons were also sent to Khalsa Aid, a social organisation which has been supporting the farmer sit-in demonstration on Delhi’s borders, supplying them with food, medicine, clothes and other essential services.  The NGO had issued an official statement on the matter,expressing its “concerns for the health and mental wellbeing of our Khalsa Aid team, along with interrogations which may not comply with international standards.” It stated that such “large-scale indiscriminate NIA investigation of this nature against voluntary agencies, groups and individuals who provide humanitarian support is unprecedented in Indian history.”  

According to some news reports the NIA has examined a few functionaries Khalsa Aid, and some more have been summoned. On January 16, 2021, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had summoned Amanpreet Singh, director of the humanitarian NGO Khalsa Aid India, and some of its other trustees, asking them to depose before it. Soon after that the NGO was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Tim S. Uppal, a Member of Parliament for Edmonton Mill Woods, Canada. He did so in his capacity as a federal Member of Parliament and was supported by Prabmeet Sarkaria, MPP for Brampton South , Assoc. Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, and Patrick Brown, Mayor of Brampton. 



As reported by Livemint, the NIA has now reportedly postponed the examination of the NGO’s members after that announcement and the global attention to the issue. On January 18, 2021, the day the Nobel nomination was announced, the agency postponed the interrogation, The Hindu reported. “There was meant to be a hearing of two key Indian team members today and tomorrow [Monday and Tuesday], they [the NIA] postponed it. They were informed on phone that the hearing is postponed till further notice,” Ravinder Singh, founder of Khalsa Aid, was quoted by The Hindu.

Founded by the British Sikh activist in 1999, Khalsa Aid is often seen responding with food, water, medical supplies, and other essential aid wherever a humanitarian crisis is reported. It works in various countries across the world including in India. As reported then, it was visible giving humanitarian aid in the aftermath of the Kerala floods of  2018, it helped stranded Kashmiri students who were vulnerable after the abrogation of Article 370 and was also visible lending support at the peak of the sudden Covid-19 lockdown. It is now that it is most visible at the ongoing farmers’ protest in Haryana, providing food, water, toilets, tents, clothes and a free of charge convenience store, that it has got criticism from the right wing groups. Hoards of RW social media users started questioning it when it installed 25 electric foot-massagers for the tired and aged protestors. The protest itself was vilified as being superficial and having luxurious amenities, and fancy food such as pizzas. Some started questioning where the money was coming from. 

However, all those volunteering at the protest carried on, it will soon be two months since the protest reached Delhi borders. At the forefront of the service along with others  remains Khalsa Aid which has presence in the distress areas in the middle east, the UK, the US and Canada. Others summoned but have so far refused to comply include Punjabi actor Deep Singh Sidhu, his lawyer brother Mandeep Singh Sidhu and farmer leader and head of Lok Bhalai Insaf Welfare Society Balbir Singh Sirsa, said news reports.

Deep Singh Sidhu on Facebook said the NIA is using pressure tactics. “I was summoned on January 16 and asked to appear on January 17. I told them it’s not possible. The officer on the other end was very rude to me then and stated that they know other ways also,” he said adding that the officer also taunted him and asked him “why he was at the protest anyway, and that he is not even allowed to speak on state”. He said this was a way to divide the protest.

The NIA has also summoned some local journalists and social media influencers who have been active in reporting from the protest, or have been supporting it online.  These summons are being sent in connection with an NIA probe where a fresh case was registered against SFJ on December 15, 2020 stated a news report in the India Express. It alleged “that a large amount of funds being collected by Khalistani terrorist outfits are being sent through NGOs to pro-Khalistani elements in India.” According to the reports the FIR stated that “designated terrorists such as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Paramjeet Singh Pamma, Hardeep Singh Nijjar and others spearheaded campaigns to collect huge funds for on-ground campaign and propaganda against India, that includes staging demonstrations against Indian missions in the US, the UK, Canada and Germany.” The SFJ was first banned in 2019 by the Home Ministry. In the past five years, 14 cases have been registered against the SFJ, and more than 40 have been arrested, stated news reports.

“When we were serving the Rohingya refugees, we were called anti-nationals and Muslim appeasers on social media, but when we told them there were Hindu Rohingya refugees and Muslims alike, then everyone kept quiet,” director of charitable trust Khalsa Aid India.

Amarpreet Singh told the Mint in an 2019 interview. Singh had responded after seeing  the videos of police attacks on students of Jamia Millia Islamia on social media on December 15, 2019 by going to the campus, meeting the injured students and offering water bottles and cups of tea. As the students’ protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act grew so did this langar. 

Khalsa Aid India works on the principle “Recognize the whole human race as one, to serve humanity” he said. The NGO also served water to protesting farmers during the long march in Maharashtra 2018. The report added that when Kashmiri students were attacked on various campuses after the 40 paramilitary personnel were killed in Pulwama, Kashmir, in February, many called Amarpreet for help. He arranged to ferry 600 Kashmiri students to Punjab, and then sent them to Kashmir under the protection of Punjab police.  


Now Khalsa Aid’s organisational skills, along with the langar seva organised by various groups, has made sure the farmers are taken care of as they continue to sit in on what is being recognised as one of the biggest protests of its kind in recent times.


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