Bengaluru: In its latest chargesheet, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) speaks about an international conspiracy behind the killing of an RSS leader, Brig (Retd) Jagdish Kumar Gagneja.

On August 6 2016, two motorcycle-borne assailants with their faces covered shot dead Gagneja at the Red Cross Market area in Jalandhar, Punjab. 

Gagneja was the vice chief or sah sanghchalak of the RSS for Punjab. The NIA learnt that the killing of Gagneja was not an isolated incident. It was part of a trans-national conspiracy hatched by the ISI and the Khalistan Liberation Force. The probe led the NIA to find that there were eight such killings executed between January 2016 and October 2017 in Punjab. 

The objective was to create chaos, spread panic and revive terrorism. An NIA officer explains to MyNation, the the ISI and KLF sought to create communal tension in the state of Punjab and other parts of the country through the killing of Hindu leaders.

The plot:

The NIA was able to trace the conspiracy to several countries. There were people located in Pakistan, United Kingdom, Dubai, France, Italy and United Arab Emirates. The funds came in from Italy, Australia and the UK, the NIA further states in its chargesheet. The funds were used by the killers Hardeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh to purchase the weapons.
Further the NIA stated that both had visited Italy, UAE and Dubai to train for the murders. Hardeep, the NIA says is a permanent resident of Italy, while Ramandeep is from Ludhiana. The accused were trained by Gursharanbir Singh, who is a UK national. Another UK national Jagtar Singh, was involved in the funding. The monitoring of the entire plot was done by Harmeet Singh, who is based in Pakistan.

A big destabilising factor:

It may be recalled that Indian Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat had said last November that the ISI backed Punjab terror would be the biggest destabilising factor. The statements came in the wake of the police busting modules of a terror group called Khalistan Gaddar Force at Patiala.

General Rawat said that there are attempts to revive terrorism in Punjab, while adding that if steps are not taken, then it would be too late. Let us not think that the Punjab situation is over. We cannot close our eyes to what is happening in Punjab, the Army chief had also said.

Adding to the woes of the security forces are groups such as the Sikhs for Justice who have been pushing for Referendum 2020. Last year the SJF were in full flow and had organised events in several parts of the world, including a controversial one at the Trafalgar Square.

The New York based organisation supports the Khalistan Movement and has the active backing of the ISI.

Indian agencies say that the activities of the SJF must be closely monitored. It had called the Kartarpur Project as a corridor for the Khalistan movement. The Referendum 2020 is a movement to watch out for. It has not managed to get the traction, the SJF and ISI had hoped for, but it is something that we cannot take lightly at all, an Intelligence Bureau official says.

As part of this movement, several modules had planned attacks on IPL matches to be held at Mohali. Further a mass movement is also being planned and there is material being posted on the social media. The basic idea of this movement is to destabilise Punjab and declare it is as a separate nation by 2020.

The ISI factor:

While Pakistan as usual continues to deny any hand, it was found that an ISI stooge, Fateh Singh was running the social media campaigns for Referendum 2020.

The ISI has not only been running campaigns, but has also ensured that the flow of funds to run such a movement is being routed through various international channels. The ISI realises that the targeted killing of RSS leaders would cause communal tension. If such killings continue on a regular basis, Punjab and the neighbouring states would become volatile and this could well become a good launch pad for the Khalistan terrorists to operate.

The NIA probe found a similar modus operandi in the killing of Satpal Sharma, son of Ramesh Sharma and Durga Gupta. 

What is more worrying is that the ISI has also been trying to set up modules of the Jaish-e-Mohammad in Punjab. It wants to deal a double blow to India and keep both Punjab and Kashmir on the boil.
Home Ministry officials say that the ISI will bring both the JeM and Khalistan terror groups together. They have been instructed to operate together in both Punjab and Kashmir. All these factors get inter-linked as the ISI is the common factor. The official said that the routing of funds for both these causes are through similar routes. 

Prior to the 2019 elections, the agencies had also found that there was a coordinated effort by various anti-India forces. The ISI had on its pay rolls, activists, journalists and their job was to spread false propaganda against the government. The intelligence witnessed the mushrooming of several social media handles at that time and these were clearly aimed at destabilising the nation, by spreading fake propaganda and creating communal tension, the agencies had also learnt.