'Sikhs For Justice' begins lobbying among US lawmakers, terminates it within 3 months

·4-min read

New Delhi/Washington, Jun 27 (PTI) Sikhs for Justice, a secessionist group facing multiple probes in India and declared an unlawful entity, has summarily terminated its lobbying among US lawmakers within three months of launching a campaign to garner their support, documents show.

In the lobbying disclosure reports filed by its registered lobbyist, 'Blue Star Strategies LLC', 'Sikhs for Justice' (SFJ) has been described as a 'US-based NGO that supports the secession of Punjab from India'.

The lobbyist has further disclosed in its filings that the specific lobbying issue of its client was to 'raise awareness in the US of treatment of Sikh community in India'.

The documents submitted to the US Senate Lobbying Disclosure platform show that Blue Star Strategies' lobbying registration report on behalf of Sikhs For Justice was filed on March 12, 2021, while the first quarterly disclosure report was filed by it a little over a month later on April 19.

Besides raising 'awareness in the US about the treatment of Sikh community in India', the initial filing also mentioned, 'efforts by the Sikh-American diaspora in the US to draw attention to these issues' among the specific lobbying issues.

However, the second part was omitted from the lobbying disclosure filings made post-registration.

Also, in less than three months of the registration, Blue Star Strategies filed a termination report for its lobbying activities on behalf of SFJ, effective May 31.

The termination report was subsequently posted on the US Senate Lobbying Disclosure platform on June 15.

While no particular reason has been given for the termination, the lobbyist has disclosed 'less than USD 5,000' as income from the client for the second quarter of 2021, while a similar amount was disclosed in the first-quarter report.

It has also disclosed the US House of Representatives and the Department of Justice among the houses/agencies covered under the lobbying activity for the client.

Queries sent to the lobbyist as well as the client through their websites remained unanswered, while there was no response to calls made to the phone numbers listed there.

SFJ has been in focus in the recent past in India after several people, including activists associated with the long-running farmers' protests on Delhi borders, were issued summons by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with a case registered against this organisation.

In the FIR, SFJ has been described as 'an unlawful association under the UAPA Act' and has been accused, along with other Khalistani terrorist groups, of conspiring 'to create an atmosphere of fear and lawlessness and to cause disaffection in people and to incite them towards rising in rebellion against the government of India'.

It has also been alleged that as part of this conspiracy, huge funds were being collected abroad for on-ground campaigns and propaganda against missions in countries like the USA, the UK, Canada, Germany, etc.

SFJ's Gurpatwant Singh Pannun was among the nine individuals linked to separatist Khalistani outfits who were designated as terrorists by the Indian government in July last year under the UAPA Act.

Later in December 2020, the NIA filed a charge sheet against 16 people associated with SFJ and based in the US, UK and Canada under the anti-terror law, UAPA, for allegedly indulging in seditious activities and promoting enmity on the grounds of region and religion in the country. These also included Pannun.

The documents filed on the Senate Lobbying Disclosure platform further show that it was the second attempt by SFJ at lobbying for its cause among the US lawmakers, but the previous one was done indirectly.

In March 2020, an entity named 'Greater America LLC' had engaged lobby firm 'The Livingston Group, LLC' on behalf of SFJ and the offices covered for the lobbying activities at that time included the White House Office.

It had also disclosed an income of USD 10,000 from the client towards lobbying activities in the first quarter of 2020, but it filed a termination report within a month on April 17, 2020.

The specific lobbying issues mentioned in the disclosure report at that time were 'issues related to the intimidation and harassment of US citizens of Sikh ethnicity by individuals and entities outside of the United States for expressing their personal and political views.' Lobbying is a legal activity in the US, but the lobbyists need to be registered and need to file quarterly disclosure reports comprising details like lobbying income and expenses and offices covered for their respective clients.

The Government of India also has a registered lobbyist in the US which typically covers issues related to bilateral relations between the two countries. PTI BJ BJ TIR TIR

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