CISF takes note of SFJ chief Pannun’s threat against Air India, IGI airport

New Delhi: The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) has “taken cognisance” of the threat issued by Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, founder of the banned outfit Sikhs for Justice, ThePrint has learnt. 

To that effect, senior officers of the force have firmed up intelligence gathering at key civil airports across the country, besides holding meetings to discuss security strategy.

Pannun, declared a terrorist by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in 2020, put out a video message on microblogging site X last week, threatening a takeover of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport.

In the video, he also warned members of the Sikh community against taking Air India flights on or after 19 November, while demanding that the IGI airport be renamed after Beant Singh and Satwant Singh — the assassins of former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

As ThePrint reported earlier, 19 November 2023 marks the 106th birth anniversary of Indira Gandhi. The threat by Pannun also served as a reminder of the bombing of Air India Flight 182 by Canada-based Sikh separatists in 1985.

Sources in the CISF suggested that while Pannun lacks the capability or the assets to execute the threat, his words have been taken with the “utmost seriousness” and all stakeholders involved in security arrangements at the IGI airport have been alerted to it.

A CISF officer told ThePrint that the force has strengthened intelligence gathering at civil airports across the country, while the Chief Airport Security Officer (CASO) is conducting meetings with security officers to ensure there are no gaps in the implementation of security strategy.

“We have seen the threat video and taken cognisance with utmost seriousness. We have alerted the officers at Delhi airport and the CASO is stepping up every measure to ensure full-proof security,” a senior CISF officer told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.

Another CISF officer in the know of things said there are already Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place to deal with threats such as those issued by Pannun and the force is coordinating with intelligence agencies to assess and shore up preparedness.

“We work with a calibrated approach to the level of threats and have SOPs in place to tackle different types of threats. Sometimes we receive specific threats and have protocols in place to tackle those while we also receive vague threats and deal with them accordingly,” the officer told ThePrint, requesting anonymity.

“We are fully equipped and prepared to negate this threat,” he added.

A third CISF officer privy to the developments said that Pannun engages in theatrics to stay in the headlines and that his threat is not the sole reason the force should be on alert. The officer emphasised that there was intelligence about security emergencies at airports, following the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas and the force was already being extra cautious and alert and will remain the same in the wake of Pannun’s threat.

“The CISF doesn’t necessarily need a threat from a separatist to step up security measures. We are always prepared with our best strategy and contingency measures and have already stepped up our resources and intelligence gathering since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war and will continue with the apparatus,” said the officer who did not want to be named.

The officer added that all civil airports manned by the CISF, especially the ones at Delhi and Mumbai, already have in place an advanced security apparatus, equipped with cutting-edge technology monitored by the Aviation Security Control Centre (ASCC). 

Pannun holds dual citizenship (Canada and the US) and is known for using social media to issue threats against India and making provocative speeches.

According to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), a probe revealed that Pannun’s SFJ has been misusing cyberspace to radicalise young Indians, instigating them to undertake terrorist activities. Pannun was declared a “proclaimed offender” last November.

Earlier, in September, his properties in Amritsar and Chandigarh were confiscated by the NIA.

There were also media reports of the Indian High Commission in Ottawa seeking enhanced security apparatus for Air India flights originating from and terminating in Canada.

ThePrint reached Sanjay Kumar Verma, India’s High Commissioner to Canada, via email for comment but had not received a response by the time of publication. This report will be updated if and when a response is received.

Also Read: 3D images to real time data analysis — how CISF nerve centre keeps 66 airports secure across India


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