Pro-Khalistan propaganda.

Pro-Khalistan propaganda.

Pak-backed outfit sets Khalistan agenda on Google Play Store

App clearly aimed at pushing ISI agenda of dividing Sikh community: Punjab CM

Agency Report | New Delhi/Chandigarh | 8 November, 2019 | 11:10 PM

Ahead of Kartarpur Corridor opening on Saturday, the US-based radical group, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) -- learnt to be backed by Pakistan -- has adopted a new platform on Google Play Store to propagate its separatist Khalistan agenda.

Named as ’2020 Sikh Referendum’, a 7.54 MB mobile App offered by Romania-based ICETECH web designing solution firm pushes for voter registration for the Referendum-2020 agenda seeking support of people belonging to Punjab.

During the downloading process, the version 3.001 App requests access to camera, location, storage contents of SD card (seeking permission to modify and delete it), and control over network access, network connection and Wi-Fi connections, raising major concern to the security of mobile users based in India or abroad.

The App mentions that updates to 2020 Sikh Referendum may automatically add additional capabilities within each group. It is built for Android 6.0 version and other recent versions.

As the download begins, the App shows it is for Punjab Referendum 2020 for Khalistan, requesting people to join the ‘Team 2020 for Punjab Independence Referendum’.

In the first step during the downloading process, the App gives option to choose the country mentioned on its page for selecting ‘Team 2020′. In the second step, it directs to fill name, email address, country name, WhatsApp number and other details of the mobile user downloading the App.

Released on February 14 this year, the App, which shows 1.0 rating on Google Play Store, faced criticism in its review comments with people raising concerns as to why it needs all the access.

“All the required accesses are unnecessary and unsafe here. The modify and delete USB storage have full network access,” commented Sneha Gupta, an App visitor.

Another unknown visitor commented: “Obviously, it’s a cheap App made by some Pakistani to spread hatred in India in the name of religion. If anyone wants proof, then look at the service provider’s name in the screenshots. JazzlMobi Link is a Pakistan-based mobile network service provider. How does Google allow such radicalisation on its platforms?”.

Similar opinions are shared on the review platform of the App.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to inaugurate the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur on Saturday, the Referendum-2020 agenda to boost Khalistan movement in India and the state bordering Pakistan has alerted intelligence agencies.

The Kartarpur corridor, to be opened on November 9, will connect the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Punjab with Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, just 4km from the international border, located in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province.

An alert regarding the issue has been circulated by intelligence agencies with a message that “Khalistani extremists are misusing the new route to destabilize the region and spread their propaganda”.

The agencies have warned that Sikh fundamentalist organisations such as Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) plan to use the Kartarpur Corridor to further their secessionist agenda. The SFJ is being supported by Pakistan-based handlers to provide money and logistical support to local terrorists in Punjab to carry out subversive activities.

India has also raised alarm that several gurdwaras in Pakistan are still being used to promote pro-Khalistan campaign and that they have shared inputs regarding pamphlets being distributed at some gurdwaras in Pakistan that talked about ‘Sikh Referendum 2020′.

The SFJ is headed by Avtar Singh Pannun and Gurpatwant Singh Pannun who have started advocating a separate ‘Khalistan’ state as well as an online secessionist campaign, the ‘Sikh Referendum 2020′.

The Punjab police has registered 10 cases against the SFJ and its members, while the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is also probing the group in one case.

India also found that Pakistan is making all attempts to revive and activate other banned organisations such as Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), Khalistan Commando Force (KCF), Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) and International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF).

Several Pakistan-based terrorist groups are engaged in smuggling weapons into India since August 5, post Article 370 abrogation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Perturbed over reports of the launch of an anti-India App by Google, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday directed his officers to take up the matter appropriately and asked the technology company to remove it.

He also urged the Centre to direct the company to take down the controversial App immediately.

The state has taken up the issue with Google, said an official spokesperson, adding that, acting on the Chief Minister’s directives, Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta is also coordinating with central security agencies to tackle the threat triggered by the launch of the ’2020 Sikh Referendum’ App, just ahead of the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor.

The App, freely available for download on Google Play, is clearly aimed at pushing the ISI agenda of dividing the Sikh community amid the 550th Prakash Purb celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, said the Chief Minister, demanding that the app be immediately taken off.

“How and why Google allowed such an App to be uploaded by a known radical extremist group in the first place is questionable,” said the Chief Minister, expressing shock at the company’s irresponsible act in letting this happen.

Google should remove the App from its Playstore without a minute’s delay if it did not want to be perceived to be supporting an extremist group, he asserted.

The Chief Minister said the development raises serious concerns about the security threat to Punjab specifically, and to India as a whole.

The timing of the launch of App indicates a patently sinister agenda by the ISI to leverage the opportunity created by the Kartarpur Corridor to divide the Indian Sikh community, said Amarinder Singh, who has been repeatedly cautioning India against the ISI design behind the Pakistani decision to open the corridor.

Pointing out that the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), under whose guise the ISI has been pushing Referendum 2020, had been declared as an unlawful association by the central government, the Chief Minister said the organisation’s brazen involvement in violent acts had prompted the action against it.

However, with the sustained support of the ISI, the SFJ continued to push its anti-India campaign, and the Google App was just the latest in the series of tools it was employing to further its agenda, he added. (IANS)