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Gajinder Singh Khalsa, Passed Away in Pakistan

Dal Khalsa founder and patron Gajinder Singh Khalsa reportedly died of a heart attack at a hospital in Pakistan on June 4. He was 74. Dal Khalsa is yet to confirm his death. He is survived by his daughter.

Hijacker of the Indian Airlines flight IC-423

Khalsa was one of the five men from the once-banned organisation Dal Khalsa who hijacked the Indian Airlines flight IC-423 which took off from Delhi’s Palam airport for Srinagar on September 29, 1981. They hijacked the Indian Airlines flight, with 111 passengers and 6 crew members on board, and forced the plane to land in Lahore to seek the release of several Khalistani extremists, including Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. They were arrested and underwent imprisonment from September 30, 1981, to October 31, 1994, as part of their life sentence by a court there. The hijackers had sought the release of several Khalistani extremists, including Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

Most wanted terrorist

After the hijacking, the Centre banned the Dal Khalsa in 1982, and the outfit was allowed to restart overground activity a decade later. The Central government also put Gajinder Singh Khalsa’s name on the list of 20 “most wanted” in January 2002 and sought his extradition from Pakistan. After they were released in 1994, two of the hijackers returned to India, and the other three decided to stay back. In 2020, the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikhs, decided to confer the title of ‘Sikh Warrior in Exile’ on Gajinder Singh Khalsa. After the announcement, Dal Khalsa spokesman Kanwar Pal Singh said they had “serious objections” to India’s viewpoint on Gajinder Singh. “The decision of the government to label him as a ‘terrorist’ is unjustified.

Man of politics

He is not a killer or a criminal. He is a man of politics. He wanted to change the system. He has never shown any prejudice or discrimination towards any religion or culture. He struggled for Sikh rights but never took up arms to accomplish the mission. The charges of sedition against him don’t fall under the definition of terrorism. Sedition is not a terrorist act. He has already spent 13 years and four months in Lahore jail for his act,” he said.

Hijacked the aircraft to Lahore

Kanwar Pal said Dal Khalsa activists did hijack the aircraft to Lahore, but none of them carried firearms and did not harm any passenger. The spokesman said Gajinder Singh went to Germany in July 1996, but was deported to Pakistan following the pressure from India. “A petition was filed by our party activists in the administrative court of Germany protesting the deportation of Gajinder Singh back to Pakistan. Since then, he is in exile,” he added.

Other hijacker of Indian Airlines Plane

Apart from Gajinder Singh, the four others who hijacked the Indian Airlines plane included Tajinderpal Singh, Satnam Singh, Jasbir Singh Cheema, and Karan Singh. Tajinderpal returned to India in December 1997 and Satnam in 1999. A Delhi court in August 2018 had acquitted Tajinderpal and Satnam of charges of waging war against the country, saying they were being granted “benefit of doubt” as the prosecution failed to prove the charges beyond “reasonable doubt”.

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