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Alleged Indian Government Plot to Assassinate Sikh Separatist in US, Justice Department File Charges

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged Nikhil Gupta, 52, with coordinating the attempted murder in collaboration with the Indian government employee.

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The U.S. Justice Department revealed on Wednesday that an Indian government official allegedly orchestrated an unsuccessful plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist on U.S. soil. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged Nikhil Gupta, 52, with coordinating the attempted murder in collaboration with the Indian government employee, whose role involved security and intelligence matters.

While the Justice Department did not disclose the names of the Indian official or the target, it asserted that Gupta conspired from India to carry out the assassination in New York City. The target was identified as a U.S. citizen of Indian origin who publicly advocates for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs in northern India.

Gupta, who was arrested by Czech authorities in June, is currently awaiting extradition. Attempts to reach him for comment have been unsuccessful.

Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, stated, “The defendant conspired from India to assassinate, right here in New York City, a U.S. citizen of Indian origin who has publicly advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs.”

These charges follow a recent announcement by a senior Biden administration official, revealing that U.S. authorities had thwarted a plot to kill a Sikh separatist in the United States. Concerns were raised over potential involvement by the government in New Delhi.

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While prosecutors did not identify the target of Gupta’s alleged plot, they described the individual as a vocal critic of the Indian government leading a U.S.-based organization advocating for the secession of India’s Punjab state, which has a substantial Sikh population.

The incident comes on the heels of Canada’s assertion, two months prior, of “credible” allegations linking Indian agents to the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in a Vancouver suburb in June—a claim India has rejected.

According to prosecutors, the Indian official recruited Gupta in May 2023 for the assassination plot, leveraging Gupta’s prior involvement in drug and weapons trafficking. Gupta, in turn, sought assistance from an individual he believed to be a criminal associate to hire a hitman. However, this associate turned out to be an undercover agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

On the day after Nijjar’s killing, Gupta allegedly informed the undercover DEA agent that Nijjar “was also the target” and that “we have so many targets.” Gupta now faces two counts of murder-for-hire and murder-for-hire conspiracy, with a maximum sentence of 20 years if convicted.

The Indian government has previously expressed concerns about the presence of Sikh separatist groups outside India, particularly in Canada and the United States.

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