Terrorism Profiles

Babbar Khalsa International (BKI)

Alternative Names:

Babbar Khalsa International, BKI, Babbar Khalsa, Tigers of the True Faith

Location:

India

Leadership:

Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) was founded in 1978 by Talwinder Singh Parmar (born February 26, 1944) and Jathedar Sukhdev Singh Babbar (born August 9, 1955).

Born in India, Parmar later immigrated to Canada and became a naturalized Canadian citizen. He was widely regarded as an influential spokesperson for Sikh independence and remains a celebrated figure to this day within the Canadian-Sikh community.

Parmar continued to lead BKI activities while residing in Canada, which included terror financing, recruitment and radicalization, small arms and explosives procurement, and the development and coordination of terrorist attacks. Parmar eventually returned to India where he was killed in a police encounter in 1992.

Wadhawa Singh is the current leader of BKI, which is now based in Pakistan.

Membership:

BKI militants are largely concentrated in the northwestern Indian province of Punjab and along the India-Pakistan border.

BKI has supporters outside of India in Pakistan, North America, Europe, and Scandinavia.

Funding Sources:

Historically, BKI has used public rallies, in-person meetings, and fundraising events to garner financial and material support for terrorist activities. Talwinder Singh Parmer featured prominently at Sikh rallies and fundraisers across Canada and was instrumental for his role in channeling financial support from overseas Sikh communities to BKI.

BKI is operating from Pakistan with the support of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Available evidence also suggests that BKI is sponsored by Germany-based terrorist organizations to revive terrorism in the Indian Punjab.

Origins:

BKI was founded in 1978 and traces its origins to the Babbar Akali Movement of 1920. BKI’s objective was to secure an independent Sikh state, Khalistan, in the Indian province of Punjab.

The roots of the Khalistan movement were complex with the main drivers being inadequate recognition of Sikhism and the Punjabi language, as well as the mistreatment of Sikhs by the Indian government.

Major Attacks:

The BKI has participated in hundreds of attacks against Indian security forces and civilians. The most notable attacks are as follows:

November 19, 1981: BKI was involved in an armed encounter with police at Daheru village in Ludhiana district, which resulted in the deaths of Police Inspector Pritam Singh Bajwa and Constable Surat Singh. This was the catalyst for BKI’s rise to prominence.

June 23, 1985: BKI militants bombed Air India Flight 182 en route from Montreal, Canada to New Delhi, India. The Boeing 747 was destroyed at an altitude of 31,000 feet in Irish airspace and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. All 329 passengers were killed, including 268 Canadian citizens, 27 British citizens, and 24 Indian citizens.

Objectives:

BKI was formed as part of a broad terrorist-secessionist movement for the establishment of a fundamentalist Sikh state, Khalistan (Land of the Pure), in the Indian state of Punjab.

Tactics:

During it’s most active period between 1985-1995, BKI was known primarily for its use of assassinations, hostage takings, bombings, and firearm attacks. The group’s most prominent attack involved the use of an improvised explosive device placed inside the cargo hold of Air India Flight 182.

The frequency of BKI’s terrorist attacks has declined substantially since the Indian government’s forceful crackdowns on Sikh militant organizations in the early 1990s.

Updated on December 4, 2015.

References


  1. “Currently Listed Entities.” Last modified June, 2015. http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-eng.aspx

  2. “Babbar Khalsa International.” Last modified 2001. http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states/punjab/terrorist_outfits/BKI.htm
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