Tucked away in a quiet corner in Sector 15, stands a nondescript double storeyed house. Spread over 1,214.7 square yards (two kanals), the building appeared to be so innocuous that most local residents didn’t find it interesting enough to take notice as they went about their daily businesses.
That till a team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) descended upon the property on Saturday, putting up notices and attaching a part of the building (one fourth share) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The curiosity was rife. The excitement palpable. “I have been living in Sector 15 since 2003. I initially had no idea that the house next to mine belonged to someone called Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, who is a separatist. I have never seen any movement in that house except for spotting a security guard and a caretaker. Every now and then a bunch of people come and put up Tricolor on the gate of the house. This has been going on for the last two-three years. Then there were instances when some folks came and staged a protest in front of the house. The protests and the subsequent media reports around it gave me an idea that the property belonged to one Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, who is a separatist Khalistani leader. Today, I found a number of people wearing NIA jackets in our locality. Subsequently, they proceeded to put up a notice board declaring the confiscation of 1/4th share of the house,” Dr Gurvinder Singh Bal, a local resident, said.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday confiscated land and part of a house belonging to Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, the US-based founder and lawyer of the banned Sikhs for Justice, in Amritsar and Chandigarh.
Pannu, a Khalistan separatist who has been on the NIA’s radar since 2019, was designated an “individual terrorist” by the government on July 1, 2020. The SFJ was declared an “unlawful association” by the Centre on July 10, 2019.
In recent days, Pannu issued blatant threats to senior Indian diplomats and government functionaries in public forums, the NIA said in a statement. “He had also threatened Canadian Hindus a few days ago, asking them to leave Canada and claiming that they had adopted a ‘jingoistic approach’ by siding with India,” it said.
On Saturday, another woman, who too was a group of curious onlookers trying to get a peek inside the house, said, “There are two gates of the house. But only one of them is opened. I have never noticed any hustle-bustle inside the house. A portion of the double storyed house is in a dilapidated condition. My father-in-law once told me that all the members of this family had shifted abroad.
There were unconfirmed rumours that this house belonged to one Gurpatwant Singh Pannu. But today, seeing the NIA confisticating the property, I know that the runours were true.”
According to the Chandigarh Estate Office records, the two-storeyed house — spread across 1214.7 square yards — is divided among four Pannu family members. The records showed that around 25 per cent share each of the house was registered in the name of Pannu’s mother, Amarjit Kaur, his Late father, Binwant Mohinder Jit Pannu, and his brother, Magwant Mohinder Bir Singh. The remaining 25 per cent was under the name of Gurpatwant Singh Pannu.
An UT Estate officer said, “The approximate value of a property of the size of 1214 square yards in Sector 15 at present is around Rs 20 crore. The collector rate of the property is Rs 8 crore. Although our records show that the house has been divided equally among all the members. However, there were no demarcations. Also, no one ever came forward and claimed the share of Pannu’s Late father.”
A visit to the house on Saturday revealed that, just like the claims of the locals, a caretaker, named Surinder Singh, and watchman, named Satya, were the sole occupants of the house at present. Talking to The Indian Express, the watchman Satya said, “I have been working here for the last four-five years. I get my salary in my bank account. We are the employees of Magwant Singh. I do not know anything about Gurpatwant Singh Pannu.”
‘Surviving on bread, fighting for refunds’: Indian students in Canada struggle to find housing, food, jobs
How the Sikh migration to Canada began
While the watchman talked to The Indian Express, a courier delivery agent arrived at the gate to hand over a courier addressed to Binwant Mohinder Jit Pannu. A source said, “Magwant Singh, the elder brother of Pannu, is currently in the USA. He employed a security guard and watchman for taking care of the house. The caretaker Surinder Singh has his family living in the house.”
A Punjab BJP leader, Vinit Joshi, who resides in Sector 15, said, “Before 2017, nobody knew that separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannu had Chandigarh links. He has studied law in Panjab University.
When certain banners, urging a referendum and carrying his picture were found in Mohali, a former PU student called and told me that Pannu is a resident of Sector 15. I then took up the issue with the then Punjab DGP Suresh Arora. The very first case against Pannu was registered in Mohali back in 2017.”