Khalistani separatist Lakhbir Singh alias Rode, among India's 'most wanted' terrorists, has died in Pakistan where he had fled after his uncle Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was killed in 1984, officials said on Tuesday.
The 72-year-old Rode, whose ancestral village was at Rode in Moga district, died at a hospital in Rawalpindi following a massive heart attack, the officials said.
Some reports suggest that he died on Monday while others indicate that he breathed his last on Saturday.
The self-styled chief of banned Khalistan Liberation Front was an accused in various cases and had a Red Corner notice issued by the Interpol at the request of India.
He was actively engaged in sending weapon and explosive consignments from across the border to India to carry out terrorist activities in Punjab.
Various accused arrested by Punjab Police had said during interrogation that they were in contact with Rode and had carried consignments of arms, ammunition and explosives to India at his instance for subversive activities for Khalistan movement, his dossier prepared by the security agencies said.
They were also asked to terrorise people besides targeting Very Very Important Persons (VVIPs) and political leaders, it said.
Heading the banned terror group Internation Sikh Youth Federation, Singh had opened its offices in the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and the United States and was propagating a 'Khalistan through violent means', the dossier said.
He joined the Khalistan movement in 1982 after returning to Punjab from Dubai.
After the 1984 storming of the Golden Temple, Singh fled to Nepal from where he shifted his base to Dubai again in 1986.
After settling his family in Canada, Singh came to Lahore where he was residing since 1991.
He is among the 20 most wanted terrorists whose extradition India has sought from Pakistan in the wake of the December 13 2001 attack on Parliament by a five-member group of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists.
In October, an NIA court in Mohali ordered confiscation of land belonging to Rode at Kothe Gurupura (Rode) village of Smalsar Police station under section 33(5) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
Under the section, a judge can confiscate moveable and immoveable property of a proclaimed offender involved in serious crimes.
The order came in a case registered by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on January 1, 2021 under various sections of the UAPA, Indian Penal Code and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances act.
Singh was booked by Punjab Police initially for his alleged involvement in a tiffin bomb blast case that took place on September 15, 2021 in Jalalabad town of Fazilka district of Punjab.
Investigators claimed that he masterminded the entire conspiracy.
The probe indicated he was working in collusion with his Pakistan-based 'masters' and he had played a key role in sending consignments of terrorist hardware, including arms, ammunition, custom-made tiffin bombs, grenades, explosives as well as drugs, to carry out terrorist acts, particularly bomb blasts, to instil fear and terror among the people of Punjab, the NIA had said in an official statement.
The NIA was investigating six cases against him for his active involvement in terror activities between 2021 and 2023.
Rode was accused of engaging in a wide array of terror activities and his criminal dossier includes armed attacks on law-enforcement personnel, orchestrating IED and bomb blasts, targeted killings of members of the minority community, extortion, fund-raising for terrorist operations, and instilling terror among the general populace.
Rode's associate held in Punjab
Meanwhile, Punjab Police on Tuesday claimed to have arrested an associate of Rode from Amritsar airport while he was trying to board a flight to the UK on a fake passport.
Paramjit Singh alias Dhadi was allegedly involved in terror funding and other subversive activities, police said.
Punjab Director General of Police Gaurav Yadav, in a post on X, said, 'In a major breakthrough, SSOC (State Special Operation Cell) Amritsar has arrested #UK based, Paramjit Singh @ Punjab Singh @ Dhadi from #Amritsar airport.'
'An associate of Lakhbir Rode, Chief of banned terrorist outfit #ISYF, Dhadi has been involved in terror funding & other subversive activities in #Punjab,' Yadav said.
The police chief said an investigation is underway to unearth and expose the terrorist network and termed Singh's arrest as a 'major blow' to the terror module attempting to disturb peace in the region.
Additional Inspector General, SSOC, Amritsar, Sukhminder Singh Mann said Dhadi was detained by the immigration authorities at Sri Guru Ram Das International Airport, Amritsar on Monday, 'while he was going to board a flight to the UK on a British passport in the name of Punjab Singh'.
Subsequently, the accused was arrested in a case registered on September 2, 2021, under various provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the Explosives Act, the Arms Act, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) registered at Police Station SSOC, Amritsar, Mann said in a statement.
He said during preliminary investigations, it came to light that Dhadi was regularly in touch with Lakhbir Singh Rode.
"The accused was a frequent visitor to Pakistan and on the instructions of Rode, he used to identify and handpick youth using social media platforms to motivate them to be part of terrorist activities," the senior officer said.
The DGP, in a statement issued later, said the SSOC, Amritsar busted a terrorist recruitment, funding and aiding module with the arrest made at the Amritsar airport.
"Paramjit Singh, a British Citizen and a founder member of the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), was initially involved in terror activities in Punjab in the early 90s and was later arrested in 2003 and convicted in cases pertaining to terrorist activities," the DGP said.
"After the completion of his sentence, the accused returned to the UK but continued his activities in ISYF by working as a motivator, recruiter and fundraiser for the organisation in the UK and other European countries," he said.
Yadav said in 2021, Dhadi's name figured in the reorganising of ISYF cadre in Punjab by arranging and providing funds and militant hardware to target specific people for disrupting peace and harmony in the state.
"Following Dhadi's involvement in terror funding and other subversive activities in Punjab, an LOC (lookout circular) was issued to ensure his arrest," he said.