Dear US, Now That You Have Nikhil Gupta, Can We Have David Headley And Tahawwur Rana?

Ujjwal Shrotryia

Jun 18, 2024, 04:40 PM | Updated Jun 19, 2024, 11:46 AM IST

Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannu.
Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannu.

Nikhil Gupta, an Indian citizen, was extradited last week (on 14 June), by the Czech Republic to the United States.

A video of New York Police Department (NYPD) officers escorting Gupta like a criminal to a plane to be flown to the US, even when he is yet to be proven guilty of the crime he has been charged with, was released by the Czech authorities on Monday (17 June), possibly at the behest of the US.

Gupta was arrested by the Czech police on 30 June 2023 on a tip-off by the US intelligence agencies on charges of an alleged conspiracy to kill a US 'citizen', Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

Pannun, declared a terrorist by India a few years ago, is under the scanner of the Indian government for abetting drugs and human trafficking, and taking part in gangster and criminal activities in India.

He currently lives in the US, from where he openly runs a network of Khalistani separatists across four continents and makes speeches threatening Indian citizens without any consequences.

He has in several speeches threatened to kill Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the current Chief Minister of Punjab, Bhagwant Mann, and blow up a passenger jet full of Indian citizens.

However, US authorities, including the current ambassador of the US to India, Eric Garcetti, have repeatedly refused to act against Pannun, usually citing free speech guarantees under the US Constitution, which, ironically, take a back seat when it hurts US' own interests, on its soil or abroad.

But now that the US government has the custody of Gupta, it is time that it relents on India's demand for the extradition of American-Pakistani terrorist David Headley and Pakistani-Canadian terrorist Tahawwur Hussain Rana.

Both of these terrorists, who remain in US custody for years now, were involved in the ghastly Mumbai terror attacks (26/11) of November 2008.

In the attacks, 10 Pakistani terrorists stormed the luxury Taj Hotel, Hotel Oberoi Trident, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, the Leopold Cafe, and Nariman House, killing 166 innocent citizens, including six US nationals, while injuring 300 more.

Both Rana and Headley were co-conspirators of the terror attack led by Pakistan-based terror organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Headley and Rana both were childhood friends from their school days where they studied at military prep college, Cadet College Hasan Abdal. Headley, a radicalised and convicted drug trafficker and a DEA informant, planned the Mumbai attacks with the help of Rana. He is incarcerated in a US jail for 35 years, while Rana has been sentenced for 14 years.

The Indian government has been trying for the extradition of both Headley and Rana from the US for several years with no luck.

The US is consistently stonewalling extradition attempts of Headley and Rana for close to two decades. Even if one believes all the charges of the US justice department against Gupta are true, the crimes Headley and Rana have committed are far bigger than what Gupta is charged with.

In any case, the US would not do any favour to India by extraditing terrorists who are responsible for killing more than 166 innocent citizens, including six of its own citizens. What compels the US to keep Headley and Rana, the killers of its own citizens, from being brought to justice in India, is beyond comprehension.

Perhaps the CIA and the national security establishment in the US want to keep their own culpability — the allegations that they knew more about the siege of Mumbai than they disclosed — under wraps.

If the US believes it has adequately punished Headley and Rana for the massacre of its citizens in Mumbai, it only solidifies the global perception that American lives are prioritised over justice for innocent victims in other nations.

The Americans claim that they will fight for the rights of American citizens anywhere in the world and lecture countries on morality and justice. How, then, is it morally justified for the US to delay justice for the killers of hundreds of innocent civilians?

The US' refusal to cooperate only underscores that these are empty tropes it uses to cloak its selective pursuit of justice and protect its geopolitical interests.

Staff Writer at Swarajya. Writes on Indian Military and Defence.

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