In February 2021, ‘environment activist’ Greta Thunberg accidentally published a Toolkit showing how anti-India forces are using farmers’ protest for their own agendas. Since then, a lot has been exposed leading to the arrest of so-called activists including Disha Ravi, Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk. The trio allegedly worked hands-in-hands with Khalistani supporter Mo Dhaliwal and created toolkits to incite violence and spread propaganda against the Indian government. There are several propagandas and conspiracies that are well hidden while being right in front of everyone’s eyes. One such propaganda is the demand for the release of murder accused Jagtar Singh Johal alias Jaggi. The so-called farmers’ protest supporters are pushing their propaganda in the pretext of farmers’ protest to pressure the Indian government to release Johal.
What OpIndia found so far
During our initial investigation into the trend, we found that the hashtag was not only promoted on Twitter but other platforms as well. They are painting Johal as a “good man who was ‘illegally’ detained by the Punjab Police in 2017”. Interestingly, the hashtags #FreeJaggiNow and #FreeJaggi have been making rounds for months without raising any red flags.
The subtle mix of hashtags
Since farmers protests start to make noise in media, the propaganda to use the protests to raise voice for the murder accused Jaggi started to play in the field. Here are some tweets from the last five months that use #FreeJaggi or #FreeJaggiNow along with #FarmersProtest.
On April 9, protesting farmer unions had announced that they will block expressway on April 10 which had put #FarmersProtest in trending topics. The supporters of Jaggi used the hashtag for their own propaganda wisely on the same day.
During a support event for protesting farmers in Canada, the supporters of Jaggi raised banners that said “Jagtar Singh Johal is all of us #FreeJaggiNow”.
Who is Jagtar Singh Johal?
Jagtar Singh Johal alias Jaggi is a British resident from Glasgow, Scotland. In 2017, he was visiting India to attend a wedding. During his stay, Punjab Police arrested him as a suspect in several cases. He was arrested based on the statement of one Taljit Singh Jimmy. He had confessed to his involvement in several crimes during interrogation. However, his supporters claim that the investigation agencies ‘forced’ a confession out of him using third-degree torture during interrogation. Johal was behind the outfit ‘Never Forget 84’.
As per the police reports, he is a staunch Khalistani supporter. He is facing several murder and attempts to murder cases. According to National Investigation Agency’s charge sheets, he has been named in the murder cases of Hindu Takht leader Amit Sharma, RSS leader Brig. (Retd.) Jagdish Kumar Gagneja, RSS leader Ravinder Gosain, Shiv Sena leader Durga Dass Gupta, Pastor Sultan Masih, and Dera Sacha Sauda followers Satpal Sharma and his son Ramesh Sharma.
Jaggi was also accused of paying Rs.27 lakh to the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) chief Harminder Singh Mintoo (deceased) in France in 2013 to assassinate RSS leader Ravinder Gosain. His name also appeared in the attempt to murder Shiv Sena activist Amit Arora and firing at RSS Shakha in Kidwai Nagar in Ludhiana in 2016.
Jaggi’s association with Gursharanbir Singh Wahiwala
It has been reported that Jaggi is a close relative of Gursharanbir Singh Wahiwala, who is a pro-Khalistani accused in several cases. As per reports, Wahiwala was arrested by UK police in December 2020 in connection to the murder of RSS leader Rudla Singh in 2009. Reports suggest that he came to India in 2009 to kill Rudla Singh, who was shot dead outside his shop in Patiala. In February 2015, Wahiwala was declared a proclaimed offender by a Patiala court. In 2019, NIA filed a charge sheet in the murder case of Punjab unit RSS vice-president Brigadier Jagdish Gagneja (retired) in which 11 accused persons with Khalistan terror links were named, including Wahiwala and Johal.
Johal was granted regular bail in November 2020
Jagtar Singh Johal was granted bail by the Punjab and Haryana High court in one of the cases against him in November 2020. The bail was granted in an FIR registered in 2016 against him under Sections 419, 420, 467, 468, 471 and 120B of the IPC, Section 25 of the Arms Act and Sections 17, 18, 19 and 20 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. While granting him bail, the judge had emphasised that the co-accused in the case had already been granted bail while made Johal’s case ‘deemed fit’ for the regular bail.
A history of ‘Free Jaggi’ and ‘Free Jaggi Now’ campaigns
Free Jaggi and Free Jaggi Now hashtags have been making rounds since 2018 on social media networks. Interestingly, his supporters try to overtake every possible campaign or news that can be linked to his case. There are also petitions on Change.org in which he has been painted as a nobleman who was detained illegally under a conspiracy by the Indian government. These petitions are directly or indirectly linked to Johal and can be seen here, here, here and here. Here are few tweets over time that show how his supporters have been trying to pressure the British government and Indian government to release him.
Since January 2021, an NGO named Reprieve has been posting information about Johal while painting him as a good man who has small kids and family in Scotland.
“My brother has been subject to torture and mistreatment, and the UK Government has failed him. Please bring him home”— Reprieve (@Reprieve) January 28, 2021
British Jagtar Singh Johal faces a death sentence in India. @BBCRajiniV reports: https://t.co/nDK6pcUgub pic.twitter.com/lFg445rw0o
Year-wise tweets in support of Jaggi
In 2017, when the tweets favouring Jaggi started to appear on social media, Jagmeet Singh, New Democratic Party, Canada, was tagged in several posts. Later, on the same day, Jagmeet had questioned his arrests in a tweet. It has to be noted that Jagmeet is a known Khalistani supporter. His relative was recently arrested for attacking a pro-India rally in Canada.
Few days later, Punjabi singer and actor Diljit Dosanjh also posted a tweet in his support. Dosanjh was heavily criticized for the tweet. Nowadays, Dosanjh regularly post tweets in favour of Farmers Protests.
On January 26, 2019, several tweets appeared on social media network in which #FreeJaggi was used by Khalistani supporters. An event was organized by Khalitani terrorist group Sikhs For Justice in Washington DC to support Jaggi. While raising slogans of “Free Jaggi”, “Khalistani Zindabad” was also shouted while displaying Khalistani flags.
In February 2021, tweets in favour of Jaggi and Farmer Protests appeared in which he was compared to Nodeep Kaur. The comparison and mixing two totally different cases must have raised red flags but unfortunately, it did not.
Interestingly, Jaggi got support from Pakistan as well.