Threats to Indian Diasporans in South Africa

John Lesley

In a surprising revelation that could possibly ring alarm bells on the African continent, the Indian diaspora in South Africa has faced terrifying and terrorizing threats from a Pakistani-sponsored group. The threat message was received on November 27, 2020 from a cell phone number and categorically read:

“Stop supporting Indian Association and Government of India Dogs. Stop cracking down on our Commander Salman Khan, Pak High Commission, Jamat, Samnet and Sapa or Mozambique. Don’t forget what we did with your CG Shashank was just a trailer and don’t forget France and Austria. Allah ho Akbar ”.

This message was sent to several members of the Indian community living in South Africa, including an Inkatha Freedom Party MP, Narend Singh. The respective cell phone number was also used to send the same threat message to other community members, namely Derrick Pillay, a member of the Hindu Dharma Association of South Africa (HINDASA) and a member of the Indian Association of South Africa (IASA) in Durban.

The Indian diaspora in South Africa, which historically played a key role in the country’s socio-economic development, found this incident shocking and reprehensible. They believed this was the work of members of the South African Kashmir Action Group, a front known to have been created by Pakistan to use backdoor funding to propagate an anti-Indian narrative in the country. It was seen as an attempt by the extremists of the SAKA group, including their leader, to create panic in the Indian diaspora through intimidation and induced fear.

In the November 27, 2020 threatening message, the commandant’s name is categorically mentioned as Salman Khan, who happens to be the President of the South African Kashmir Action Group (SAKAG), reflecting the group’s ties with the Pakistani High Commissioner. It is evident that Pakistan has had a very clear and explicit commitment to this threat to an active Indian diaspora living peacefully in South Africa, where it has its own special place, since the days of the Mahatma and beyond.

Through these messages and threats, the Indian community is also reminded of the recent horrific episodes of knife stabbing by Pakistanis in the European countries of France and Austria. This is done to highlight the global presence of extremist Islamic fundamentalists and how they perceive the Indian community, especially a vocal diaspora as an opponent who must be silenced. Quoting these past cases in the message seems like a deliberate attempt to terrorize and silence the voices of reason.

To keep peace in this otherwise pluralistic society, the South African government must take these threats very seriously before such incidents take an ugly turn and security endangered. Associations like SAKAG should be banned and their bank accounts should be blocked in order to send the perpetrators a clear message that such acts of bullying will not take place in any other sovereign country at the behest of Pakistan. Pakistan needs to be clearly told by the South African government that it will not allow its country and people to be used to carry out its shameful plans.

In this regard, the South African government was approached on December 7, 2020 by the High Commission of India in Pretoria with the handover of a power of attorney to punish the perpetrators. As a reminder, it was stated that SAKAG had also become violent in August 2019 during a so-called peaceful agitation in front of the Indian mission and smashed the window panes of the Chancery Building. This mentality of perpetrating violence primarily on the sovereign soil of another country speaks volumes about the links between terrorist organizations and the Pakistani establishment.

It seems clear that the threatening messages of November 27, 2020 to the Indian diaspora in South Africa were the work of the extremist group SAKAG. SAKAG was known in the past for its violent tendencies after it opened the house of the then General Council, Dr. Shashank Vikram, leaving his wife and young children in horror for hours before local police called for help. The incident was shameful and despicable for any civilized nation to target diplomats in a third country, but that didn’t seem to deter Pakistan, which always went hand in hand and nurtured such extremist groups.

It is time for the South African government to act as a growing trend towards deplorable acts of intimidation, vandalism and violence by certain extremist groups such as SAKAG is returning at the behest of the Pakistani establishment, if not swayed it would do the relations to a country that has historically been friends for ages and whose path to freedom is always valued in harmony with its own.

John Lesley is an analyst in South Africa

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