Canadian Arrests Highlight Alleged Gang Role in India’s Intelligence Operations

Indian security officials have frequently arrested criminals connected to Mr. Bishnoi, often with allegations that the gang’s network stretched as far as Canada and overlapped with those promoting from Canadian soil the cause of Khalistan, a once deeply violent separatist movement with the goal of carving out the Indian state of Punjab as an independent nation.

A large Sikh diaspora resides in Canada, many of them having migrated there after a violent and often indiscriminate crackdown by the Indian government in the 1980s against the movement for an independent Khalistan. While the cause has largely died down inside India, it continues to have supporters among some segments of the diaspora. The Indian government has accused Canada, and several other Western countries, of not doing enough to crack down on the separatists.

Analysts and former security officials said that in India’s immediate geographic neighborhood, RAW has often been willing to venture into murky spaces to recruit killers. Senior officials of Mr. Modi’s administration, including Ajit Doval, the storied former spymaster who now serves as his longtime national security adviser, have in the past been accused of reaching into the underworld to find hit men willing to go after targets both inside the country as well as abroad.

Mr. Bishnoi has demonstrated enormous power from behind bars, even giving a television interview from jail last year to pitch himself as a nationalist warrior rather than a criminal mastermind. That, one former security official said, was a signal of his trying to align himself with the spirit of nationalism for a potential deal.