Lakhbir Singh Rode (1952–2023) was a Canada-based Khalistani separatist who headed the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), a controversial organisation that aims to establish Khalistan, an independent homeland for the Sikhs of India. He was the nephew of the notorious Sikh militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Lakhbir Singh also had affiliations with the separatist organisations Khalistan Zindabad Force and Khalistan Liberation Force. His criminal records include armed attacks on law enforcement personnel, staging IED and bomb blasts, targeted killings of members of the minority community, extortion, raising funds for terrorist activities, and spreading fear among the general population. Rode died of a heart attack in Lahore, Pakistan on 1 December 2023.
Lakhbir Singh Brar The Hindu was born in 1952 (age 71 years; as of 2023) in Rode village in Bagha Purana tehsil of Moga district in Punjab, India. Various media houses also called him Lakhbir Singh, Singh Lakhbir Rode, or Singh Lakhbir. During his later years, he initially fled to Dubai and then moved to Canada. Reportedly, he was living in exile in Lahore, Pakistan before his death.
Family & Caste
He belonged to a Jat Sikh family.
Parents & Siblings
Not much is known about his parents. His brother Jasbir Singh Rode is a former Akal Takht Jathedar.
Wife & Children
He was married and had two sons and a daughter, who lived in Canada at the time of death.
He was the nephew of Sikh militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
Lakhbir Singh Rode- A Khalistani Separatist
Lakhbir Singh Rode was listed as an individual terrorist under the UA(P)A. He founded the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) in August 1984 after Operation Blue Star along with his brother Jasbir Singh Rode. Operation Blue Star was an Indian Armed Forces operation in which the troops attacked the buildings of the Sikh holy site Golden Temple in Amritsar to remove Khalistani militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers who were hiding in the temple complex. ISYF was established in the United Kingdom as an international branch of the All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF). ISYF’s first conference was held in Walsall, UK. Rode also had connections with the Islamist terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba. Rode played a significant role in establishing the Khalistan-Kashmir International, a collaborative platform for coordinated actions between Sikh and Islamist extremists. It was set up in the aftermath of the setbacks faced by terrorists in the Khalistan-Kashmir-Muslim militancy (K2M) front, the pioneering platform for joint operations by militants from Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, and Islamist terrorist factions during the early 1990s. Under Lakhbir Singh Rode’s leadership, ISYF spread its branches in more than a dozen countries in Western Europe and Canada. The Union government’s case study on Lakhbir Singh read,
ISYF opened its chapters at various places in United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and the United States of America. Lakhbir Singh is allegedly engaged in sending weapons and explosives consignments from across the border to India to carry out terrorist activities in Punjab and to target various Very Very Important Persons (VVIPs) and political leaders.”
He was also an activist of the Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF). Reportedly, Lakhbir Singh and Maan Behanji were the main organisers of a powerful KZF base in Birganj in Nepal. In November 1998, Lakhbir Singh was arrested after a two-day manhunt in a Kathmandu hotel in Nepal, where authorities discovered 20 kg of RDX, timer switches, electric detonators, and high-power batteries in his custody. According to reports, during questioning, he confessed that the consignment was meant for India. Singh also disclosed his interactions with three officials from the Pakistani embassy, including one identified as Asim Saboor. Allegedly, the bases in Nepal were established by the KZF with support from the ISI during the phase of Punjab militancy. In February 2001, the ISYF was prohibited in the United Kingdom under the Terrorism Act 2000. Subsequently, in 2002, India also banned the ISYF under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, officially designating it as a terrorist organization by the Indian Government.
Lakhbir Singh Rode’s name also popped up in the bombing of Air India Flight 182, a passenger flight operating on the Montreal–London–Delhi–Bombay route, which exploded over the Atlantic Ocean on 23 June 1985. The masterminds behind the bombing were believed to be Inderjit Singh Reyat, a dual British-Canadian national, who pleaded guilty in 2003 and Babbar Khalsa International leader Talwinder Singh Parmar. Many years later, in 2007, it was reported that Parmar, before his death on 15 October 1992, named Lakhbir Singh as one of the planners of the bombing during the investigation. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Air India Task Force thoroughly investigated the confession of Parmar and concluded it contained some false information about the terrorist plot. In May 2001, an RCMP team travelled to Pakistan to interrogate Brar, who was earlier ruled out as a suspect in the Air India plot. As per the RCMP report, Brar informed the police that Surjan Singh Gill was involved in the conspiracy. A long-time suspect, Gill was a resident of Burnaby, who later started living in England. Brar told the police that Talwinder Parmar and Ajaib Bagri lacked the courage to execute the bombing on their own. Furthermore, Brar stated that Manjit Singh (also known as Lal Singh), also a longtime suspect, shared information about the bombing with him in Pakistan. According to the RCMP report, Manjit Singh told Brar that it was Sikh activist Ripudaman Singh Malik who bought the M&L. Manjit Singh also said that Malik arranged flight tickets for them, and they went to the airport and just loaded the luggage. The police report also mentions Brar’s claim that Malik arranged passports for them as well. Although they had their own passports, they used the ones provided by Malik. When RCMP discovered this information, Malik and Bagri had been declared not guilty two years ago in the B.C. Supreme Court regarding the Air India bombing. Brar’s statement wasn’t used during their trial. Rode was also accused by a chargesheet for a bomb blast in a Ludhiana Court Complex on 23 December 2021. The blast led to 1 death and 6 injuries. As per the NIA, Rode established a terrorist group to conduct explosions and illegally bring weapons into India. He collaborated with Zulfikar, also known as Pehalwan, a smuggler involved in cross-border arms, explosives, and narcotics trade based in Pakistan. Other accomplices included Harpreet Singh, known as Happy Malaysia, Surmukh Singh, also known as Sammu, Dilbagh Singh, and Rajanpreet Singh. Rode used the smuggling networks Zulfikar and his associates Surmukh Singh and Harpreet Singh to transfer the IED to Gagandeep Singh, who planted the explosion in the complex and was killed in the process.
In early 2023, the NIA took control of a piece of land owned by Lakhbir Singh in Kothe Gurupura village, Moga. According to a notice posted by the NIA, one-fourth of the land, which is 43 kanal 3 marlas, was seized based on an order from the NIA court. The court order from 5 October was related to a case filed by the NIA in Delhi on 1 October 2021. Rode was charged under multiple sections, including Sections 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the Explosive Substances Act (1908), Sections 16, 17, 18, 18B, 20, 38 and 39 of the UA(P)A Act (1967), Sections 21B, 27A, and 29 of the NDPS Act, 1985, and Section 120B of the IPC. The case was regarding a tiffin bomb blast that occurred near Punjab National Bank, Jalalabad town in Fazilka district, Punjab on on 15 September 2021. The NIA investigation revealed that Lakhbir Singh was behind the whole conspiracy. The NIA stated that Rode had a significant involvement in dispatching shipments containing weapons, ammunition, specially crafted explosive devices, grenades, and narcotics to carry out terrorist acts, particularly bomb blasts, to instil fear and terror among the people of Punjab. The Indian Express
Rode died of a heart attack in Pakistan on 1 December 2023, at the age of 71. Lakhbir Singh’s brother and former Akal Takht Jathedar Jasbir Singh Rode confirmed his death. Shiromani Akali Dal Badal’s former Khemkaran MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha paid homage to Rode on his Facebook page. The Indian Express