Khalistan: A Demand still Haunting India

By Taimur Khan


by Taimur Khan

The atrocities and crimes against humanity of the Indian state against its various minorities are an established fact, well documented and reported on by major outlets in the print and electronic media around the world.

Every major international human rights organisation has called India out over its human rights violations and discrimination against its various religious and ethnic minorities and other marginalised groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Save the Children International to name a few.

Moreover, serious concerns and reservations have been voiced by the European Parliament, the United Nations (UN) and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) over the human rights violations in different parts of India. Countries like Turkey, Malaysia and Iran have also slammed India for the marginalization and oppression of its minorities.

Although there are a plethora of secessionist and separatist movements currently thriving in India today, for example the Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IoJK), Separatist movements in the ‘seven sisters’ in extreme north-east of India and the Naxalite movement in the eastern states of the country also known as the ‘Red Corridor of India’.

However, there is one more secessionist movement in India which has resurfaced namely the “Khalistan Movement” in the state of Punjab. As per Dr. Shinder Purewal of Kwantlen University, Canada, the Khalistan movement has gone through 3 phases. He termed the first phase as ‘home rule movement’ which started in 1960s and concluded in 1978. The second phases lasted from 1978-1993 and the element of ‘militancy’ was introduced in this phase. And the third and last phase (as stated by Dr. Shinder) is “politics of grievance” where he tries to prove that Sikhs are playing the victim card in front of the international community against the Indian state to achieve their objective. This phase is on-going as per Dr. Shinder.

It is mainly argued by many analysts and observers that the Khalistan movement had died down and that the Indian state has been successful in crushing the will of the Sikhs for demanding a separate state. Such analysis either seem to be rooted in ignorance regarding the developments taking place vis-à-vis this movement (in India and abroad) or in the blind belief in the narrative being propagated by the Indian state in order to distract everyone from the reality.

In a respectful disagreement with Dr. Shinder’s assement, time period and name of the third phase, the Khalistan movement have taken a dynamic shift. What Dr. Shinder called ‘politics of grievance’ was instead the Sikhs’ rightful demand for justice against the atrocities handed out to them by the Indian state under the garb of fighting extremism and militancy. It is their right to tell the world regarding the injustice they have to endure at the hands of the Indian state.

Furthermore, the movement has now entered its fourth phase and can be termed as “the quest for identity and survival.” This phase initiated in 2015 when the desecration of the Guru Grant Sahib (central religious scripture of Sikhism) took place on October 12 in Faridkot’s Bargari village.

This desecration of the holiest scripture of the Sikh faith was followed by several peaceful protests throughout Punjab demanding to bring the culprits to justice. But soon, these peaceful protests turned violent due to the disproportionate response by the police (in which scores of Sikh protestors were killed) and mishandling of the issue by govt. authorities. The inaction of the authorities led to 150 more recorded incidents of desecration of Guru Grant Sahib across Punjab.

Fact of the matter is, India today, under Modi-led BJP is not even safe for Hindus who do not share the xenophobic, ultra-nationalist agenda of the BJP-RSS let alone other minorities and groups. Anyone with a different political orientation as opposed to the extremist, far-right Hindutva Weltanshauung (world view) of the likes of Modi, Shah and Yogi is termed as unpatriotic and shunned as anti-national.

It only makes sense for the Khalistan movement to enter its fourth phase in 2015 because 2014 general elections victory of the BJP and subsequent assumption of power at the centre created a hostile environment in the country for all religious, ethnic and other marginalised minorities where everyone who was not a Hindu was made to feel disenfranchised and alienated in India.

As per local media reports, since the BJP rule in India, right-wing Hindu extremist organisations such as the RSS and Shiv Sena have penetrated into Punjab and stoking Sikh militancy in the state.

The Khalistan movement also seems to have shifted gears now. Apart from the indigenous struggle for a separate state (Khalistan), the Sikhs have taken up the issue internationally as well. The Sikh diaspora around the world have now become fully active and functional in raising voice against the Indian atrocities and the systematic marginalization of the Sikh people in India. Sikh diaspora is now creating awareness about the tyranny of the Indian state by running campaigns throughout the world and demanding justice for past and current atrocities.

Various Sikh rights and welfare organisations have been created by the Sikh diaspora around the world to advocate for a justice and a separate homeland for the Sikh people such as Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), World Sikh Organisation (WSO), the Council of Khalistan and Khalistan Affairs Centre (KAC).

These Sikh organisations are extremely active and vigilant. They are establishing themselves in major capitals around the world to raise awareness about the Khalistan movement, what it is actually about and why a separate homeland for Sikhs is being demanded.

Just like every year since 1984, this year June 06 was celebrated as ‘Khalistan Day’ by the Sikh communities across the world. This day is observed in remembrance of the Sikh killings at the hands of the Indian state and army when in June of 1984; the Golden Temple in Amritsar was attacked and invaded in what was called ‘Operation Blue Star’. More than 700 lives were lost in this attack on Golden Temple, which was destroyed in the process.

Moreover, the then Indian PM Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh guards in November 1984 and as a reaction the govt. of India at that time started ethnic cleansing of the Sikh people in Punjab and Delhi. In this govt. sponsored terrorism and genocide, thousands of Sikhs were killed, kidnapped, forced to leave homes and properties were destroyed. Sadly on 3,000 of those deaths were recorded!

On June 06 this year, pro-Khalistan posters appeared across Punjab that read “Won’t Forget 1984”. Pro-Khalistan rallies and protests were organised by Sikh diaspora across US, Canada and Europe. The SFJ organisation has called for a Referendum in 2020 where Sikh people across the world will have to register and vote on creating Khalistan. It was top trending on social media under the hash-tag #KhalistanReferendum2020 much to India’s disgust.

Cases have been filed by organisations like the SFJ against the Indian Counsel General in New York for anti-Sikh activities. It is also said that similar cases will soon be filed against Indian embassies throughout Europe as well.

As usual, India has been blaming Pakistan for fuelling the anti-India sentiment in the Sikh community and propagating the demand for Khalistan which is far from the truth. India needs serious introspection. It needs to realise that it must be doing something wrong that every religious, ethnic and other marginalised minority in India is demanding for separation from India.

Why won’t the Sikhs demand for Khalistan when they are being marginalised, oppressed and alienated in every way possible by the Hindutva-infested Indian state? From constitutional injustices like Article 25(b) (2) of the Indian constitution, division of Punjab after independence up till the Anand Marriage Act, the Sikh community has been made to feel suppressed and unwanted.

Blaming Pakistan for Khalistan movement is not selling anymore. Neither the Sikh community nor the world is ready to accept this excuse because actions speak louder than words. On one side where India is trying to destroy the very identity and survival of the proud Sikh people, Pakistan on the other hand is extending a hand of friendship to its Sikh brethren. Projects like the Kartarpur Corridor are a manifestation of that. It is a project that was hailed, praised and welcomed by the entire Sikh community around the world despite India’s attempts to politicize and sabotage it.

The Sikh community has had enough. Its diaspora is not only educated, aware and dynamic but it also possesses the means, resources and the support to achieve its objective of Khalistan. And it seems only a matter of time before India has another major problem like IoJK on its hands but this time in Punjab.