Khalistan demand resurfacingtext_fields
The 'Azadi March' conducted under the auspices of various Sikh organisations in Amritsar on June 5 is a development to be viewed seriously. The march, raising pro-Khalistan slogans and a Khalistan flag, was held on the eve of the 'Martyrs Day' marking the death anniversary of Sikh rebel Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who had advocated and worked for an independet Khalistan. Slogans were also raised praising the 'martyrs' including Bhindranwale. At a conference the following day - June 6 - the President of Akal Thakht Jatedar Harpreet Singh, exhorted the youth that they should receive armed training. Remarking that Sikh culture, religion and politics were facing threats from all corners, he emphasised the need to uphold Sikh identity in all spheres. He also warned his followers about the spread of narcotics among Punjabis and the religious conversion activities of Christian missionaries.
In the 1980s, Khalistan movement was the biggest internal challenge before India. The goal of the movement was to establish an independent sovereign state by carving out the Sikh-populated regions of India. To this end, they conducted bloody interventions all over the Punjab, and the group under Bhindranwale ruled over Punjab like a parallel government. The situation was such that anyone opposing them or supporting India would be killed any moment. Bhindranwale's acclivities were centred round the most sacred spot of the Sikhs, the Golden Temple. In 1984, the military cordoned off the Golden Temple with the blessings of prime minister Indira Gandhi, and killed Bhindranwale and his team. It was as a result of this military crackdown, known as Blue Star Operation, that Indira Gandhi later lost her life. With Operation Blue Star, coupled with the heavy-handed actions of Punjab's police under KPS Gill as the state's police chief, Khalistan separatism became practically extinct from Punjab. All its front-line leaders were either killed or put in jail. However, although armed struggle disappeared from Punjab's soil, at a conceptual level, Khalistan theory has been in existence still.
Next to Punjab, perhaps the place where Sikh outfits are most active would be Canada where an influential and rich Sikh community lives. They have a say in Canadian politics too. The country has 20 Sikh MPs including four ministers. Khalistan movement has a sway among the Sikh community of Canada and Britain. The organisation named Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), with roots in Britain represents Khalistan movement at a global level. All such movements at the international level do exert an influence over the Sikh youth, although it is not outwardly visible. The Amritsar rally on June 5 and 6 and the speeches there are to be seen as a visible expression of that influence.
The sangh parivar in India are advocates of a hyper-centralised, rigid and monolithic nationalism. To be noted is the fact that it is when they are in power that in the state adjacent to the national capital, secessionist ideas are rising their head again. Not only in Punjab, but in north-eastern states as well, secessionist moves are active. The Kashmir issue is again worsening. What more, even in Tamil Nadu, ideas like Dravidasthan and anti-Hindi sentiments are gaining more currency. Those in power should introspect why when they – who claim to be nationalists - rule the country, such separatist streams and sub-national demands gain strength. The fact is that the foundation of our nationality and political edifice is not artificial centralisation imposed from above. Our strength as a nation derives from respecting all cultures, sub-nationalities and languages, and giving equal consideration to all. But, the policies pursued ever since Narendra Modi took office are those that damage the same equal treatment. The BJP and the central government should recognise that such policies actually weaken, not strengthen the nation.
The BJP suffered a huge setback in the recent Punjab assembly election. They reckon that politically they do not have a big role in Punjab. In this background, there are some who suspect whether they are seeking loopholes to intervene in the state by covertly supporting separatist forces and fomenting trouble there. If the party that rules the country is actually indulging in such a nefarious game, that will be a dangerous move; it is hoped that they will not take that foolhardy path. At the same time, what needs to be seriously pondered is why all of a sudden a situation has arisen in which Khalistan activists openly take to the streets and start shouting slogans.