Article: The struggle for Khalistan


Sajjad Shaukat

So far, four referendums have been held in UK, Geneva, Italy and Canada in which almost 208,000 Sikhs actively participated and favoured an independent state of Khalistan in the Indian Punjab.

Particularly, the huge turnout for the Sikh referendum, organised by the pro-Khalistani advocacy group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) was held on September 18, this year in Brampton city, in the Canadian province of Ontario. The Sikh independence movement is becoming a mainstream movement, as more than 110,000 Canadian Sikhs participated in the voting.

During the referendum, the Sikh community raised anti-India and pro-Khalistan slogans, while more than 2,000 cars took part in the pro-Khalistan rally.

In interaction with media entities, Sikh leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun-General Counsel to SFJ displayed a proposed Khalistan Map with Shimla as its capital, saying that the voting in Punjab for the Khalistan referendum will start from January 26, 2023, coinciding with India’s 74th Republic Day.

Undoubtedly, the referendum campaign by the SFJ has raised awareness in a global community regarding atrocities committed against Sikhs by New Delhi.

Notably, Sikhs’ referendum campaign is in accordance with the UN article which gives people the right to self-determination–stating that a referendum for independence in a peaceful and democratic way is the right of everyone.

Using its typical shrewd diplomatic tactics, India issued multiple requests to the Canadian government to stop the Khalistan referendum.

But, the Canadian government refused to stop the holding of the referendum and categorically informed New Delhi that it was held in a peaceful and democratic way within the legal parameters of Canadian Law.

In fact, India which, apparently, claims to be the largest democracy, acting upon the principles of liberalism and secularism has broken all the records of mistreatment of religious and ethnic minorities through the acceleration of violence, genocide and massacre, perpetrated especially on Sikhs, including Christians and Muslims.

In this respect, in its annual report of 2017, the Human Rights Watch conducted investigative work pointing out the Indian government’s failure to control growing attacks on Dalits and religious minorities like the Sikh community. Latest reports of human rights groups have also indicated violent assaults by the BJP radicals and other Hindu extremists on the various religious minorities, particularly Sikhs.

However, the Sikhs are fighting for a separate homeland since 1947, but the movement attained impetus by the efforts of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, which in 1984 resulted in most brutal operation against a highly sacred Sikh religious place-the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, Punjab, which resulted in killings of thousands of Sikhs.

In this connection, the Indian Army led by General Kuldip Singh Brar, was supported by troops and armoured vehicles that had broken all records of the state terrorism and extra-judicial killings through the barbaric Operation Blue Star which occurred in June of 1984. It was ordered by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to enhance control over the Harmandir Sahib complex.

In this context, in their book, ‘The Sikh Struggle’, Ramnarain Kumar and George Sieberer write, “The army killed every Sikh who could be found inside the temple-complex. They were hauled out of rooms, brought to corridors on the circumference of the temple and with their hands tied behind their back, were shot in cold blood. Among the victims were many old men, women and children. However, all visitors were locked up in rooms for two days without any food, water, or electricity and were starved to death. Besides, the Harmandir Sahib remained under the army control for many months”.

The brutality of the operation was not confined to the Harmandir Sahib. Indian armed forces simultaneously attacked 40 other historical gurdwaras all over East Punjab. When Sikhs in other states came to know about the desecration of the Harmandir Sahib and massacre of their brethren, they quickly left for Punjab. New Delhi tried to stop them before they could reach Punjab. Many Sikhs were assassinated on the way and many others were arrested.

In the same year of November, two dedicated Sikhs named Beant Singh and Satwant Singh who were posted at Premier Indira Gandhi’s residence in New Delhi, assassinated her. Then Hindu riots erupted in the capital and other cities in which more than 15,000 Sikhs were murdered in broad daylight by the supporters of Indira Gandhi, while the police watched silently so as to provide the Hindus with a free hand to massacre the Sikhs.

Afterwards, other operations such as ‘Operation Black Thunder’, ‘Operation Woodrose’ and ‘Operation Black Thunder-II’ were conducted against the Sikh community, which also killed them extra-judicially.

After these barbaric operations, Sikhs organised themselves into an armed power in order to fight the Indian state terrorism. Many Sikhs left India to escape religious persecution. Sikhs have spread out all over the world to keep the struggle for Khalistan alive.

It is mentionable that New Delhi and the Indian intelligence agency, RAW, is trying to create a division between the Sikh community-platforms in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and Pakistan. In this regard, a deliberate campaign has been launched to ban or disallow Indian diplomats or officials’ entry to gurdawaras for misusing them for their ulterior motives so as to divide the Sikh community.

Nevertheless, the timeline of various Khalistan referendums and rapid increase in the number of Sikhs who voted in support of Independent Khalistan reflect that Sikhs have intensified the struggle for an independent state of Khalistan.

Courtesy: The Nation

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