By Aroosa Salahuddin
Raising the slogan of “Land of Khalsa” and projecting the Khalistan referendum 2020, is a campaign already in full swing by Sikh for Justice (SFJ) drive. It is a US-based Sikh group that demands separate sovereignty for Khalistan, in the Indian state of Punjab with a distinct identity and culture. Revitalization of the belief for independent homeland and remembrance of the historical tragic tales that the Sikh community faced in the partition of 1947 and the “84 Sikh Genocide Justice Campaign”, is gaining momentum all around the globe. Gopal Singh Chawla leader of the Khalistan Movement also has announced that “Justice for Sikhs” has stepped up the registration process from 4rth July for the Khalistan Referendum 2020. This has put the Indian establishment in a state of panic as in East Punjab, the struggle for freedom is becoming popular among young Sikhs. India has also alleged Pakistan of backing this separatist movement and sponsoring the calls for an independent Sikh state. India always wants to haul Pakistan in its domestic affairs to divert the world’s attention from LOC violations and the fascist policies in Kashmir.
Premised Upon Ethno-Religious Claims of Difference and Injustice with a Substantial Historical Pedigree
The campaign is not limited to India but ultimately created by the International Sikh community in the US and Canada which affirmed the most gurdwaras in the US and Canada which initiated campaigns for the referendum.According to SFJ legal adviser Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, “they will build Khalistan”. The President of the Khalistan Affairs Centre, Dr. Amarjit Singh is determined with their agenda and wants a new state as a separate identity at all costs. He stated: “Why are we giving the option by way of a referendum? We need Khalistan because the Sikhs have been suffering since the rule of (Maharaja) Ranjit Singh (the last Sikh ruler) got over.” The historical heartbreak that the Sikh community faced is reflecting in their payback strategy for India. The Sikh living across the world agreed to shape a harmony in a favour of Khalistan and signed the Declaration to show solidarity and support the referendum for the formation of a sovereign and independent identity from Indian occupied Punjab on the foundation of the cultural and historical heritage of indigenous people, separate religion and have the right of Self-Determination. The referendum also enquires Sikhs to reject article 25(b)(2) of the Constitution that says Sikhs are a part of the Hindu religion.
Over the years Indian government want to hide such massacres to counter the Sikh freedom fighter of local support, a public willingness to negotiate and make concessions but failed to reduced separatism’s rhetorical appeal and unable to marginalized tyrants. Besides of Indian ineffective tactics regard contributed towards the dramatic reduction in violence. This year 2020 has been top in violence, Separatist politics and independence from Indian rule remained emotional issues for Punjabi and similarly Kashmiri Muslims. In a heavy contrast, the restoration of law and order in Punjab has seen the campaign for Khalistan effectively committed to the past as an enormous episode in Sikh history. Yet, Kashmir continues to be burning due to unresolved issues.
Indian Fears Pakistan Uses Kartarpur To Fuel Pro-Khalistan Campaign
India has always raised anxieties about the presence of objectionable elements on the Kartarpur corridor inaugural that sooner or later higher the radicalization waves in India for the Khalistan campaign and additionally they were also alleged that many gurudwaras in Pakistan were being used to promote pro-Khalistan communications. The presence of Khalistani elements in Pakistan is not new but Indian agencies were always in doubt and propagating that it could be used to empower and influence the revolutionary movement in Punjab and also claimed that International Sikh Fundamentalist organization (SFJ) will plan to use the Kartarpur Corridor to push their separatist agenda soon. The Indian policies for peaceful coexistence are always failed and they become offensive over the use of power to control the movement which in the end escalated towards the worst scenario with the deadlock of diplomacy and dialogue. The ongoing postulate on their neighbors’ states by violation of ceasefire and standoff more military on the border will become a buffer zone in regional instability.
Stoking The Sikhs And Expansion of Indian Nationalism
The Sikh diaspora in Western countries and the Sikh population in East Punjab did not ignore the atrocities of the Indian Army at Akali Takht in Amritsar in 1984 and the holocaust of thousands of Sikhs in New Delhi following the killing of Indira Gandhi. Hindu right wing across the country is also stoking the Sikh zealotry as saffron outfits and India is using the tactics of nationalism to counter the threat of domestic affairs but eventually afraid that if Punjab decides to exercise its right to self-determination, many other Indian states will also decide to self-govern their territories, leading to the territorial disintegration of the state of India, which was never a single country due to various cultures and traditions. India needs to carefully cultivated its policies upon their recent clashes and amended their constitution according to other religions as well such in case of the Anand marriage act that is still not applied on Sikhs community, who are still forced to marry under Hindu marriage act and implementation in NRC (National Register of Citizens). Moreover, Sikh political prisoners who are actively separatist groups for Khalistan from the mid-1980s until early 1990 are not released even after they have completed their punishment and police injustice. India ultimately endure the Khalistan thunderstorm in Punjab but failed to discourage Sikhs away from detachment by 1995 as many elements of pro-Khalistan factions remained in Punjab and have been trying to regain the initiative for years.
Moment of Realization for Indian Military Leadership
The Movement has encouraged the Sikh soldiers to resign from the Indian Army and join the Khalistan. Gopal Singh claimed that it is a fundamental right of Sikh and according to him about 11000 to 13000 Sikh soldiers have already left the Indian Army without any benefits and joined the Khalistan Movement. In the first week of June 2020, Sikhs evoked the martyrs of the Indian Army’s operation “Blue Star” carried out from June 1 to 8 in 1984 that killed over 2,733 Sikhs in Delhi alone, according to the Human Rights Watch data. There is now the time of realization for Indian Military leadership that they always on their discrimination criteria either on caste or religion, deployed their forces on sectarianism as in border areas they posted Sikh regiments for any confrontation and eventually, this movement divert their morale and they were willing to join Khalistan Referendum 2020. The Indian vulnerabilities were exposed where they were weakening their federation and military mishandling of the situation on BJP policies. Consequently, India has faced defeat and humiliation at the hands of Chinese in the matter of Ladakh as well.
Coronavirus Pandemic Eclipsed The Khalistan Dream
POSTPONED TO 2022
A self-doctrine exercise by US based Sikh separatist body Sikh for Justice (SFJ) to know the opinion of Sikh state has been postponed to 2022 which was scheduled to be held in November 2020 due to global pandemic catastrophe. The current circumstances allow India to destabilize the campaign and enhance their nationalism in the region but correspondingly empowered the (SFJ) campaign in India and all over the globe due to lack of savoir-faire and repellent decorum. The movement triumph the International gratitude as recently Khalistani separatist group “Sikhs for Justice” has written a letter against India to the Chinese President Xi Jinping condemning Modi fascist violent aggression against China causing death to several soldiers of China at Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and also vindicate themselves are a group of people who land and resources are under Indian occupation and faced genocide at the hands of Indian state since 1947. The demarcations and rallies are not new in India, there are various crusades of ethnoreligious groups who challenged the Indian stability in national affairs. Nevertheless, Indian national interest is the Hinduism survival and negligence of minorities which about 20% of the total population which is a big number and startling for India as a matter of concern which is not deniable.
– The author is Research Intern at Center for Global & Strategic Studies (CGSS), Islamabad.