by Shaumik Samar Ghosh

It all started in the year 1873 with what was named the “The Singh Sabha Movement,” which had two primary objectives. First was to ensure that Sikhs are not deprived of the prevalent western modern education of that time and the second objective was as founded in Amritsar in 1873 with the dual purpose of providing modern western education to the Sikh community and countering the influence that other religious groups were propagating at the time like the Muslim preachers, the Arya and Brahmo society who had their own cultural concepts and the Christianity promoters. So, the first step was to have their own schools, which they called Khalsa Schools (conforming to their own religious identity) across Punjab. This was soon followed by the the Akali movement, which aimed at freeing all Sikh Gurudwaras from the control of the Udasin Mahants, whom the Sikhs believed to be infidels.

Thus two movements had a pivotal role in the advancement of Sikh nationalism. The Khalsa schools succeeded in proliferating Sikh nationalism and the subsequent events which took place after India’s independence further bolstered the demand for Khalistan. This was because the Akali movement continued to campaign for even more autonomy for the religious institutions of the Sikhs. These historical movements helped form the establishment for the future emergence of the Khalistan movement in years to come. The partition of India in 1947 was displeasing for Sikhs as they felt that they lost out their established lands to Pakistan and soon there was a mass migration of immigrants into India. Also with this arose brutal inter-communal violence between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs in which many innocent people lost their lives. To preserve Sikh identity another movement called the ‘Punjab Suba’ was launched by the community which wanted to reestablish Punjab on the basis of language which led to the split of the region in three areas Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.

There were many planned activities, and it was the ‘Anandpur Sahib Resolution’ which spurred the Khalistan movement – a demand to make Punjab autonomous and identify the regions for a separate state. The resolution also wanted Punjab to have its own constitution. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a forerunner of the movement wanted to restore the doctrines of puritan Sikhism. The movement soon took the form of agitation and the then Government of India had to launch ‘Operation Blue Star,’ to capture Bhindranwale and put a halt to the movement in India, resulted in strong anti-India sentiment. Then there was the manifestation of other extremist groups like Commando Force of Khalistan, Khalistan Liberation Force and the Babbar Khalsa which succeeded in misguiding the youth into believing that extremism is the only way by which Khalistan can be formed.

As years passed, the movement soon turned into a vicious attempt, backed by anti India forces to destabilize India. About four decades back, when India and Russia (then USSR) proposed to join hands to make a stronger eastern front, the move did not go down well with the western powers and their proxies. So, many plans were unleashed to disturb India, like creating turmoil in Punjab, the Gorkha formation in the east, galvanizing Tamils in Ceylon, the migration and atrocities of Hindus in Kashmir were all a well mastered plan to destabilize the growth of India. Sikhs were made to brutally fight for a separate country. At that time the pro-soviet Indian Government quickly became a threat to the growing western powers.

In an uprising attempt in the 1980’s, the extremists hid all the arms and ammunition in the Golden temple because as per the law of the country, it is believed that no bloodshed can be done in religious places like mosques, temples and other places of worship. During Indira Gandhi’s regime there was a civil war like situation in which Hindus and Sikhs both were killed. A well planned assassination saw Indira Gandhi being shot dead by her Sikh bodyguards. The killing of Gandhi in 1984 and the anti-Sikh riots further stoked anti India feeling in the community. To prevent prosecution, many perpetrators fled the country and went to countries like Canada, USA, Australia and England.

Now as India is becoming stronger, Khalistan supporters are playing truant and paying heaps of money to somehow keep the agitation alive. The very size of India and its recent success has once more become a threat for certain section of misguided Sikh youths. Amritpal Singh used to travel in luxury cars and also barged into police stations asking free some of his associates who are in prison. He was on the run for a very long time and used to relay messages stating that he will surrender only if he is kept in a Punjab jail. The police was unable to hunt him down for quite a long time and certain sources claim that he was being protected by political parties who oppose India’s central government. He blatantly declared that under no circumstances, will he surrender to the Indian Government. Kumar Vishwas, a poet and socio-political activist had claimed that the present Government in Punjab and its supreme leader has supported terror mongers. Vishwas was once part of the same party but left them after what he called the inappropriate connections and influence of the party.

Another saddening incident happened in London some time back, when Harman Singh Kapoor, a Sikh restaurant owner in England’s capital was attacked by pro-Khalistan elements. Kapoor had posted a video on social media opposing the disruption certain anti-social elements were causing in the country in London. Since then Kapoor and his kin faced and rape threats and were said terrible things about on social media platforms. This happened at the time when the miscreants – with all impunity at their command pulled down India’s national flag down from the Indian High Commission. The restaurateur said that even the police displayed a laid back attitude when he approached them with his complaint.

The present Indian Government is doing everything possible for the welfare of the Indian Sikh Community as they the country’s pride. Whenever, there is a crisis in any part of the country or the world, Sikhs are the first to offer humanitarian aid – in the form of langars (community kitchens), blood donation camps and so much more. Sikhs fought valiantly for India’s independence and many of them also worked with Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army who were Pratap Singh Kairon, Niranjan Singh Talib and Bhag Singh. These were noble and honourable leaders who served the country selflessly. As a religion, Sikhism is known to be pragmatic and fosters the spirit of service and humanity. Gurun Nanak, was the first Sikh Guru and then nine more gurus succeeded him. The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh declared Guru Granth Sahib, the scripture as the ultimate successor, thus closing the line of human Sikh gurus. The religion emphasizes on the tenets of truthfulness, faithfulness, self-control and purity of soul.

Mere vandalism and threatening people is not a justification to establish a separate sovereign state. Political powers and organizations who are funding such elements much realize that geo-politically and demographically, it is not possible to have a separate country now. Hence supporting extremist groups and brainwashing young minds is a futile tactic, which will eventually do them no good. What started in 1873 has lost its credibility because of the involvement and encouragement of people who want social, political & economic unrest in India which is determined to stay united – and see the Sikh community prosper, moreover be a heralding force in the country’s development.

Shaumik Samar Ghosh is an author, journalist and columnist. He tracks strategic issues closely. This essay reflects his opinions alone