News Analysis |
India has issued a demarche to the UK protesting a meeting convened in London by separatist organization Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) next month. The meeting has been called with an intention to shape the ‘Referendum 2020’ campaign in August that seeks a separate Khalistan and “independence of Punjab”.
This wholesale slaughter, which led to the deaths of many Sikhs including entire families, has been widely condemned by human rights activists and has been designated as genocide by the California State Assembly.
“We have taken up the matter with the UK government. We have also issued a demarche and we expect that the UK government does not allow any such group to use its country whose intention is to spread hate and which can affect our bilateral ties. “We have told them the intention of the event is the same,” the ministry of external affairs spokesperson said. He was responding to a question on what action has India taken to stop the meeting.
Mr. Kumar said the ties of the Sikh community residing in the UK and other parts of the world are good with India. “Their ties, with the country they reside in, are also good. As far as the small groups are concerned, they are fringe elements and their job is to spread hate and communal disharmony,” he said. The SFJ has also offered to sponsor Punjabi youths as well as political activists to take part in the gathering next month.
The specter of a Sikh State in the form of Khalistan has scared New Delhi since India’s creation in 1947. The Khalistan Movement is a Sikh nationalist movement that wants to create an independent state for Sikh people, via peaceful struggle, inside the current North-Western Republic of India. An ignored aspect is that the concept of an independent Sikh state was originally floated by none other than Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru in the pre-independence period through a Sikh leader whose ear he had at that time.
Although the term had popped up occasionally as a non-serious slogan by stray unrepresentative voices during the period leading up to the partition of the country into India and Pakistan, the concept was first given formal shape and the term Sikh Home Land first used by Master Tara Singh at Nehru’s behest as a “counterblast to Jinnah’s demand for an independent Muslim state, Pakistan. In other words, the demand for Khalistan was first raised to counter and kill the demand for Pakistan. Thus, ironically, Khalistan was invented to preserve India’s unity and integrity, and not to break it. It was used to frighten the British away from the idea of Pakistan.
The Sikhs as a separate nation before British rule chose to join India by choice on promises made by Nehru. The Independence of India was not a joyful event for Sikhs and the scars of partition left Sikhs in a lot of discontentment with regard to their traditional lands being lost to Pakistan and truncated Eastern Punjab being dominated by a non-Punjabi speaking majority. These grievances were further aggravated by u turn of Nehru on promises made to the Sikh community.
Further on, Indira Gandhi tried to prop up Deras of Nirankaris to counter the Sikh’s growing political clout. Nirankari Gurus desecrated the Sikh scriptures and were allowed to do it under police protection. In a major altercation, 8 Sikhs were murdered by Nirankaris while they were protesting the desecration. This was the incident that created a call for taking up arms against the Nirankaris, and thereof against the government if it protected them.
The SFJ has also offered to sponsor Punjabi youths as well as political activists to take part in the gathering next month.
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwaleemerged as the voice of Sikhs, over-ruling the pro-State leaders like Longowal. Bhindrawale declared himself as the protector and arbiter of Sikh rights and acquired arms. A list of attacks attributed to Bhindranwale by the government but never substantiated by proof finally gave New Delhi the excuse to impose an emergency in October 1983.
In June 1984, an event would happen that would ignite the flame for Khalistan. The assault on Darbar Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple (the holiest of Sikh temples) by the Indian military forces using tanks and artillery – known as Operation Blue Star was conducted in order to evict a group of armed pro-Khalistan activists from the temple – a claim that remains controversial to this day with prominent politicians like Subramanian Swamy asserting that this was a disinformation campaign to legitimize the attack.
According to the Indian Army, 136 army personnel were killed and 249 injured. In all, 493 people in the complex were killed including Bhindranwale and 86 injured; the government report also mentions that 1600 people were unaccounted for, though it does not state what fraction were killed or injured. Unofficial figures go well into the thousands. Massive human right violations by Indian Army personnel took place like gunning down of prisoners and burning & looting of the Sikh Reference Library.
Retaliation by some Sikhs came in the way of the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh. This act triggered the so-called anti-Sikh riots of 1984, which has been reported to be a planned pogrom by the Congress against the Sikhs. This wholesale slaughter, which led to the deaths of many Sikhs including entire families, has been widely condemned by human rights activists and has been designated as genocide by the California State Assembly.
The army occupation of Punjab which followed Operation Blue Star was highly detrimental to the Sikhs. Mass human rights violations like torture, extrajudicial murders, rapes, illegal detentions, forced disappearances were inflicted upon the Sikh community by the Indian authorities to subdue resistance. Sikh groups resisted through an armed insurgency, which carried on for decades.
India has been unable to suppress the demands of a separate Sikh state by both force and greed. In order to demean the struggle for Khalistan it often uses the foreign boogeyman as a tool for disinformation.