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Khalistan Movement: An in-depth Investigation into the Impractical Separatist Movement causing Havoc Worldwide

Khalistan Movement started decades ago and has resurfaced, creating unrest in India and globally. This article dives into the movement's history, the global anti-Indian protests, the cause, and the practicalities of the demands of Khalistan as a separate nation. This article is written from the voice of an Indian sitting in the UK, looking at the anti-Indian movements globally with concerns about the unrest caused in their home country. 

History and Establishment of the Khalistan Movement 

Khalistan is a separatist movement that has the potential to put India through a second partition after the initial partition of India - Pakistan during Bharat's independence. It has become a topic of discussion and disturbance almost across the globe after Amritpal Singh came into the picture recently, after the demise of Deep Sidhu in 2022, who was the head of Waris Punjab De Social Organisation. Amritpal Singh is now the head of the organization and is also infamously known as Bhindranwale 2.0. 

People believe the demand for Khalistan as a separate nation started in the 1980s. However, it began in 1857 when the British used the divide-and-rule policy. This policy was executed not only between Hindus and Muslims but also between Hindus and Sikhs. The intention behind the divide-and-rule policy was to prevent the united front of Indians. In 1857, the Indians in the British army were almost successful in throwing away the British government. Therefore, the British divided Indians based on language and caste. By 1914, 75% of the British army came from mainly three areas; the Northwest frontier, Punjab, and Nepal. The language barrier between these three communities created fear; it made them believe that the language dominance of the community would give them better representation and would have more rights from the British government. 

In 1947, when India achieved independence, numerous questions were raised, and there was a lot of ambiguity on what basis the states would be separated. Due to this ambiguity, the Punjab Suba Movement demanded a separate state for Punjabis, a Punjabi-speaking state with a Sikh majority. The government granted this demand, after which, in 1971, West Pakistan and East Pakistan split ( East Pakistan being the current Bangladesh). When Bangladesh was established, Pakistan considered it a big humiliation for their nation. Zulfikar Ali became the president of Pakistan when he promised to take revenge on India for the formation of Bangladesh. Zulfikar Ali promised to take away a part of India in replacement of Bangladesh, as reported by Taarak Fateh, a Canada-based journalist. 

In 1967, Punjab asked for a separate constitution before the involvement of Pakistan. Akaali Dal was demanding a separate constitution like Kashmir's Article 373. In 1973, Dal passed the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, wherein he demanded Sikh supremacy along with other socio-economic reforms. This is where Jharnelsingh Bhindranwale comes into the picture. Bhindranwale started radicalizing the youth of Punjab along with starting the Civil Disobedience Movement, also known as the Dharm Yudh Morcha. Bhindranwale initially focused on the demands of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, which later turned into extremist actions. He promoted a militant and radical version of Sikhism, which was the beginning of Punjaab's most violent period. Jharnelsingh Bhindranwale started the Khalistan liberation force, which resulted in common and, unfortunately, frequent kidnappings, killings, and bombings. Unfortunately, the several opposers of the Khalistan Movement did not survive due to these violent extremist actions. 

Twenty-two thousand lives were killed due to the violent movements in Punjab in the 1980s. In addition, Bhindranwale kept the Golden Temple as his base to hide his arms and ammunition. This led to the launch of "Operation Blue Star" by Indira Gandhi on 6 June 1984. This operation aimed to kill Bhindranwale, which was successful but, unfortunately, also resulted in the killings of civilians. 

In the meantime, Jagjit Singh Chauhan self-declared himself as the President of Khalistan and established the Khalistan National Council (KNC) in London. In 1971, he visited the Pakistani part of Punjab and the United States to gather support. After his visit, Khalistan's name was officially used internationally in a New York Times advertisement published on behalf of the Pakistan embassy, as reported by Indian intelligence. Pakistani Army Dictator Yahya Khan also invited Chauhan to Nakana Sahib in Pakistan in an attempt to establish a Khalistan government. He published an advertisement in the New York Times to take away from the entire Sikh diaspora to establish a Khalistani government. It went to the extent that KNC even printed out Khalistani passports, currency, and stamps. 

Chauhan gave an interview at the BBC post Operation Blue Star. To quote Chauhan from the interview, "Within a few days, you will have the news that Mrs. Gandhi and her family have been beheaded. That is what the Sikhs will do." Within a few months of the success of Operation Blue Star, Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31 October 1984. 

Between these turbulent years, many Sikhs were displaced and shifted to different countries and settled believing they would not get justice in India, which was a tremendous loss for the nation. In today's scenario, many organizations outside India are provoking these movements and chaos, causing disturbance and unrest in India. These organizations intend to convert more people into Khalistan supporters inside India to revive Khalistani demands. The Pakistani agencies found it easier to influence people who were living abroad. People who were radicalized abroad were still in the same state which passed to their generation. 

International events related to Khalistan Movement and the latest update

The Break India movement is getting support from outside. Some of the examples are mentioned below: 

  1. Supporters of Khalistan in Australia attacked Indians.
  2. Khalistani supporters displayed anti-Indian slogans in New York Times Square with the demands to free Amritpal Singh. 
  3. A few Canadian politicians (such as Jagmeet Singh) also support the activists of the movement .
  4. An Indian journalist was verbally and physically abused in Washington
  5. The Indian embassy was attacked in London
  6. The Indian consulate was attacked in America
  7. MPs were showing pro-Khalistan movement actions in front of the UK Parliament

People supporting the Khalistan movement have the motive to spread anti-Sikh sentiment in India due to the violence and chaos caused globally. Their motive is to create distance from the Sikh community and start calling them Khalistani, making it easier to radicalize and separate. These protests and disturbances have been organized, and unfortunately, no action is being taken against them due to the Vote bank politics in countries like the UK, Canada, the USA, and Australia. After the attack on the Indian embassy in the UK, India silently removed the protection of the British embassy in Delhi, indicating that the nation would not sit still if this continued and aggravated. 

Amritpal Singh came to India in October 2022, identifying himself as a non-Indian with the demands of free Khalistan with 1000s of followers. Amritpal had claimed that Indira Gandhi could not stop the Khalistan movement, and our current Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not be able to stop the movement either, openly challenging home minister Amit Shah as well. On 18 March, 100 supporters of Amritpal Singh were arrested for six criminal cases, including an attempt to murder charges and assault on police officials. During this time, the internet got suspended in Punjab, and Amritpal ran away. Amritpal Singh was arrested on 22 April by the police after being on the run for more than a month. The latest update is that the police questioned him on 24th May for more than two hours. 

Is Khalistan even practically possible? How Khalistan is strategically beneficiary to Pakistan 

Punjab is majorly an agricultural state. The Indus River and its tributaries make the land fertile. India's 15% of wheat comes from Punjab. Khalistan supporters believe that they can survive by exporting wheat to Pakistan and India, but due to climate change, the exporting plans got ruined. Punjab's groundwater has been getting over since the 1990s. The groundwater is being used by installing water pumps. In the current situation, even after digging 200 meters, there's no water to be found, making it challenging for the state to survive on only the agricultural aspect. Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh supplies 31% of wheat to India, twice more than Punjab. This explains that Khalistan will not be able to provide wheat to India. 

Youth drives an economy forward. Youth is considered an engine of growth. Statistics show that 859 students per 1 lakh go abroad from Punjab, which is the highest rate in the nation. If Khalistan is formed, all the Indian banks and organizations will leave Punjab. 50% of the Punjab GDP (gross domestic product) comes from the service sector, which works based on trust and stability of the sector. Due to bad relations with India, importing goods will be next to impossible. This is because Punjab is landlocked, with the closest port being Gujarat. A possible solution is to use the Karachi port in Pakistan by trading with other countries for Khalistan to survive. 

Deducting from the evidence and events, it can be considered that Pakistan is a strong supporter of the Khalistan Movement. This brings us to the question of why Khalistan is crucial for Pakistan strategically. This is because Khalistan (or Punjab) acts as an entry point to India for Pakistan. The rivers entering Pakistan go through Punjab, making it easier for Pakistan to negotiate with Khalistan compared to India. In addition, it will also be considered a victory for Pakistan against India with regard to the revenge of the formation of Bangladesh. 

The Khalistan Movement is only based on the hope that Pakistan will become their trading partner and support them by becoming their trading partner, providing economic support, electric grid, infrastructure, and tea. In interpretation, the entire movement depends on support from a country with economic crisis and political unrest

The entire movement intends to get more protection for the Sikhs, but what is forgotten is the partition violence and the destruction of many livelihoods. The movement's supporters do not include the second holiest site for Sikhs, Kartarpur Sahib, in the map of Khalistan as they do not want to upset Pakistan. This makes it evident why the demand of Khalistan is not practical and is only being done to create instability and disturbance in India. 

Causing Havoc on impractical demands: The Conclusion 

The Indian Sikhs are aware of the situation and do not support the movement. India is one nation, Sikhs are a minority in our nation, but it does not mean they are not an integral part of the country. The constitution of India provides an opportunity for all communities to share their opinions and demands, but it is often forgotten that with freedom comes great responsibility. An attack on our Indian diaspora, on an Indian, is an attack on the nation as a whole. We need to protect them, and we require better diplomacy. We need to intensify our voice as one not only across the country but worldwide as Indians, not as Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, or Christians. As said by Narendra Modi, "Unity in Diversity is India's strength. There is simplicity in every Indian. There is unity in every corner of India. This is our strength."


Editor: Ms.Fahima Afrin

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