Khalistan threat: Need for Constant vigilance

  • IASbaba
  • December 9, 2020
  • 0
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Topic: General Studies 1, 2,3:

  • Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, 
  • Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure 
  • Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security. 

Khalistan threat: Need for Constant vigilance

Context: The arrest of five terror suspects in Delhi — two of whom were allegedly involved in the murder of Shaurya Chakra awardee Balwinder Singh in Punjab in October — has turned the spotlight on the embers of the long dead and buried Khalistan movement

What is Khalistan movement?

  • The Khalistan movement is a Sikh separatist movement seeking to create a homeland for Sikhs by establishing a sovereign state, called Khalistān in the Punjab Region. Such a state existed in Punjab from 1709 to 1849.

What are the historical events responsible for Khalistan?

  • 1947 Partition of India –Independence of India was not a joyful event for Sikhs, partition left Sikhs in a lot of discontentment with regard to their traditional lands being lost to Pakistan.
  • The fight for a separate Sikh state owes its origins to the Punjabi Suba Movement. The Akali Dal – a Sikh-dominated political party – sought to create a separate Sikh Suba or Province. 
  • When the States Reorganization Commission, constituted to assess the demand for separate states by linguistic groups, made its recommendations, it rejected the Akali Dal’s demand.
  • But after a series of violent protests, the Indira Gandhi government relented in 1966.
  • The state was trifurcated into Punjabi-majority Punjab, Hindi-majority Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Some hilly regions of the state were merged into Himachal Pradesh.
  • However, the Anadpur Sahib resolution reignited the passion of Sikhs and sowed the seeds of Khalistan movement

What was the Anandpur Sahib Resolution?

  • The Punjab Suba movement galvanised considerable political support for the Akali Dal and after a brief split, the party came together under Parkash Singh Badal’s leadership, giving the Congress a tough fight in the 1967 and 1969 assembly elections.
  • The 1972 election, however, proved to be blip in the Akalis’ rising political graph. The Congress swept to power, prompting the Akali Dal to introspect.
  • The venue for this introspection was the Anandpur Sahib Gurudwara, where the party adopted a resolution that would serve as a blueprint for the party’s future agenda. 
  • The resolution demanded autonomy for the state of Punjab, identified regions that would be part of a separate state, and sought the right to frame its own internal constitution. This was the Anandpur Sahib Resolution.

Who Was Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale?

  • While its original authors may have abandoned its stated aims, the Anandpur Sahib resolution found an admirer in Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale – a religious scholar who’d been travelling across Punjab advocating a return to the Khalsa or a more orthodox form of Sikhism. 
  • He targeted Hindus and ‘modernised’ Sikhs, who cut their hair and consumed alcohol in equal measure.
  • If the Akalis were a moderate faction espousing Sikh pride and politics, Bhindranwale represented the extremist view that among other things called for a separate state. 
  • Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale inspired by the Khalistan ideology led the Khalistan as an extremist movement and turned against Indian government
  • Demands for separate nation-hood for Punjab was carried out through violent protests and killings of high profile persons in Indian government.

What are the events which intensified Khalistan movement?

  • Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale took up residence inside the Golden temple, directing demonstrations and police clashes. 
  • Operation Blue star was conducted to capture Bhindrawale in Golden Temple Complex, but the operation resulted in a strong anti-India sentiment.
  • The then PM Indira Gandhi was seen as an enemy of the Sikhs and two Sikh guards of her assassinated her in 1984. 
  • Her killing was followed by wide-spread riots against the Sikhs in Delhi & other parts, the genocide of Sikhs across India fuelled more anti-India sentiment.
  • From early 1980s to early 1990s, Punjab went through a phase of wide-spread terrorism, where Pakistan’s ISI tried to forment the violence by providing support to extremist groups (it was also the same time that Pakistan began to use terrorism as its strategy to defeat India in Kashmir)
  • Manifold extremist groups like the Khalistan Liberation Force, Khalistan Commando Force, Babbar Khalsa and umpteen others gained prominence and roamed around freely across Punjab. 
  • On 31 August 1995, a suicide bomber took out Punjab CM Beant Singh inside the Punjab civil secretariat in Chandigarh. Singh was credited with wiping out terrorism, which had spiked in the aftermath of Operation Bluestar.
  • Sikhs being a patriotic group started to act against the protracted terrorist struggle and chose to side with the Indian nation, the then Punjab Police department succeeded in defeating the movement in 1990s.

What is present status of the movement?

  • At the present, Khalistan movement is a dormant movement in India.
  • It does not hold much traction in the urban or local populace of Punjab. .
  • But the movement gets ideological support from Sikhs living in Canada, UK or USA. 
  • They pump money, ideological support to the struggle, ISI of Pakistan is still pumping money and effort in reviving the movement.

Challenges Ahead

  • The Delhi police have claimed that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is seeking yet again to link up terror outfits in Kashmir with pro-Khalistan activists.
  • The irrelevance of the Khalistan movement notwithstanding, agencies such as the Pakistan’s ISI have not stopped trying to foment violence, either directly by funding fringe sections or by linking them with terror groups in Kashmir. 
  • Even if the Khalistan movement has been interred, the threat of terror in Kashmir remains well and truly active.


The Khalistan movement is non-existent, but security agencies must watch fringe sections

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