Wednesday, 20 November 2013
Khalistan Movement - The Past & Current Situation
The Punjab region has been the traditional homeland of the Sikhs. Before its conquest by the British it had been ruled by the Sikhs for 82 years, the Sikhs ruled over the entire Punjab from 1767 to 1799, till their confederacy was unified into the Sikh Empire by Maharajah Ranjeet Singh. However, the region also has a substantial number of Hindus and Muslims.
Following India's independence in 1947, The Punjabi Suba Movement led by the Akali Dal aimed at creation of a Punjabi-majority state (Suba) in the Punjab region of India in the 1950s. Concerned that creating a Punjabi-majority state would effectively mean creating a Sikh-majority state, the Indian government initially rejected the demand. After a series of protests, violent clampdowns on the Sikhs, and the Indo-Pak war of 1965 the Government finally agreed to partition the state, creating a new Sikh-majority Punjab state and splitting the rest of the region to the states of Himachal Pradesh, the new state Haryana. Subsequently, the Sikh leaders started demanding more autonomy for the states, alleging that the Central government was discriminating against Punjab. Although the Akali Dal explicitly opposed the demand for an independent Sikh country, the issues raised by it were used as a premise for the creation of a separate country by the proponents of Khalistan.
In 1971, the Khalistan proponent Jagjit Singh Chauhan travelled to the United States. He placed an advertisement in The New York Times proclaiming the formation of Khalistan and was able to collect millions of dollars from the Sikh diaspora. On 12 April 1980, he held a meeting with the Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi before declaring the formation of "National Council of Khalistan", at Anandpur Sahib.He declared himself as the President of the Council and Balbir Singh Sandhu as its Secretary General. In May 1980, Jagjit Singh Chauhan travelled to London and announced the formation of Khalistan. A similar announcement was made by Balbir Singh Sandhu, in Amritsar, who released stamps and currency of Khalistan. The inaction of the authorities in Amritsar and elsewhere was decried by Akali Dal headed by the Sikh leader Harchand Singh Longowal as a political stunt by the Congress(I) party of Indira Gandhi.
The Khalistan movement reached its zenith in 1970s and 1980s, flourishing in the Indian state of Punjab, which has a Sikh-majority population and has been the traditional homeland of the Sikh religion. Various pro-Khalistan outfits have been involved in a separatist movement against the government of India ever since. There are claims of funding from Sikhs outside India to attract young people into these pro-Khalistan militant groups.
In the 1980s, some of the Khalistan proponents turned to militancy, resulting in counter-militancy operations by the Indian security forces. In one such operation,
Operation Blue Star (June 1984), the Indian Army led by the Sikh General Kuldip Singh Brar forcibly entered the Harimandir Sahib (the Golden Temple) to overpower the armed militants and the religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The handling of the operation, damage to the Akal Takht (which is one of the five seats of temporal physical religious authority of the Sikhs) and loss of life on both sides, led to widespread criticism of the Indian Government. Many Sikhs strongly maintain that the attack resulted in the desecration of the holiest Sikh shrine. The Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards in retaliation. Following her death, thousands of Sikhs were massacred in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, termed as a genocide by the Sikh groups.
In January 1986, the Golden Temple was occupied by militants belonging to All India Sikh Students Federation and Damdami Taksal. On 26 January 1986, the gathering passed a resolution (gurmattā) favouring the creation of Khalistan. Subsequently, a number of rebel militant groups in favour of Khalistan waged a major insurgency against the government of India. Indian security forces suppressed the insurgency in the early 1990s, but Sikh political groups such as the Khalsa Raj Party and SAD (A) continued to pursue an independent Khalistan through non-violent means. Pro-Khalistan organizations such as Dal Khalsa (International) are also active outside India, supported by a section of the Sikh diaspora.
Before the British conquest of India, a large part of Punjab region was ruled by a Sikh dynasty founded by Ranjit Singh for 50 years from 1799 to 1849 CE.
The term Khalistan was coined by the Sikh leader Dr. Vir Singh Bhatti in March 1940. He made the case for a Sikh country in the pamphlet Khalistan. It was imagined as a theocratic state led by the Maharaja of Patiala with the aid of a cabinet consisting of the representatives of other units.The idea was supported by Baba Gurdit Singh.
During a press conference on 10 July 1946 in Bombay, Nehru made a controversial statement to the effect that the Congress may "change or modify" the federal arrangement agreed upon for independent India for the betterment towards a united India; this claim outraged many. Some separatist Sikhs felt that they had been "tricked" into joining the Indian union. On 21 November 1949, during the review of the draft of the Indian Constitution, Hukam Singh, a Sikh representative, declared to the Constituent Assembly:
"Naturally, under these circumstances, as I have stated, the Sikhs feel utterly disappointed and frustrated. They feel that they have been discriminated against. Let it not be misunderstood that the Sikh community has agreed to this Indian Constitution. I wish to record an emphatic protest here. My community cannot subscribe its assent to this document."
Indian Punjab was further divided in 1966 with the formation of the new states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh as well as the current state of Punjab. Punjab is the only state in India with a majority Sikh population.
In 1947, Kapur Singh, a senior Sikh Indian Civil Service officer was dismissed by the Government on the charges of corruption. After his dismissal, he published a pamphlet alleging that Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, through Governor Chandu Lal Trivedi, had issued a directive in 1947 to all the Commissioners in Punjab recommending that the Sikhs in general must be treated as a criminal tribe.The pamphlet stated:
In 1947, the governor of Punjab, Mr. C.M. Trevedi, in deference to the wishes of the Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and Sardar Patel, the Deputy Prime Minister, issued certain instructions to all the Deputy Commissioners of Indian Punjab...These were to the effect that, without reference to the law of the land, the Sikhs in general and Sikh migrants in particular must be treated as a "criminal tribe". Harsh treatment must be meted out to them...to the extent of shooting them dead so that they wake up to the political realities and recognise "who are the rulers and who the subjects".
Kapur Singh was later supported by the Akali Dal leader Master Tara Singh, who helped him win elections to the Punjab Legislative Assembly and the Lok Sabha (Indian parliament). Kapur Singh later played an important role in drafting the Anandpur Resolution which postulated preservation of "the concept of distinct and sovereign identity" of the Khalsa or simply the Sikh (Nation).
Pritam Singh Gill, a retired Principal of Lyallpur Khalsa College, Jalandhar, also made allegations of "the Hindu conspiracy to destroy Sikhs; kill the language, kill the culture, kill the community."
After independence of India, the Punjabi Suba movement led by the Sikh political party Akali Dal sought creation of a province (suba) for Punjabi people. The Akali Dal officially never demanded an independent country for the Sikh nation, and at times, explicitly opposed it. However, the issues raised during the Punjabi Suba movement were later used as a premise for creation of a separate Sikh country by the proponents of Khalistan.
In the 1950s, the country wide movement of linguistic groups seeking statehood in India resulted in a massive reorganisation of states according to linguistic boundaries in 1956. As part of the reorganization, the Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU) was merged with Punjab, which included large numbers of Punjabi as well as Hindi speakers. At that time, the Punjab state of India included present-day states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh (some parts) along with Chandigarh. The vast majority of the Sikhs lived in this Hindu-majority Punjab. The Government of India was wary of carving out a separate Punjabi language state, because it effectively meant dividing the state along religious lines: Sikhs would form a 60% majority in the resulting Punjabi state.
The Akali Dal, a Sikh-dominated political party active mainly in Punjab, sought to create a Punjabi Suba ("Punjabi Province"). Sikh leaders such as Fateh Singh tactically stressed the linguistic basis of the demand, while downplaying its
religious basis — a country where the distinct Sikh identity could be preserved. Fresh from the memory of the partition, the Punjabi Hindus were also concerned about living in a Sikh-majority state. The Hindu newspapers from Jalandhar, exhorted the Punjabi Hindus to declare Hindi as their "mother tongue", so that the Punjabi Suba proponents could be deprived of the argument that their demand was solely linguistic. This later created a rift between Hindus and Sikhs of Punjab. The case for creating a Punjabi Suba case was presented to the States Reorganisation Commission established in 1955. The States Reorganization Commission, not recognizing Punjabi as a language that was grammatically very distinct from Hindi, rejected the demand for a Punjabi state. Another reason that the Commission gave in its report was that the movement lacked general support of the people inhabiting the region. Many Sikhs felt discriminated against by the commission.
However, the Sikh leaders continued their agitation for the creation of a Punjabi Suba. The Akal Takht played a vital role in organizing Sikhs to campaign for the cause. During the Punjabi Suba movement, 12000 Sikhs were arrested for their peaceful demonstrations in 1955 and 26000 in 1960-61. Finally, in September 1966, the Indira Gandhi-led Union Government accepted the demand, and Punjab was trifurcated as per the Punjab Reorganisation Act.
Areas in the south of Punjab that spoke the Haryanvi dialect of Hindi formed the new state of Haryana, while the areas that spoke the Pahari dialects were merged to Himachal Pradesh (a Union Territory at the time). The remaining areas, except Chandigarh, formed the new Punjabi-majority state, which retained the name of Punjab. Until 1966, Punjab was a Hindu majority state (63.7%). But during the linguistic partition, the Hindu-majority districts were removed from the state. Chandigarh, the planned city built to replace Punjab's pre-partition capital Lahore, was claimed by both Haryana and Punjab. Pending resolution of the dispute, it was declared as a separate Union Territory which would serve as the capital of both the states.
The major rivers of Punjab — Sutlej, Beas and Ravi — are of high importance due to the agricultural economy of the region. Before 1966, the issue of sharing river waters and development of projects had led to disputes between India and Pakistan as well as between the Indian states. The Indian Government had initiated planning for development of Ravi and Beas rivers with treaty negotiations, which involved contributions the states of Punjab, PEPSU, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) within the ambit of the already developed Bhakra Nangal Dam project on the Sutlej River. The merger of PEPSU with Punjab led to further complications, leading to the Inter - State River Water Disputes Act 1956.
The 1966 reorganization further created competing demands for the river waters. Before the reorganization, Punjab was a riparian state as far as the rivers Yamuna, Beas and Ravi were concerned. However, after 1966, Yamuna ran only through Haryana, while Beas and Ravi ran only through Punjab and Himachal. Since the Beas project was already underway and was envisaged for the undivided state,
Haryana was also given a share of the river waters. However, in 1976, when Ravi was made shareable, Haryana was given a share in it, while Punjab received no share of the Yamuna waters. The Punjab politicians alleged that the decision was highly unjust to Punjab and had been influenced politically by the Haryana chief minister Bansi Lal, who was also a Union Cabinet minister at the time. A section of Sikhs perceived this diversion of river waters to the Hindu-majority Haryana as unfair and as an anti-Sikh measure.
On 4 July 1955 the Indian police under orders of the Congress Party assaulted peaceful protesters part of the Punjabi Suba Morcha and invaded the vicinity of the Harmandir Sahib firing teargas bombs to disperse the devotees, some of the teargas shells are reported to have fell into the Sarovar (holy water). Hundreds of Sikhs were humiliated, beaten with lathi's and rifles and arrested, this included several hundred Sikh women. For demanding Punjabi to be the official language of the Punjab a total of 12000 Sikhs were arrested for their peaceful demonstrations in 1955 including several Akali leaders including Tara Singh, Gurcharan Singh Tohra, and Jathedar of Akal Takht Achchhar Singh. The troops also went out on a flag march, first through the streets of Amritsar Sahib and then around the Harmander Sahib complex itself, where police established themselves in charge for 4 days.
The Akali Dal led a series of peaceful mass demonstrations to present its grievances to the central government. The demands of the Akali Dal were based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, which was adopted by the party in October 1973 to raise specific political, economic and social issues. The major motivation behind the resolution was the safeguarding of the Sikh identity by securing a state structure that was decentralised, with non-interference from the central government. The Resolution outlines seven objectives:
The transfer of the federally administered city of Chandigarh to Punjab.
The transfer of Punjabi-speaking and contiguous areas of Haryana to Punjab.
Decentralisation of states under the existing constitution, limiting the central government’s role.
The call for land reforms and industrialisation of Punjab, along with safeguarding the rights of the weaker sections of the population.
The enactment of an all-India gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) act.
Protection for minorities residing outside Punjab, but within India.
Revision of government’s recruitment quota restricting the number of Sikhs in armed forces.
While the majority of the Akali leaders pursued the idea of a more empowered Sikh-majority state within India, some other Sikh leaders such as Jagjit Singh Chauhan pursued the idea of a sovereign Khalistan. Two years after losing the Punjab Assmebly elections in 1969, Chauhan moved to the United Kingdom, and also went to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan to attempt to set up a Sikh government. He then visited the United States at the invitation of his supporters in the Sikh diaspora. On 13 October 1971, he placed an advertisement in the New York Times
proclaiming an Independent Sikh state. After returning to India in 1977, Chauhan returned to Britain in 1979, and established the Khalistan National Council.
Operating from a building termed "Khalistan House", he remained in contact with the Sikh religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Chauhan also maintained contacts among various groups in Canada, the USA and Germany. He visited Pakistan as a guest of leaders like Chaudhuri Zahoor Elahi. Chauhan declared himself president of the "Republic of Khalistan", named a Cabinet, and issued Khalistan "passports", "postage stamps" and "Khalistan dollars".
The late 1970s and the early 1980s saw the increasing involvement of the Sikh religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the Punjab politics. Indira Gandhi's Congress(I) party supported Bhindranwale in a bid to split the Sikh votes and weaken the Akali Dal, its chief rival in Punjab. The Congress supported the candidates backed by Bhindranwale in the 1978 SGPC elections. The Congress leader Giani Zail Singh allegedly financed the initial meetings of the separatist organization Dal Khalsa, which disrupted the December 1978 Ludhiana session of the Akali Dal with provocative anti-Hindu wall writing. In the 1980 election, Bhindranwale supported Congress-I candidates Gurdial Singh Dhillon and Raghunandan Lal Bhatia. Bhindranwale was originally not very influential, but the activities of the Congress elevated him to the status of a major leader by the early 1980s.
In a politically charged environment, Lala Jagat Narain, the Hindu owner of the Hind Samachar group of newspapers, was assassinated by the Sikh militants on 9 September 1981. Jagat Narain was a prominent critic of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and a Congress leader. He had been writing about accepting Hindi instead of Punjabi as one's mother-tongue by Hindus living in Punjab. On 15 September 1981, Bhindranwale was arrested for his alleged role in the assassination. Bhindranwale had earlier been a suspect in the murder of the Nirankari leader Gurbachan Singh, who had been killed in 24 April 1980 in retaliation for killings of conservative Sikhs belonging to the Akhand Kirtani Jatha.
Bhindranwale was released in October by the Punjab State Government, as no evidence was found against him. During this one month, some followers of Bhindranwale embarked on a violent campaign to obtain his release, attacking Hindus, derailing trains and even hijacking an aeroplane.
The Khalistani movement can be considered to have effectively started from this point. Though there were a number of leaders vying for leadership role, most were based in United Kingdom and Canada, and had limited influence. In Punjab, Bhindranwale was the unchallenged leader of the movement and made his residence in the Golden Temple in Amritsar. By convention, the Indian Army and the Punjab Police would not enter this religious building.
The Akali Dal was initially opposed to Bhindranwale, and even accused him of being a Congress agent. However, as Bhindranwale became increasingly influential, the party decided to join hands with him. In August 1982, under the
leadership of Harcharan Singh Longowal, the Akali Dal launched the Dharam Yudh Morcha ("Group for the Battle for Righteousness") in collaboration with Bhindranwale. The goal of the organization was implementation of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. Thousands of people joined the movement, as they felt that it represented a real solution to their demands such as a larger share of water for irrigation and return of Chandigarh to Punjab.
Indira Gandhi considered the Anandpur Resolution as a secessionist document and evidence of an attempt to secede from the Union of India. Akali Dal was classified as a separatist party. The Akali Dal officially stated that the Sikhs were Indians, and Anandpur Sahib resolution did not envisage an autonomous Sikh State of Khalistan.
The Congress government decided to repress the mass agitation with a heavy hand; over a hundred people were killed in the police firings. The security forces arrested over thirty thousand Sikhs in two-and-a-half months. To appease Sikh community in July 1982, Congress decided to make Giani Zail Singh, then Home Minister as the President of India.
In November 1982, Akali Dal announced the organization of protests in Delhi during the Asian Games. The Congress leaders like Bhajan Lal ordered selective frisking of Sikh visitors to Delhi, which was seen as humiliation by the Sikhs. Later, the Akali Dal organised a convention at the Darbar Sahib attended by over 5,000 Sikh ex-servicemen, 170 of whom were above the rank of colonel. These Sikhs claimed that there was discrimination against them in government service.
There were widespread murders in Punjab by followers of bhindrawala. One such murder was that of DIG Sh Avtar Singh Atwal who was killed in April 1983 at gate of Golden Temple. His corpse remained there for 2 hours as even police officers were afraid to touch the body without permission from Bhindranwala. This was one of major instance of show of power.
During this turmoil, the Akali Dal began another agitation in February 1984 protesting against clause (2)(b) of Article 25 of the Indian constitution, which ambiguously states "the reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion", though it also implicitly recognizes Sikhism as a separate religion with the words "the wearing and carrying of kirpans shall be deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion."
The Akali Dal members demanded that the constitution should remove any ambiguous statements that use the word Hindu to refer to the Sikhs. For instance, a Sikh couple who marry in accordance to the rites of the Sikh religion must register their marriage either under the Special Marriages Act (1954) or the Hindu Marriage Act – the Akalis demanded replacement of such rules with Sikhism-specific laws. However, their demands were not taken seriously, and several Akali leaders were arrested for burning the Indian constitution in protest.Thus, the Indian Government's implicit defining of its Sikh citizens as being part of the Hindu
community created discontent among Sikhs. The proponents of Khalistan saw this as a Hindu conspiracy to deny the Sikhs their distinct identity.
On 15 December 1983, Bhindranwala captured the 'Akal Takht' which is the most sacred place of Sikhs inside Golden Temple. He was given a proposal based on Annantpur Sahib Resolution by Central Government under leadership of PV Narsimha Rao, Gurcharan Singh Togda and Prakash Singh Badal, which was not accepted by Bhindranwala. Bhindranwala maintained talks with journalists often giving retaliatory and aggressive statements.
The Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, is the holiest of Sikh temples. While Bhindranwale had stated that he neither supported nor opposed the concept of Khalistan, a number of his supporters were pro-Khalistan. In 1984, the followers of Bhindranwale, led by and Shabeg Singh, had placed ammunitions and militants in the temple. Unsuccessful negotiations were held with Bhindranwale and his supporters, following which Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Army to storm the temple complex.
A variety of army units along with paramilitary forces surrounded the temple complex on 3 June 1984.
The army had grossly underestimated the firepower possessed by the militants. Thus, tanks and heavy artillery were used to forcefully suppress the anti-tank and machine-gun fire. After a 24 hour firefight, the army finally wrested control of the temple complex. According to the Indian Army, 136 army personnel were killed and 249 injured. In all, 493 people in the complex were killed 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. Along with insurgents, many innocent worshipers were caught in the crossfire. Though the operation was militarily successful, it was a huge political embarrassment - as the attack coincided with Sikh religious festival, a large number of pilgrims were staying inside the complex. The Sikhs alleged that the civilians were targeted for attack by the Indian army. The opponents of Indira Gandhi also criticized the operation for unnecessary use of force.
The pro-Khalistan activists have alleged that the Indira Gandhi government had been preparing for an attack on their shrine for over a year. According to Subramanian Swamy, then a member of the Indian Parliament, the central government had allegedly launched a disinformation campaign in order to legitimise the attack. In his words, the state sought to "make out that the Golden Temple was the haven of criminals, a store of armory and a citadel of the nation's dismemberment conspiracy."
On the morning of 31 October 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead by two Sikh security guards (Satwant Singh and Beant Singh) in New Delhi in retaliation for Operation Blue Star. The assassination triggered violence against Sikhs across north India. While the ruling party, Congress (I), maintained that the violence was due to spontaneous riots, its critics have alleged that the Congress
members had planned a pogrom against the Sikhs. Senior Congress leaders such as Jagdish Tytler, H. K. L. Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar have been accused by Sikhs of inciting the mobs against them.
On 29 April 1986, an assembly of separatist Sikhs at the Akal Takht made a declaration of an independent state of Khalistan. These events were followed by a decade of violence and conflict in Punjab before a return to normality in the region. During the late 1980s and the early 1990s, there was a dramatic rise in radical State militancy in Punjab. The period of insurgency saw clashes of the Sikh militants with the police, as well as with the Hindu-Nirankari groups. The Khalistani militant activities manifested in form of several attacks such as the 1987 killing of 32 Hindu bus passengers near Lalru and the 1991 killing of 80 train passengers in Ludhiana.
The Khalistan-related militant activities continued in the 1990s, as the perpetrators of the 1984 riots remained unpunished, and many Sikhs felt that they were being discriminated and their religious rights were being suppressed.
It also reports that there were indiscriminate attacks designed to cause extensive civilian casualties: derailing trains, exploding bombs in markets, restaurants, and other civilian areas between Delhi and Punjab. It further reported that militants assassinated many of those moderate Sikh leaders who opposed them and sometimes killed rivals within the militant group. It also stated that many civilians who had been kidnapped by extremists were murdered if the militants' demands were not met. Finally, it reports that Hindus left Punjab by the thousands.
In August 1991, Julio Ribeiro, then Indian Ambassador to Romania was attacked and wounded in a Bucharest assassination attempt by gunmen identified as Punjabi Sikhs.Sikh groups claimed responsibility for the 1991 kidnapping of the Romanian chargé d'affaires in New Delhi, Liviu Radu. This appeared to be retaliation for Romanian arrests of KLF members suspected of the attempted assassination of Julio Ribeiro. Radu was released unharmed after Sikh politicians criticized the action.
In October, 1991, The New York Times reported that violence had increased sharply in the months leading up to the kidnapping, with Indian security forces or Sikh militants killing 20 or more people per day, and that the militants had been "gunning down" family members of police officers.
On 31 August 1995, Chief minister Beant Singh was killed by a suicide bomber. The pro-Khalistan group Babbar Khalsa claimed responsibility for the assassination, but security authorities were reported to be doubtful of the truth of that claim.A 2006 press release by the Embassy of the United States in New Delhi indicated that the responsible organization was the Khalistan Commando Force.
While the militants enjoyed some support within the Sikh separatists in the earlier period, the support for Sikh militants gradually disappeared. The insurgency weakened the Punjab economy and led to an increase in the violence
in the state. With dwindling support and an increasingly effective Indian security troops eliminating the anti-state combatants, the Sikh militancy was effectively over by early 1990s.
There were serious charges leveled by human rights activists against Indian Security forces that thousands of suspects were killed in staged shootouts and thousands of bodies were cremated/disposed without proper identification or post-mortem.
Human Rights Watch reported that since 1984, the government forces have resorted to widespread human rights violations to fight the militants, including arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention without trial, torture, disappearance and summary killing of civilians and suspected militants. Family members were frequently detained and tortured to reveal the whereabouts of relatives sought by the police. The organization International Human Rights Organization claims that several Sikh women were reportedly gang-raped and molested by the Punjab Police and the Indian security forces during house to house searches. It also claims that looting of the villagers' property and ransacking of the entire villages happened during this period. Amnesty International has also alleged several cases of appearances, torture, rape and unlawful detentions by the police during Punjab insurgency, for which 75-100 police officers had been convicted by December 2002. Ram Narayan Kumar, the author of Reduced to Ashes, claims that the issue of Khalistan was used by the State to divert attention from real issues of democracy, constitutional safeguard and citizens' rights.
In recent years, active groups included Babbar Khalsa, International Sikh Youth Federation, Dal Khalsa, Bhinderanwala Tiger Force. An unknown group till then, the Shaheed Khalsa Force, claimed credit for the marketplace bombings in New Delhi in 1997. The group has never been heard of since.
Air India Flight 182 was an Air India flight operating on the Montréal-London-Delhi-Bombay route. On 23 June 1985, the airplane operating on the route was blown up in midair off the coast of Ireland by a bomb. In all, 329 people were murdered, among them 280 Canadian nationals, and 22 Indian nationals.
The main suspects in the bombing were the members of a Sikh separatist group called the Babbar Khalsa and other related groups who were at the time agitating for a separate Sikh state called Khalistan in Punjab, India. In September 2007, the Canadian commission investigated reports, initially disclosed in the Indian investigative news magazine Tehelka that an hitherto unnamed person, Lakhbir Singh Brar Rode had masterminded the explosions.
The United States Department of State found that Sikh extremism had decreased significantly from 1992 to 1997, although the 1997 report noted that "Sikh militant cells are active internationally and extremists gather funds from overseas Sikh communities."
In 1999, Kuldip Nayar, writing for Rediff.com, stated in his article "It is
fundamentalism again", that the Sikh "masses" had rejected terrorists.By 2001, Sikh extremism and the demand for Khalistan had all but abated.
Simrat Dhillon, writing in 2007 for the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, noted that while a few groups continued to fight, "the movement has lost its popular support both in India and within the Diaspora community". Mark Juergensmeyer, Director, Orfalea Centre for Global & International Studies, UCSB, reported in his paper "From Bhindranwale to Bin Laden: Understanding Religious Violence", "The movement is over," as many militants had been killed, imprisoned, or driven into hiding, and because public support was gone.
On 18 November 1998, the Canada-based Sikh journalist Tara Singh Hayer was gunned down by the suspected Khalistani militants. The publisher of the "Indo-Canadian Times," a Canadian Sikh and once-vocal advocate of the armed struggle for Khalistan, he had criticized the bombing of Air India flight 182, and was to testify about a conversation he overheard concerning the bombing. On 24 January 1995,Tarsem Singh Purewal, editor of Britain's Punjabi-language weekly "Des Pardes", was killed as he was closing his office in Southall. There is speculation that the murder was related to Sikh extremism, which Purewal may have been investigating. Another theory is that he was killed in retaliation for revealing the identity of a young rape victim.
Terry Milewski reported in a 2006 documentary for the CBC that a minority within Canada's Sikh community was gaining political influence even while publicly supporting terrorist acts in the struggle for an independent Sikh state. In response, the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO), a Canadian Sikh human rights group that opposes violence and extremism,sued the CBC for "defamation, slander and libel", alleging that Milewski linked it to terrorism and damaged the reputation of the WSO within the Sikh community.
Canadian journalist Kim Bolan has written extensively on Sikh extremism. Speaking at the Fraser Institute in 2007, she reported that she still received death threats over her coverage of the 1985 Air India bombing.
In 2008, a CBC report stated that "a disturbing brand of extremist politics has surfaced" at some of the Vaisakhi parades in Canada, and The Trumpet agreed with the CBC assessment.Two leading Canadian Sikh politicians refused to attend the parade in Surrey, saying it was a glorification of terrorism. In 2008, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, expressed his concern that there might be a resurgence of Sikh extremism.
In February 2008, BBC Radio 4 reported that the Chief of the Punjab Police, NPS Aulakh, alleged that militant groups were receiving money from the British Sikh community.
Lord Bassam of Brighton, then Home Office minister, stated that International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) members working from the UK had committed "assassinations, bombings and kidnappings" and were a "threat to national
security." The ISYF is listed in the UK as a "Proscribed Terrorist Group" but it has not been included in the list of terrorist organizations by United States Department of State. It was also added to the US Treasury Department terrorism list on 27 June 2002.
Andrew Gilligan, reporting for The London Evening Standard, stated that the Sikh Federation (UK) is the "successor" of the ISYF, and that its executive committee, objectives, and senior members... are largely the same. The Vancouver Sun reported in February 2008 that Dabinderjit Singh was campaigning to have both the Babbar Khalsa and International Sikh Youth Federation de-listed as terrorist organizations. It also stated of Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day that "he has not been approached by anyone lobbying to delist the banned groups". Day is also quoted as saying "The decision to list organizations such as Babbar Khalsa, Babbar Khalsa International and the International Sikh Youth Federation as terrorist entities under the Criminal Code is intended to protect Canada and Canadians from terrorism."
On 7 October 1987, an American Sikh Gurmit Singh Aulakh established "Council of Khalistan" and appointed himself as its President.
Many Sikh and Hindu groups, as well as organizations not affiliated to any religion, attempted to establish peace between the Khalistan proponents and the Government of India.
The present situation in Punjab is generally regarded as peaceful; and the militant Khalistan movement weakened considerably. The Sikh community maintains its own unique identity and is socially assimilated in cosmopolitan areas. India presently has a Sikh Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a Sikh chief of Indian Army.
Some organizations claim that social divisions and problems still exist in rural areas, but the present situation remains largely peaceful, though support for an independent homeland may remain strong among the separatist Sikh leaders. The separatist movement is popular in the expatriate Sikh community in Europe and North America. In India, minor political parties Khalsa Raj Party and Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) seek to establish Khalistan through non-violent means.
With Thanks to Wikipedia