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Is the thought of Khalistan nonetheless alive? Categorical Instances

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The late Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist, turned a Canadian citizen after transferring there within the Nineteen Nineties.
| Picture Credit score: Ethan Cairns/ZUMA Press/IMAGO

India and Canada have engaged in tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions as a part of an intensifying row over the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist, on Canadian soil.

The 45-year-old got here to Canada as a refugee many years in the past and had since turn out to be a Canadian citizen. He was an ardent advocate of building a sovereign state of Khalistan, a Sikh homeland in Punjab.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claims that Indian brokers had been concerned within the homicide of Nijjar. India dismissed the allegations as “absurd”. Nonetheless, Indian officers view Nijjar as a terrorist, a member of the banned Khalistan Commando Pressure, whom India hyperlinks to focused killings of varied political and non secular figures.

Additionally Learn | What Khalistan means for the Sikhs of Punjab

No risk to India’s unity

Whereas the accusations from Prime Minister Trudeau are prone to additional pressure relations between the 2 nations, the row has additionally introduced renewed focus to the problem of Khalistan. Some in India concern a revival of militant Sikh separatism that when threatened to tear the nation aside.

Pockets of Punjab are additionally bothered by social issues comparable to a drug epidemic and unemployment. However a senior Indian intelligence official informed DW there’s not a lot to fret about.

“There’s at present no unrest in Punjab, one of many nation’s most profitable states. Khalistan is just not a risk to India’s unity, nevertheless it may have an effect on its international coverage due to the sharp rhetoric of the neighborhood residing overseas,” he informed DW. “All mainstream political events, together with in Punjab, have denounced violence and separatism,” the official added.

Additionally Learn | ‘Not many takers for Khalistan in Punjab’: Kanwar Sandhu

Hundreds of thousands of Sikhs overseas

The Sikh separatist motion has lengthy been a supply of stress in Canada-India ties. Canada is residence to the world’s largest Sikh diaspora, comprising about 8,00,000 individuals, which is roughly 2 per cent of its inhabitants. Some 3 million Sikhs are estimated to reside exterior India, primarily within the UK, the US, Australia, and Canada.

The motion to create an impartial Sikh nation, referred to as Khalistan, led to the killing of tens of hundreds of individuals within the Eighties and Nineteen Nineties. The violence was impressed by radical preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

An particularly traumatic occasion for the Sikh neighborhood was the storming of the Golden Temple—the holiest shrine for Sikhs—in 1984. Indian safety forces allegedly hoped to seize Bhindranwale in a surgical strike, however the operation went awry after they encountered resistance. Officers say tons of of lives had been misplaced, however Sikh activists declare the loss of life toll was a lot better.

Moreover, Sikhs around the globe had been incensed that their sacred place was violated by police motion and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated in retaliation by Sikh members of her personal bodyguard.

Since then, India has outlawed the Khalistan motion and teams related to it are listed as terrorist organisations underneath the phobia legislation, the Illegal Actions (Prevention) Act.

Additionally Learn | Cry for Khalistan: Does it sign a recent part of militancy in Punjab?

Radicalisation simpler exterior India

Sikh organisations say there is no such thing as a consensus on the help for Khalistan even when it may need traction amongst the diaspora.

“Sikhs in Punjab and people settled in different elements of the nation don’t help a separate Khalistan,” Partap Singh, secretary normal of the Sikh Discussion board in Delhi, informed DW. On the similar time, Sikhs really feel harm and have “severe grievances” for the way in which they’ve been handled after the India-Pakistan partition, he added.

“There’s a want for long-awaited therapeutic by political dialogue with full understanding and compassion as a substitute of the usage of unethical methods and forces in spreading hatred in opposition to Sikhs,” added Singh.

Pramod Kumar, director of the Chandigarh based mostly Institute for Improvement and Communication, who has studied the problem intently, factors out that radicalisation of Sikhs was pre-dominant among the many neighborhood overseas. “Sikh terrorism is just not about to erupt once more in Punjab and doesn’t have the legs. The diaspora overseas tries to provide it ethical muscle,” Kumar informed DW.

Khalistan ‘with out bombs and bullets’

He cited the detainment of Amritpal Singh, a radical separatist from Punjab who was the goal of a weeklong manhunt earlier than reportedly surrendering in April this yr. His actions raised fears of a resurgence of militant Sikh separatism. “He anointed himself chief of Waris Punjab De however when he was arrested, it didn’t immediate important protests suggesting there was little help. That ought to have settled the matter,” mentioned Kumar.

Additionally Learn | Amritpal Singh Sandhu: ‘Whether or not it’s going to be peaceable or violent relies on the state’

Nonetheless, many Sikh organisations in Punjab stay cautious of the long run. The newest incident in Canada has pressured the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which manages Sikh locations of worship, to specific “severe concern” over the allegations levelled by Trudeau in opposition to India over the killing of Nijjar. The organisation additionally strongly condemned what they see as hate propaganda in opposition to Sikhs and Punjab by a big part of the media.

However Nijjar’s loss of life has apparently struck a unique chord with the pro-Khalistani organisation Dal Khalsa. After information of Nijjar’s loss of life was first reported in July, the Dal Khalsa held a protest march, and lots of of its activists had been arrested.

Its spokesperson Kanwarpal Singh informed DW in regards to the motion’s imaginative and prescient of the long run. “We consider in a Khalistan which is with out bombs and bullets. It is going to be democratic and with out bloodshed and violence. That is one thing which you can’t rob us of,” he informed DW.

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