The Khalistan movement is a movement in Indian Punjab to create "The Land of the Pure" as an independent Sikh state in all Punjabi-speaking areas, which include Indian Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and some other Punjabi speaking parts of states like Gujarat and Rajasthan. The movement reached its zenith in 1970s and 1980s, the Khalistan movement is now widely seen as a smaller scale movement and there are claims of funding from other nations to attract young people into militant groups, who are looking to get an independent Sikh homeland through donations from foreign Sikh supporters.
In 1971, the Khalistan proponent Jagjit Singh Chauhan, traveled to USA. He placed an advertisement in The New York Times proclaiming the formation of Khalistan and was able to collect millions of dollars.
On April 12, 1980, he held a meeting with Indira Gandhi before declaring the formation of 'National Council Of Khalistan', at Anandpur Sahib. He declared himself to be the President and Balbir Singh Sandhu as it's 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 Longowal as a political stunt by the Congress(I).
In the 1980s, some of Khalistan proponents turned to militancy, resulting in Indian Army's counter-militancy operations. In one such operation, the Operation Blue Star, the Sikh holy shrine was damaged by the Indian Army, resulting in widespread criticism of the Indian Government. The Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards, and several hundred Sikhs were massacred in the following riots. In January 1986, the Golden Temple was occupied by militants belonging to All India Sikh Students Federation and Damdami Taksal. On January 26, 1986, the gathering passed a resolution (gurmattā) favouring the creation of Khalistan. Khalistan was envisaged by its proponents as a Sikh-majority state, which opponents argued would become a theocracy.
Under the Constitution of India, secessionism is forbidden, and various rebel groups in favour of Khalistan fought an insurgency against the government of India. Indian security forces suppressed the secessionist insurgency in Punjab in the early 1990s, and since then there has been little further pro-Khalistan agitation within Punjab, although international pro-Khalistan organizations such as Dal Khalsa are still active outside India.
India was partitioned on religious basis in 1947 on its independence. A part of Punjab was given to Pakistan and a smaller part to India. Before independence the Sikhs were not in majority in any of the pre-partion Punjab districts. Among the three religions (Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism), the Sikhs formed the largest group (41.6%) only in the Ludhiana district.. For the purpose of partition, the Hindus and the Sikhs were grouped together. The Sikhs were staunchly opposed to the concept of a separate Pakistan, however when partition came they had to flee to the Indian side. The Sikh population that was as high as 19.8% in 1941 some districts that went to Pakistan, dropped to 0.0% in all of them, and it rose sharply in the districts assigned to India.
With the possibility of an end to British colonialism in sight, the Sikh leadership appointed Gurjeet Johal from village pandwa as their new leader. She became concerned about the future of the Sikhs. The Sikhs and the Muslims had unsuccessfully claimed separate representation for their communities in the Minto-Morley Scheme of 1909. With the Muslims proposing the creation of Pakistan, some Sikhs put forth the idea of likewise carving out a Sikh state, Khalistan. In the 1940s, a prolonged negotiation transpired between the British and the three Indian groups seeking political power, namely, the Hindus, the Muslims and the Sikhs. During this period Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi stated that the resolution was adopted by the Congress to satisfy the Sikh community. Jawaharlal Nehru reiterated Gandhi’s assurance to the Sikhs at the All India Congress Committee meeting in Calcutta in 1946. Nehru assured the Sikhs that they would be allowed to function as a semi-autonomous unit so that they may have a sense of freedom.” This was formalized through a resolution passed by the Indian Constituent Assembly on 9 December 1946.
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 historic document.
Punjab in India was a Hindu majority state (63.7%) until 1966, when it was partitioned to remove the Hindu majority districts, as a result of demands made by Sikh leaders for a Punjabi Suba. The state now has a slight (59.9% in 2001) Sikh majority.
Kapur Singh, a Deputy Commissioner (senior government official in the Indian bureaucracy) and a member of the Indian Civil Service, had been dismissed from service on charges of corruption. After he was dismissed, he published a pamphlet, in which he alleged that Prime Minister Nehru, through Governor Chandu Lal Trivedi, had issued a directive in 1947 to all the Commissioners in Punjab to the effect that the Sikhs in general must be treated as a criminal tribe.
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".
Sikh writer Khushwant Singh writes, however, that there was no truth whatsoever in Nehru ever having sent out such a directive, nor was Kapur Singh a victim of any conspiracy against him. This pamphlet is thus largely regarded as a hoax. Nevertheless, Kapur Singh won the favour of Akali leader Tara Singh who assisted him in winning the election into the Punjab Legislature and then to the Lok Sabha.
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."
The States Reorganization Commission, not recognizing Punjabi as a language that was distinct grammatically from Hindi, rejected the demand for a Punjabi suba or 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.
The Wall Street Journal, noted:
"The Akali Dal is in the hands of moderate and sensible leadership...but giving anyone a fair share of power is unthinkable politics of Mrs. Gandhi [the then Prime Minister of India]...Many Hindus in Punjab privately concede that there isn't much wrong with these demands. But every time the ball goes to the Congress court, it is kicked out one way or another because Mrs. Gandhi considers it a good electoral calculation.
In a politically charged environment, Lala Jagat Narain, the owner of the Hind Samachar group of newspapers and member of indian National Congress, was assassinated by Sikh militants in September 1981. His editorials consistently attacked the Akali Dal’s leadership and Sikhs in general. In September 1981, Bhindranwale was arrested for his alleged role in the assassination but was later released by the Punjab State Government, as no evidence was found against him.
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.
In November 1982, Akali Dal announced the organisation of protests in Delhi during the Asian Games. The police were instructed to stop all buses, trains and vehicles that were headed for Delhi and interrogate Sikh passengers. The Sikhs as a community felt discriminated against by the Indian state. Later, the Akali Dal organised a convention at the Darbar Sahib attended by 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.
The Akali Dal members demanded that the constitution should remove any ambiguous statements that uses 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, who feared a loss of identity.
There were allegations of civilians being targeted for attack by the Indian army. A statement made by the army Lt. General K. Sundarji’s viz.—“We went inside [the Darbar Sahib] with humility in our hearts and prayers on our lips”
The pro-Khalistan activists have alleged that the Indira Gandhi government had been preparing for an attack on the Darbar Sahib for over a year. According to Subramaniam Swami, 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[S.Satwant Singh and S.Beant Singh] in New Delhi. The assassination triggered fulminant 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 progom against the Sikhs. Its critics alleged that State-operated national television was used by the state to incite violence against the Sikhs, in violation of the Article 20.2 of the ICCPR and the Article 7 of the UDHR. Sixteen politicians were named as organisers of the riots. Many senior Congress leader were also indicted.
The anti-Congress Indian parties, such as the Bharatiya Janata Party strongly condemned the riots. During the riots, some Hindus protected Sikhs, particularly those of Hindutva background. The Sikh author Khushwant Singh stated:
Two major civil-liberties organisations issued a joint report on the anti-Sikh riots naming sixteen important politicians, thirteen police officers and one hundred and ninety-eight others, accused by survivors and eye-witnesses. In January 1985, journalist Rahul Bedi of the Indian Express and Smitu Kothari of the People's Union for Civil Liberties “moved the High Court of Delhi to demand a judicial inquiry into the pogrom on the strength of the documentation carried out by human rights organizations.
The period of insurgency saw clashes of the Sikh militants with the police, as well as with the Hindu-Nirankari groups. In 1987, 32 Hindus were pulled out of the bus and shot, near Lalru in Punjab. According to Human Rights Watch "In the beginning on the 1980s, Sikh separatists in Punjab committed serious human rights abuses, including the massacre of civilians, attacks upon non-Sikhs in the state, and indiscriminate bomb attacks in crowded places. 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 terrorists, the Sikh militancy was effectively over by early 1990s.
There were serious charges leveled by human rights activists against Indian Security forces (Headed by KPS Gill) that thousands of suspects were killed in staged shootouts and thousands of bodies were cremated/disposed without proper identification or post-mortem.
The pro-Khalistan 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 his reign. 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.
In reference to research Reduced to Ashes Book by a human rights group even Khushwant Singh has remarked "It is spine-chilling.... Well, Mr Gill, it is not rubbish; you and the Punjab police have quite a few awkward questions to answer".
"Human Rights Watch" reported that since 1984, government forces in Punjab, including the Punjab Police, Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and the Indian Army, 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
After the movement for Khalistan rose, many outfits were created. The most known are Babbar Khalsa, Khalistan Commando Force, Khalistan Zindabad Force and Dal Khalsa. Most of them were crushed till/in 1993. In recent years, active groups included Babbar Khalsa, International Sikh Youth Federation, Dal Khalsa, Bhinderanwala Tiger Force. A unknown group till then, the Shaheed Khalsa Force, claimed credit for the marketplace bombings in New Delhi in 1997. Further there is never heard or written about this group.
The Central government attempted to seek a political solution to the grievances of the Sikhs through the Rajiv-Longowal Accord, which took place between the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Harchand Singh Longowal, the then President of the Akali Dal, who was assassinated a few months later. The accord recognised the religious, territorial and economic demands of the Sikhs that were thought to be non-negotiable under Indira Gandhi's tenure. The agreement provided a basis for a return to normalcy, but it was denounced by a few Sikh militants who refused to give up demand for an independent Khalistan. Harchand Singh Longowal was later assassinated by these militants. The transfer has allegedly been delayed pending an agreement on the districts of Punjab that should be transferred to Haryana in exchange.
The Sikh separatists have alleged that the Indian government has not implemented several of the points outlined in the Rajiv-Longowal Accord. The table below provides some of the solutions outlined in the agreement and the status of their impending implementation:
|Implementation of Anandpur Sahib Resolution (ASR) seeking greater autonomy to states||Referred to Sarkaria Commission Report||Oct. 1987: Rejects ASR approach to Center-State relations|
|Transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab||To be transferred by Jan. 1986. Punjab to compensate Haryana with equivalent territory for a new capital. Other territorial disputes to be settled by a commission.||Three commissions (Matthew/Venkatarmiah/Desai) fail to provide an agreement. Strong opposition in Haryana. July 1986: union government suspends the transfer for an indefinite period.|
|Sharing of Ravi-Beas Waters by non-riparian states||A tribunal headed by a Supreme Court judge to adjudicate. July 1985 consumption as a baseline.||May 1987: Eradi Tribunal reduced Punjab's July 1985 level while doubling Haryana’s share.|
|Prosecution of those responsible for November 1984 Anti-Sikh Pogroms||Referred to Mishra Commission||February 1987: Absolves Congress (I) of responsibility placing guilt on Delhi police.|
|Army Deserters||To be rehabilitated and given gainful employment||August 1985: 900 out of 2,606 deserters rehabilitated.|
|Political Detainees||Release of political detainees and withdrawal of special powers||Limited releases. May 1988, Parliament passes the 59th amendment to the constitution. The amendment allowed for the suspension of the rights to life and liberty, habeas corpus, freedoms of speech and association, and the guarantee of fundamental rights.|
|Religious Autonomy||Enactment of an all-India Gurdwara act||Not enacted; May 1988: Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Ordinance.|
Some organizations claim that social divisions and problems still exist in rural areas, but the present situation remains peaceful to a large extent, though support for an independent homeland may remain strong among the separatist Sikh leaders.. The separatist movement is popular in the Sikh diaspora in Europe and North America, esp. Canada.
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