The American Sikh Foundation for Justice, or SFJ, organizes referendums in favour of Khalistan in many countries around the world. In this order, the referendum was held in Canada on September 18. According to a report of the Independent, between 10,000 and 12,000 people attended. In the referendum, the answer to this question was posed to those present: “Do you want a new Khalistan state separate from India?
The Embassy of India, had expressed its concerns to the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, opposed the conduct of the “referendum”. However, Canada refused to ban the program, citing freedom of opinion. Immediately after this event, the Government of India issued a warning to Indians living in Canada to be vigilant. Meanwhile, on September 22, the government’s foreign affairs spokesman, Arindam Bagchi, called the referendum ludicrous.
We often hear the term Khalistan in news time and again. Many of us simply use the term without having much background knowledge. So, today in this article, we will try to trace the history of this movement.
History of Khalistani Movement:
It started in 1929:
It dates back to 1929. During the session of Lahore Parliament, Motilal Nehru proposed Poorna Swaraj. During this time, three types of groups opposed the proposal.
The first group – the Muslim League under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The second group was of Dalits, led by Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar. The third group is that of Shiromani Akali Dal led by Master Tara Singh. For the first time, Tara Singh requested a separate state for the Sikhs.
In 1947, this need became a movement. It was named as Punjabi Suba Movement. At the time of independence, Punjab was divided into two parts. Shiromani Akali Dal called for a separate sub-Sikh, that is, a language-based Sikh state in India itself. The Commission for the Reorganization of the States established in independent India refused to accept this request.
Division of Punjab:
For 19 years there have been protests and agitation for a separate Sikh province across Punjab. Meanwhile, incidents of violence began to increase. Finally, in 1966, the Indira Gandhi government decided to divide Punjab into three parts. The majority of Sikh Punjab, Haryana speak Hindi and a third are Chandigarh. Chandigarh became a union territory. It became the capital of two new territories.
Despite such a big decision, many people were not satisfied with this score. Some were unhappy with the territories given to Punjab, while others were unhappy with the idea of a common capital.
Proposal of Khalistan:
Separatists living in Canada and Europe have been calling on Khalistan for over 40 years. In 1979, Jagjit Singh Chauhan left India for London and proposed Khalistan. Singh also drew a map of this Khalistan. In 1969, Jagjit Singh also participated in Punjab council elections.
Jagjit Singh Chauhan created a worldwide riot by issuing new Khalistani proposal in UK. In 1980, his passport was canceled because the Indian government declared him a fugitive. Although Jagjit continued to support Khalistan’s resolve even after returning home, he opposed violence.
Role of Anandpur Sahib Resolution:
Akali Dal received a great deal of political benefit from the Punjabi movement. Then, under the leadership of Parkash Singh Badal, the party fought hard in Parliament in the 1967 and 1969 parliamentary elections. However, the election of 1972 proved not to be good for Akalis’ rising political chart.
In 1973, Akali Dal declared autonomy, meaning more rights for the state. This claim of autonomy was sought through resolution Anandpur Sahib.
In the Anandpur Sahib resolution, the Sikhs demanded a separate constitution for a more self-governing Punjab. In 1980, Sikh support for the Anandpur Sahib resolution was growing.
Role of Bhindranwale :
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was a strong advocate of the Anandpur Sahib resolution. Bhindranwale, who started his journey as a ragi, later declared a terrorist and a major face in the Khalistan movement. Prominent Sikh journalist Khushwant Singh said that Bhindranwale incited each Sikh to kill 32 Hindus. He says it will solve the problem of Sikhs forever.
In 1982, Bhindranwale joined forces with Shiromani Akali Dal and started the non-cooperation movement. This movement of non-cooperation later turned into an armed uprising.
Meanwhile, anyone who opposes Bhindranwale appears on his hit list. For this reason, Khalistan terrorists killed the founder and editor of Punjab Kesari, Lala Jagat Narayan.
Sanjay Gandhi, son of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, is said to have supported Bhindranwale to counter the growing political influence of Akali Dal at this time.
Then, Bhindranwale entered the Golden Temple to evade security forces. For two years, the government did nothing. Meanwhile, Bhindranwale occupied Akal Takht built in the Golden Temple complex.
On Indira’s orders, Operation Bluestar continued the evacuation from the Golden Temple.
The military operation launched by the Indira government to take back the Golden Temple of Bhindranwale and his armed followers was named Operation Blue Star. From 1 to 3 June 1984, rail, road and air services were closed in Punjab. The water supply to the Golden Temple was cut off. A complete curfew has been imposed in Amritsar.
On the other hand, in the rest of Punjab, the army also conducted simultaneous operations to capture the suspects in villages and gurdwaras.
A day later, General KS Brar called in tanks to settle the situation. On June 6, the tanks were brought up the stairs to Parikrama. The Akal Takht building was heavily damaged by gunfire. The bodies of Bhindranwale and his commanders were found a few hours later.
On June 7, the Indian army took control of the complex. Operation Bluestar ended at noon on June 10, 1984. During the entire operation, 83 army soldiers were martyred and 249 wounded.
According to the government, 493 terrorists and civilians were killed in the attack. However, some Sikh organizations claim that at least 3,000 people were killed in the operation.
Aftermath of operation Bluestar:
- Several Sikh leaders, including Captain Amarinder Singh, resigned from Parliament in protest at the loss of innocent lives during Operation Bluestar. Prominent writers including Khushwant Singh have returned the government award.
- Four months later, on October 31, 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead by two of her Sikh bodyguards.
- More than 8,000 Sikhs were killed in the subsequent 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Most of the riots took place in Delhi. It is alleged that these riots were encouraged by Congress leaders.
- A year later, on June 23, 1985, Khalistan supporters living in Canada blew up an Air India flight with a bomb. During this time, 329 people died. Terrorists in Babbar Khalsa call it revenge for Bhindranwale’s death.
- On August 10, 1986, former Army Commander-in-Chief AS Vaidya, who commanded Operation Bluestar, was assassinated by two bicycle terrorists in Pune. The Khalistan Rangers have claimed responsibility for the killings.
- On August 31, 1995, a suicide bomber blew himself up near Punjab CM Beant Singh’s car. Beant Singh was killed in it. Singh has been credited with destroying terrorism.