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The Khalistan movement

Reports have emerged of defacing of Hindu temples in Canada and Australia by pro-Khalistan elements and of clashes between India supporters and pro-Khalistan groups from both these nations as also the UK. Voting in the so-called ‘non-binding Khalistan referendum’ has been reported from Italy, Canada, UK, Australia and Pakistan, all of which have sizable Sikh diaspora. India has raised its concerns to all these countries. Some arrests have been made on account of the violence and defacement, but no action has been taken against those conducting the referendum as it is claimed to be within democratic norms. Many voters in this fake referendum are regular visitors to India or have their roots on Indian soil.
Anti-India activities by so-called Khalistan activists have been abetted, funded and supported by Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), a US based group, which is also behind the non-binding referendum. SFJ was founded in 2007 intending for Punjab’s secession from India and the creation of a separate ‘Khalistan’ state. The organization was outlawed in India in 2019. Interestingly, the proposed map of Khalistan only has Indian territory,leaving out Lahore and other areas of Pakistan, part of the erstwhile Ranjit Singh state. Lahore was the capital of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s empire. It highlights Pakistan’s involvement behind the organization.
SFJ has limited global following. While the group claimed that 10-12,000 people participated in its referendum held in London in Nov 2021, reports state that numbers were far less. Similar inputs flowed from other places where these activities were conducted. Many Khalistan members are also reported to have participated in Pakistan sponsored protests on Kashmir in the US and UK. Even pro-Khalistan groups within India have been critical of the SFJ and its tactics. SFJ’s attempts to disrupt national events in Delhi and other parts of the country have failed repeatedly.
Canada is known for harbouring pro-Khalistan groups. The current Trudeau government in Ottawa has Khalistan supporters. It is backed by Jagmeet Singh’s New Democratic Party (NDP). Jagmeet Singh is a known Khalistan sympathizer. Trudeau’s India visit in 2018 was an epic example of a global leader being snubbed solely because his country supported anti-India groups. Apart from a formal meeting with the PM, which yielded nothing, there were no other official engagements.
The entire visit, funded by the Canadian taxpayer, comprised of photo-ops of Trudeau and his family at various tourist destinations, including the Taj Mahal. Even the Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh refused to interact with him. The message from India was clear and firmly conveyed. His comments during the farmer’s agitation, mainly to secure his political future, only froze relations further.
The Canadian foreign minister, Mélanie Joly, arrived in Delhi early this month seeking to mend ties, frayed over the past few years, thanks to Trudeau. During her meeting with foreign minister, S Jaishankar, the Khalistan issue was again highlighted. India firmly conveyed that the ‘Khalistan issue is a matter of national security and Ottawa must take firm action’ against them in case the Canadian government desires Indo-Canada ties to be on track. India had also issued a travel advisory on hate crimes for its citizens traveling to Canada, conveying its displeasure.
The Khalistan movement, aiming to break the social fabric of Punjab, is funded by inimical elements, including the ISI. Within the country, apart from a few disgruntled elements, there are no takers. Most residents of the state have witnessed a rise in economic conditions and are least interested in being part of a defunct movement. Globally, the movement is also an attempt to gain control of Gurdwara’s across the western world hereby influencing Indian diaspora.
There have been a few Khalistan linked incidents in India, none alarming, including an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) attack on the Punjab Police Intelligence HQs and a blast in the Ludhiana court. The RPG attack was by a Pak based smuggler and terrorist, displaying Pak’s intent to shift focus from Kashmir, where it has failed, to Punjab. There have also been reports of display of Khalistan flags and graffiti in parts of the country. The latest incident was just prior to Republic day this year in Delhi, over which two were arrested. A few individual incidents of shootings have also been linked to them, including that of known rapper,Sidhu Moosewala.
The Government also claimed, in the supreme court, that the SFJ had infiltrated into the farmers agitation in 2020-21. Many Khalistan backing members of parliament from UK and Canada voiced their support for the protests. The Interpol also refused to act against Khalistan terrorists claiming that their activities have a ‘political dimension.’
Many of those who participated in the sham referendum in Canada, Australia and England were Indian students with Indian passports. Inputs of participants are available through CCTV footage. Ideally, the Government should place them under scrutiny once they return home. Failure to act only adds to the belief that supporting secessionist movements, including when abroad, is possible. It also opens doors for them being brainwashed into joining organizations which operate against the state.
With Pakistan reverting to narco-terrorism in the border states of Punjab and Jand K, there is a need for better vigil and stalling its attempts to re-ignite Punjab before it gains steam. The region has witnessed growth and development which should not be permitted to be set back due to actions of a few. The state is currently facing growing unemployment and high rates of drug addiction. It was these concerns which resulted in a change in government. The centre and state must work to resolve these problems thereby stemming the movement.
Border states with discontent are more prone to being exploited by inimical nations.With Pakistan having failed in Kashmir, they will now seek to spread unrest in Punjab. Their long-term aim appears to have both Punjab and J and K in turmoil with elements working in tandem. They have few options other than supporting internal unrest as their economy falters and they remain dependent on global funding agencies.Currently the situation is under control but could escalate if not checked. India must strategize and act before it becomes too late.

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