It is well known fact that the Khalistan movement,  which was to make a separate homeland for the Sikhs within India, had been considered ‘long-dead’ by the Indian government, after it coalesced to its high-point in 1984, when the Ex. PM Indira Gandhi organised ‘Operation Blue Star’ to suppress it.  But, even after 36 years the embers still tend to burn, in the purported run-up to ‘Khalistan Referendum 2020’, which is still raring to go, despite the outbreak of the COVID-19 in the whole world.  It was reported through India.Com on July 4, 2020 1, that pro-Khalistan groups for ‘Sikhs for Justice’, which has already been banned by Ministry of Home Affairs in India, since July 2019, had called for an online registration for Referendum-2020.  The report informs,  that the ‘banned pro-Khalistan group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) launched its much-publicised online voter registration for ‘Referendum 2020’ for people in Punjab through a Russian portal.  As per the inputs, the SFJ launched the Referendum 2020 voter registration through the Russian website www.punjabfree.ru, appealing to the people in Punjab and age d 18 or above from any religion as well as the Sikhs living anywhere else in India to register their votes for participation in the non-governmental Punjab Independence Referendum.  Detailed information regarding the registration process was put up in English and Punjabi languages on the Russia-based website, which mentions three steps for registration of votes and the sign-up to receive updates about the Referendum 2020. The SFJ has a ground-level plan to ensure that the voter registration form for Referendum 2020 reaches every household in Punjab, despite the Indian government’s crackdown on the pro-Khalistan activists. Designated US-based terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun made the voter registration announcement through a video, putting Punjab Police as well as central security agencies in a tizzy’.

The Khalistan elements also seem to be active inside Punjab (India) as well, as on September 10, 2020, The Hindustan Times 2 has reported that in Ludhiana villages, there has been found pro-Khalistan slogans written on Bus stands. The news assumes importance as it does not seem to be a handiwork of any novice, for the simple fact, that the graffiti was found written in three villages namely Razul, Punjeta and Sanghiyan, which the villagers claim in an attempt to distract the rural youth.   ‘Unidentified miscreants have painted pro-Khalistan slogans favouring ‘Referendum 2020’ and release of Sikh prisoners on the walls of village bus stands. These slogans have also grabbed the attention of police and intelligence agencies. However, no one has seen who drew them on the walls. Intelligence agencies in Punjab are on alert after the members of banned terrorist outfit Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), based in Ludhiana’s Raikot, were arrested in Delhi. Security has been beefed up around the villages after the arrest of the accused in Delhi during an encounter. One of the accused, Bhupinder Singh alias Dilawar Singh, had been arrested by the Mohali police for unlawful activities in 2019 for a controversial post by him on a social networking site. However, he had bailed out in July 2019. Sources said the accused were asked to carry out targeted killings in Punjab, for which they were told to procure weapons from Uttar Pradesh and surrounding areas’.

India is also keeping a watchful eye on any disruptive activity regarding Khalistan as it was reported that ‘two men were arrested by a special cell of the Delhi police for hoisting the Khalistan flag on a building in Punjab; they had planned to travel to Pakistan to receive terror training, the report quoted in Sputniknews.com 3 on August 31, 2020, ‘The duo – Inderjeet Gill and Jaspal Singh – was set to receive help from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency to travel from Delhi to Pakistan via Nepal.  The duo was wanted in a sedition case registered at a police station in the city of Moga, Punjab. They allegedly hoisted the Khalistani flag at the District Collector’s office on the eve of Independence Day on 14 August.   Sikhs have their highest population, apart from Indian Punjab, in Canada ( 1.4 %) and England ( .7%) and  both the countries have rejected the demand of ‘Sikhs for Justice’ 4 .

The Pakistan hand into sponsoring the secessionist movement of Khalistan  is well known, but what is now becoming critical is that this movement is tending to become detrimental to not only India but also to Canada as well.  A news article published in Sputniknews.com  on September 10, 2020 5  speaks about the gravity of the situation.  It refers to a paper published by Macdonald Laurier Institute, which is a 24- page document available for free, from a ‘Canadian think tank, (which) has revealed that the Khalistan movement has been a geopolitical project nurtured by Pakistan. Veteran journalist Terry Milewski’s paper “Khalistan: A Project of Pakistan” claims that “the Pakistan-sponsored” project threatens the national security of Canadians and Indians as the Khalistan Movement doesn’t see mass support among Sikhs in Punjab, as per the paper, but groups like Sikhs for Justice and the banned terror group BKI have been invoking the community for a referendum among Sikhs for a separate nation – Khalistan. For Canadians, the movement has been termed a security threat by Milewski due to the presence of leaders associated with the cause.   Building a Pakistan connection, the foreword in the paper mentions how the “ proposition of an independent Khalistan  is a backward idea without economic or democratic logic. In the service of this cause, extremists animated by Pakistan seek to distort history and betray the vast majority of Sikhs who live in peace and freedom. ”’ it says.

It is indeed noteworthy here that when Canada PM  Justin Trudeau visited India in February 2018, he was almost ‘screwed’ by PM Modi as what an article published in The Print  shows up, for the reason that Trudeau in his entourage had ‘the presence of attempted murder-accused and suspected Khalistani separatist Jaspal Atwal in official functions 6 . Neither PM Modi or any of his senior minister had showed up to receive him on his arrival 7. Not only this, when Trudeau visited Taj Mahal in Agra, the UP CM also did not turn-up to receive him. ‘Why (was) India so rude to Trudeau? Answer: It has to do with the Sikhs. India has often accused Canada of sheltering Sikh separatists. Sikhs in Canada form a voting bloc for Trudeau, so much so that he even attended a Khalsa Day parade organized by a radical Gurudwara, or Sikh temple, in Toronto. Some Sikh Gurudwaras in Canada have also barred the entry of Indian diplomats’. 8 said the report published in The Washington Post.  What however, should have been the  real and unforgettable snub to Trudeau was when India should have rightly arrested Jaspal Atwal and given a clear message for its zero-tolerance for support of secessionism but something which could not happen.

However, going by the agility of the Indian state it is crystally-clear that India will never allow Khalistan Movement to gain momentum.

The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner. He writes on national and international issues.   

 

References:

1-      https://www.india.com/viral/banned-last-year-for-advocating-referendum-2020-pro-khalistan-group-sikhs-for-justice-launch-online-voter-registration-4075613/

2-      https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/pro-khalistan-slogans-emerge-on-walls-of-bus-stands-in-ludhiana-villages/story-vojRgFxGjAQSSBUN8smIpO.html

3-      https://sputniknews.com/india/202008311080324096-sikh-separatists-arrested-in-punjab-had-planned-to-travel-to-pakistan-for-terrorist-training-report/

4-      https://sputniknews.com/india/202007301080013514-canada-and-uk-reject-sikhs-for-justice-call-for-punjab-independence-referendum/

5-      https://sputniknews.com/india/202009101080419542-sikh-khalistan-secessionist-movement-sponsored-by-pakistan-is-security-threat-to-india—study/

6-      https://theprint.in/diplomacy/modi-screwed-trudeau-during-2018-india-trip-and-its-become-a-poll-issue-in-canada-now/271566/

7-      https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/02/justin-trudeau-india-trip/553958/

8-      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/02/20/why-india-is-being-really-rude-to-justin-trudeau/


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