Khalistan: Mufti Mohammad's
Why 'Khalistan' and what purpose would it serve for the Sikh masses? Would it mean greater prosperity for Punjab? Do the Khalistani extremists have anything to do with the aspirations of Sikhs or the rest of Punjabi population? Or, are the Sikh fundamentalists merely engaged in power-struggle to grab Punjab's resources and win political influence? If Sikhs are given 'Khalistan', where will its territory exist? On Indo-Pakistan border? Won't that mean a grave threat to India? Would Pakistan spare 'Khalistan' and won't use that territory compulsively as an additional entry point into India? These questions need to be answered before the Sikh community seriously takes a call on 'Khalistan', an issue that is painfully disturbing its psyche at the moment.
The ‘Khalistan’ movement, lying dormant for some time, wants an independent state for Sikhs on the lines of the Sikh Empire that existed in Punjab from 1709 to 1849. The movement touched its heights in the 1970s and 1980s, gaining ground in the Sikh-majority state of Punjab and the traditional homeland of the Sikh religion. The movement is now sought to be revived, even though the demand for 'Khalistan' has never found popular support among the Sikh common folk as they feel that their interests are well protected within India. Votaries of ‘Khalistan’ may be present in some parts of Punjab, but the movement has lost its force of the eighties. There are hardly any militant Sikh groups now worth a count.
However, there are indications now that renewed efforts are being made to revive the movement in tandem with the Kashmiris’ separatist agitation. When PM Narendra Modi visited Canada in April, "Sikhs For Justice" submitted a petition to his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper to raise with Modi Sikh’s demands for an independent homeland. When in 1971, Khalistan proponent Jagjit Singh Chauhan proclaimed the formation of ‘Khalistan’, collected millions of dollars from the Sikh diaspora and floated ‘Khalistan currency and stamp’, it appeared things were getting hot. Again in the 80s, the stir grew and brought in its wake insurgency. But movement remained more or less confined to sporadic violence and rhetoric. But then, it had become pretty clear that Pakistan was behind the Sikhs’ militant movement.
Sequence of events from Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale days suggest that this movement was most insidiously generated by Pakistan. And the then PM Indira Gandhi contributed her bit, unawares of the repercussions. Her interest was confined to building her vote bank. Now the movement appears to be taking a serious turn with J&K CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed seen obliquely fuelling pro-Khalistan sentiment in the region. What interest does Mufti have in whipping up this sentiment? Is he indirectly trying to use the Sikh agitation to give fillip to the secessionist outcry in Kashmir?
Here, better we pick up a leaf from the past. 'Khalistan' would never have taken roots, had Mrs Gandhi not pampered Sikhs to become unduly aggressive and assertive for her sake. Under Bhindranwale's leadership, Sikhs fell into her trap and tastefully played spoils. They got arms and all the needed wherewithal for raising their ranks. But when they went beyond her control, she tried to bamboozle them. It was only then that, measuring how grave and intractable was her trap, they turned their power against the PM and ultimately took her life after her soldiers had shot dozens of Sikh militants right in the precincts of Harimandir Sahib in Golden Temple as part of the Operation Blue Star. They bit the hands that fed them.
Pakistanis have already managed to gain effective entry into Kashmir through the dark alleys provided by separatists to cause mayhem and bloodshed in India. Creation of 'Khalistan' would most certainly serve as another passage to torment the Indian nation. Kashmiri separatists cry plebiscite and self rule in the Valley. In case Kashmir becomes an independent state, it would soon slip into Pakistan occupation and result in a more powerful and formidable enemy sitting over India's head, beside the presence of inimical dragon in the North.
Sikhs held a protest rally in Srinagar on Friday over the death of a Sikh youth in police firing in Jammu and raised slogans eulogizing Bhindranwale and shouted ‘Khalistan zindabad'. Pro-Khalistan slogans and waving of Pakistani flags by Sikh youth in J&K emerge at a time when the Mufti govt is increasingly drawing nationwide rap for allowing separatists to hoist Pakistani flags in their rallies in the Valley. Sadly, BJP as a junior partner in the Mufti govt is not able to rein in the PDP CM.
Mufti’s arrogance presents a big challenge to Modi's Central govt that had facilitated the coalition arrangement to wean away the extremists from their separatist agenda. Thus, Mufti's betrayal of India now goes full circle. Alas, hey presto is nowhere in sight! Like 'separate Kashmir', 'Khalistan' idea would be a disaster not only for India, but also for Sikhs and other people living in Punjab.
Should that happen, peace-loving, sensible Sikhs and other people in Punjab would be forced to migrate to live in other parts of the country, as did Kashmiri Pandits and even Muslim families from J&K under threats to their lives from gun-toting militants. It's painful, as well as strange, that AAP leader, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is also playing a dangerous game by going soft on Khalistani separatists in his party for electoral gains. Sikhs must be extremely cautious. It's time for them to be wary of this new wave of 'Khalistan' spell.