How Khalistan movement is hollow, absurd, and just an irritant Firstpost 17 Jul 2023 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar


How Khalistan movement is hollow, absurd, and just an irritant Firstpost 17 Jul 2023

          We have recently been witnessing interesting scenes being played out in UK, Canada, Australia and the US. Sikhs, permanent residents of these countries, with almost no affinity or links to India, except religion, standing in protest outside Indian embassies and consulates, demanding the creation of a hypothetical state they call Khalistan. Those demonstrating will never reside in this hypothetical state, leaving the luxury of their current adopted home. In some cases, protestors have been so carried way that they have attempted to attack Indian diplomatic establishments or their counter demonstrators desperate to grab media attention.

They carry flags which are meant to represent their hypothetical state, which will never be created. They protest in far off countries demanding that this state be created in India which is truly the height of absurdity. They arrive in groups, herded by community leaders, who promptly disappear.

They discredit the Indian flag, disregarding the fact that hundreds of thousands of their community members have proudly saluted it, as also those who laid down their lives defending it, have been draped in it. It only lowers whatever little respect they possess. Countering them have been far more Indian origin residents who respect India for its history, culture and global standing. There are regular clashes between these two groups. 

          A look at the map of the state they demand makes you laugh in amusement. The hypothetical state only has parts of India including Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal and sections of UP, leaving out Pakistan’s Punjab. Lahore, which was the erstwhile capital of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, is also not included. Even Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan, which is amongst the most revered shrines of the community and just 7 kms from the IB, is excluded. The dream Khalistan-Pakistan border runs along the current Indo-Pak IB commencing from where the J and K boundary ends.

J and K is left out mainly because Pakistan claims the region. The designated map cuts off J and K from the rest of the country, with Khalistan imposed between.  To push their hypothetical claims, they have conducted referendums in countries in which they reside, seeking to enhance awareness on their claims.

While numbers voting may be inconsequential and the result meaningless, however it gives them a few seconds of media coverage as the Indian government protests. Interestingly, hardly any local resident attends the referendum and protest events, those who do are forced by circumstances and social pressure. There are reports that the same few attendees vote repeatedly in unmonitored referendums as the organization is desperate to display support in numbers.

The illogical map and protests abroad highlight that the movement has links to Pakistan’s ISI which harbours Khalistan terrorists on its soil. The ISI, realizing that its actions in J and K are collapsing, is activating this so-called defunct movement, hoping that some in Punjab raise a banner in revolt. It has been disappointed that despite all its funding and support, protests only take place in far flung countries rather than India.

The movement of drugs into Punjab by smuggling and drones is intended to boost narco-terrorism and link it to ongoing terrorist activity in J and K. While this will not succeed, it will result in impacting the health of youth of Punjab.

Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), the organization claiming to lead the struggle for utopian Khalistan, is US based and funded by organizations which abhor the global rise of India, including Pakistan’s ISI. To display their relevance and continue to claim funds from sponsors, the SFJ instigates its members to organize protests, aware that these are irrelevant. It sponsors violence hoping to gain media glare. None of its so-called leaders are ever seen in these events, displaying that they are aware that their actions are meaningless.

The only country where SFJ have been given some freedom to operate has been Canada, where the Trudeau government is backed by pro-Khalistan political parties. Its vote bank politics has made it subservient to maintaining good diplomatic ties with India. Ideally, Khalistan protestors should join hands with the Free Quebec movement and demand a separate state within Canada, especially as they form 2% of the Canadian population of 38 million. In India they are 1.7%. The movement is more likely to succeed there than in India as Canada is sparsely populated and has land to spare.

In the past few months, deaths of four Khalistani separatists/terrorists, either by murder due to internal disagreements, or other suspicious causes, has led to all so-called leaders of the SFJ going into hiding, fearing a similar end. It only displays that none are serious in pursuing the demand themselves but pushing innocents forward to demonstrate, while they reap financial benefits. An internal tussle within the leadership is ongoing as it involves finances and control over Gurdwara’s.  

Protests have witnessed an increase in recent times, especially as India rises in global stature. Promoters of the movement flood venues when members of the Indian opposition address audiences and project a poor image of India as also force their brethren to stand in protest when leading government functionaries visit their nations. Many protestors are illegal immigrants desperate for political asylum, which is exploited by the organizers. The presence of the police dampens their efforts as an arrest could blunt their chances of permanent residence.  

While protests abroad have little to no impact on India, it does damage India’s relations with nations which permit them to operate on the pretext of free speech. India-Canada relations have deteriorated and so would India-UK, unless it comes down hard on such movements. Post the attack on the Indian high commission in London, India removed security from the residence of the British High Commissioner, forcing UK to respond.

The movement has been ongoing for half a century and achieved nothing. Terry Milewski, author of the book, ‘Blood for Blood: 50 years of the Global Khalistan Project,’ gave his views on the movement in an interview to the Sunday Guardian. He stated, ‘As long as the Khalistan idea remains alive, Pakistan will take advantage of it.’ He added, ‘The Khalistani’s are very loud indeed right now, but there may be some desperation in that. Their time is running out. Internal wars are sapping their energy.’

The movement may be just an irritant and meaningless but has diplomatic overtones. Attacks on Indian government establishments abroad are diplomatically an embarrassment and hence compel India to react. In India, we should stop referring to them as Khalistani’s as there is no nation by the name Khalistan.