The north-western border of India concentrated with the most oppressed community of India, The Sikhs. A minority group constitutes about two percent population of India but has given uncountable sacrifices more than whole Indians have ever given. The background of the Khalistan Movement depicts a clear history of oppression against the Sikhs and the typical mindset of BJP induced extremism.
Most of the Sikhs resides in Punjab that has a relatively high literacy rate, presence in Army and Bureaucracy and high per capita income in the country. But despite their efforts, Sikhs are considered as a minority in India based on their Religion and language. During the partition of sub-continent, with the tremendous efforts of Muslim League (particularly Muhammad Ali Jinnah), Muslims has got independence as being 90,000,000 population, whereas, Sikhs were 5,500,000 and they demanded their separate state neighbouring to Pakistan as ‘Khalistan’. However, Sikhs were reluctant towards the 1947 partition as the Western part of the sub-continent has the Muslim majority became Pakistan and Punjab remained with India.
November 1966, Punjab split up into Haryana and Punjab based on linguistics while making Chandigarh a union territory and the capital of both states. Whereas, in October 1973, due to Anandpur Sahib Resolution which claimed a high-level provincial autonomy and claimed various demands to be fulfilled which were promised at the time of partition. Due to this resolution, the central government become hostile that gave a niche to the Khalistan Movement.
According to a 2003 Amnesty International report: “India: Break the cycle of impunity and torture in Punjab”: “The militancy period began in the early 1980s when a movement within the Sikh community, in Punjab, turned to violence to achieve an independent state of the Sikhs, which they would call Khalistan. Some sections of the ruling Congress party, whose support base included urban Hindu traders, fomented this radicalization to weaken their main parliamentary opposition in the state, the Akali Dal party, which represented the Sikh peasantry with a more moderate agenda. In 1982 the Akali Dal launched a civil disobedience campaign against a decision to divert a river vital to Sikh farmers in the state. Several Sikh organizations were banned and several leaders of militant groups took shelter in the Golden Temple in Amritsar.”
The same report also stated, “The radicalisation of the movement for Khalistan was met with arrests under a series of national security laws that were introduced during the 1980s to meet the terrorist threat in Punjab but were enforced also in other parts of India and maintained for several years after the end of the militancy period in Punjab.”
During the Khalistan Movement, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale emerged as the leader of the Sikh radical groups as the demand for the separate state popularized under his leadership. To take down the Sikh protestors, Congress under Idra Gandhi’s leadership launched ‘Operation Blue Star’ started on June 1, 1984. In this operation, the holiest temple of Sikh’s ‘The Golden Temple’ was captured by thousands of Indian Army soldiers against 500 militants due to which 300 workers and 10,000 pilgrims were captured in the temple. Such circumstances put Punjab under the blockade. 70,000 + troops had been called to Punjab, tanks, APCs and all. A massacre of Sikhs happened in the first ten days of June 1984. As per the stats gave by the Asia Watch report the official figures put casualties at 493 “civilians/terrorists” killed and 86 wounded.
Due to the operation, a widespread backlash has been initiated in India against Sikhs leading to the never-ending protests from the Sikh community, even in Canada, UK and USA. According to Amnesty International, “Thousands of innocent Sikhs have been burned alive, women raped, men’s hair and beard cut, Gurdwaras set on fire and entire families murdered”. As per the report given by MASR, 52,268 Sikhs are held as political prisoners in India without a trail. Moreover, the figures are given by Inderjeet Singh Jaijee in his book ‘The Politics of Genocide’, more than 250,000 Sikhs has been killed in extrajudicial killings since 1984.
Since 2018, the protest has taken a new turn when the Khalistan Movement is run by the Sikh Youth as they are the staunch supporters of Kashmiris living under the oppression of the Indian army. On 18th August 2018, London’s Trafalgar Square has witnessed a remarkable moment when Sikhs demanded a referendum to demand the separate state from India. Thousands of people from Sikh Community gathered holding the flags of ‘Free Punjab’, ‘Punjab Referendum 2020’ and ‘End Indian Occupation’ which was acknowledged by the international media. However, this referendum demand has thrown Indian establishment in panic but due to the pandemic, it has been postponed till 2022.
On India’s Republic Day 2021, the farmers from Punjab have broken all the barricades and entered Lal Qilla and hoisted the Khalistan’s flag which stormed the Indian capital. However, the campaign against the BJP establishment and their policies against the Sikhs are quite active on social media as well as the youth is raising their voice against the Indian oppression and wanted to spread it across the globe which is somehow heard by the international media outlets. Their only demand is to roll back the agriculture reforms as the agriculture employs 1.3 billion that encompasses around half of the Indian population. Around 76 Sikh farmers perished in the current Farmer’s protest. But these soldiers of Guru Nanak will stand against the oppression of Modi’s fascist government.