The Punjab state police and a the Indian authorities are looking to arrest a fugitive called Amritpal Singh, who is regarded by his followers as the leader of the Khalistani movement, a separatist movement to make a separate Sikh nation out of India. India, under Indira Gandhi during the 80’s launched serious attack on this movement, its militant activities in the state and was successful in doing so. The Indian forces killed the leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale during operation Blue Star in the Golden Temple, which was turned into the hub of militant activities during 80’s. After that, we see killing of Mrs. Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards for her military operation at the Golden Temple and then the riots against the Sikh community in other parts of India, especially in Delhi. Again, we saw peace coming back to Punjab, as it always remained a prosperous region in India and the main reason being the vibrant democracy in India. However, in recent times we have seen anti India protests by Khalistani activists in Australia, Canada, in the U.S and U.K. and Amritpal Sing leading the way in Punjab, in India. So, is it a serious revival of the movement and is Amritpal Singh the new avtar of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale?
Punjab, the region of five rivers has always been noted as the site of one of the earliest urban societies in the world history. The Indus Valley Civilization flourished in and around this region from about 3000 B.C or earlier than that period. This region of ancient India witnessed intertribal wars stimulated the growth of larger groupings ruled by chieftains and kings, who ruled local kingdoms known as Mahajanapadas. The rise of kingdoms and dynasties in the Punjab is chronicled in the ancient Hindu epics, particularly the Mahabharata. The epic battles described in the Mahabharata is described to be fought in the present day Indian state of Haryana or in the Punjab region. Which surely makes the region as an integral part of Indian history and the idea of “India”. During the medieval time of Indian history Punjab has seen brutal attacks by invaders from Mongolia, Turkey, Afghanistan and the west. The Sikh Religion emerged with great spiritual ideas and also as the protective warrior community of the region. Later, during British Raj, it could be observed that the Sikh people joining the British Indian Army in large numbers and on the other hand, the region fighting against the British rule during the Indian Freedom Movement. The Amritsar Massacre killing hundreds of innocent people during the festival of Baisakhi by the British authorities has also remained an example of infamous brutalities in Punjab. Again, in independent India, the contributions of the Punjab region, its people has always been huge, be it in the army, art and culture, sports and in the field of agriculture. Importantly, the Indian state of Punjab has an elected state government of its own, like the other states in India and India also had Sikh President and Prime Minister from the state. One can find people from Punjab and the Sikh community in all the parts of India living with dignity and respect. The Sikh community (popularly known as Sardars) in general are very proud Indians and other Indian communities are also very proud of them, particularly for their bravery and sacrifices during the war times to protect the Indian borders and her sovereignty.
The Khlistani separatist movement aims at creating a separate nation for the Sikh community i.e by separating the Indian state of Punjab, Haryana and other nearby areas from India. The movement got support from the Sikh community people living in Canada, U.S and in U.K. However, it must be mentioned that this is only a small section of the community living in these countries supporting the anti-India movement and they are using it as a propaganda tool against the largest democratic country of the world, India. During the eighties Punjab has seen the rise of Bhindranwale, a so-called Sikh leader and the experts opined that the political leaders in India nourished him to score political gains or to win elections. However, this was out of anybody’s imagination that there would be a dramatic rise in militant activities in Punjab and Bhindranwale would lead this as an anti-India tool. As per the political experts, there were direct foreign hands in instigating the situation.
Now, in present day Punjab, Amritpal Singh as self-styled Sikh preacher, who left Dubai after leaving a decade and came back to Punjab, India in 2022. He started openly advocating for a sovereign Sikh state and begun encouraging the Sikh youth in Punjab for his mission. As per the news reports, the Indian intelligence agencies claim that there is direct or indirect help from Pakistan like in the past to cause trouble in the bordering state of Punjab. Now, the Punjab police and the Indian authorities have launched a crackdown against Amritpal and his followers to arrest him in March 2023 and Amritpal has escaped. This action was taken to prevent another 80’s like situation in Punjab.
Boddhisatya Tarafdar: Editor, India Bahumatrik.com