Khalistan Movement & Sikhs in India


Reema Shaukat

PARTITION of subcontinent after many years stands valid with the fact that Hindu extremism forced Muslims to fight for their rights and demand for a separate homeland to practice their ideology with complete freedom. Luckily Muslims were able to have their separate homeland but other minorities in India kept on suffering and till date they are fighting for their rights. Muslims who chose to stay in India say that today’s secular India has definitely turned into an intolerant and stifling place where one cannot offer prayers or practice religious beliefs. Dilemma doesn’t remain towards one particular minority but to all. Apart from Muslims and Christians another minority which struggled most for their existence is Sikh community.
History suggests that before partition Sikh empire had their capital as Lahore which is part of today’s Pakistan. That state existed from 1709 to 1849. During partition Sikhs who weren’t as majority as Muslims were dispersed in many areas. Some migrated towards Pakistani area and others stayed back in India. While being negated from practicing their religious beliefs and finding themselves as side-lined by Hindu community in many walks of life, they decided to go for their separate homeland and gave that movement for freedom a name of Khalistan movement. The Khalistan movement is a Sikh nationalist movement that wants to create an independent state for Sikh people, inside the current North-Western part of India. Sikhism is the third largest religion in India and has existed for 548 years, beginning with the birth of its founder Guru Nanak. The Sikhs are predominantly located in Indian Punjab and some in many other parts of India. It is also the fifth largest religion in the world with 25 million followers in the world as of the year 2010. Sikhs are also part of Indian army apart from other government jobs but seeing the denial of rights and inequality, Sikhs in India now demand their separate homeland and time and again their struggle holds momentum.
It is true that India is a fail state where minorities are not safe and Sikhs who have joined Indian army say that it works on policies of Hindutva ideology and practicing according to their orders is not only against humanity but values of Sikhism. After crushing Sikhs in 1948 now government of India wants foreign governments to act to wipe out Khalistani leaders and crush this movement. Khalsa movement is waiting to get justice for decades and Sikh genocide will never be forgotten even after the creation of Khalistan. Sikh soldiers say that now instead of defending the Indian borders, Khalsas will guard the doors of Guru Granth sahib. Such demands clearly suggest how secular today’s India is. India calls itself a true symbol of secularism but nowhere in the world one can see how this secularism is grassed other than India. Theoretically, Indian Constitution protects the rights of minorities, but Hindu majority led by BJP has shown complete disrespect to it and commit brutalities against Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Dalits with liberty.
Sikh community is another target of extremism in India and particularly they are on hit list as Sikh ideology condemns the caste system and worshipping idols which is fundamental in Hinduism. Sikhism was downgraded to status of sub sect of Hinduism and Sikhs are since then demoralized and subjugated by Hindus. Despite decades of continuous complaints and protests, Sikhs are still labelled Hindus in the Indian constitution and to further demoralize them, Sikhs in the Indian state are forced to get married under the Hindu marriage act. In 1984 their holiest shrine “Golden Temple” was attacked by Indian Army through infamous “operation Blue Star” in which anti Sikh riots took place and thousands of Sikhs were massacred.
The plight of Sikhs in India is often highlighted as they are treated as low grade citizens and basic necessities of life are often squeezed on them in India. Obviously the demand of separate state for Sikhs in India or Khalistan issue is tried to be constrained through many tactics as depriving them from their religious acts. Not only Muslims, Sikhs but Indian Dalits face trauma and have to pay a price for being living in India. India knows that minorities living in Pakistan have complete religious freedom and they are facilitated whenever there is any procession or sacred festival. India which comprises of different minorities’ including Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains entitles itself as human rights defender but unfortunately ground realities are quite different and alarming. Definitely one can say that government in reign has given free hand to policy makers and followers who are least concerned about human values and ethics. Hindu fundamentalism is increasingly broadening its influence everywhere and has already established a firm base of radicalism in educational sector, bureaucracy and media. The hate campaign unchecked by the extremist forces is keeping the Indian minority anxious in defending their basic human rights and cultural identity.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.