CHANDIGARH: The embers of Khalistani movement may have diminished in India, but a separate State of Khalistan still remains a big idea among a large section of the Sikh diaspora, especially in North America and the UK. And the aggressive Hindutva politics back home appears to have given a new lease of life to the pro-Khalistan elements — especially in the US, the UK and Canada — in the past few years.
The recent attempt by Khalistan supporters to disrupt an event of Congress president Rahul Gandhi in London and the attack on Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee chief Manjit Singh GK in the US is a testimony to the rekindling of the Khalistan movement abroad.
“We support the attack on Manjit Singh GK as our coordination committee has decided that he should not be allowed to speak in any of the gurdwaras in the US. We have already banned Indian diplomats and politicians visiting the country from speaking in gurdwaras; they can just pay their obeisance, eat langar (community food) and go,” Himmat Singh, coordinator of the Sikh Coordination Committee (East) Coast, USA, tells The Sunday Standard.
The Sikhs living in Western countries are deeply attached to their religious identity and feel more strongly about what’s been happening in the country. The sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and the subsequent incidents in Punjab have riled the Sikh diaspora which feels the Congress and the Akali Dal are playing a friendly match on the issue.
Political observers feel the hardline Hindutva politics and incidents like lynchings have given the radical Sikh groups abroad a fertile ground to re-emerge. “With Hindutva coming to centrestage, the contradictions between Sikhs and Hindu radicals have sharpened this extenuation,” says political analyst Prof Kuldeep Singh.
Then, there is the 1984 anti-Sikh riot, which is still fresh in the memory of Sikh diaspora. “For the Sikhs abroad, this has been an emotive issue and the basis of the Khalistan demand… as they have not seen the downside of it as the Sikhs back in India have witnessed. The appeal of this issue has always more pronounced among NRI Sikhs as compared to Sikhs living in India,” Prof Singh says.
Himmat Singh tells The Sunday Standard: “Everyone knows Congress’s hand in the 1984 genocide, but Rahul Gandhi says the party had no hand in it and Amarinder supports him. Why is he lying?”
Singh also support ‘Referendum 2020’ to press for a separate Sikh state. US-based advocacy group Sikhs for Justice (SJF) had organised a rally at Trafalgar Square under ‘London Declaration on Referendum 2020’, seeking the creation of Khalistan. Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal adviser of SFJ, says “The response to the rally was very encouraging and we will continue to engage foreign governments on the issue of Sikhs’ right of self-determination and the demand to hold a referendum in Punjab on this issue.”
The over eight-million-strong Sikh diaspora has a significant influence over the community’s politics back home. So, it’s no surprise that the referendum demand is finding traction among certain sections in Punjab. Kanwar Pal Singh of radical group Dal Khalsa says, “We will launch a new phase of consistent democratic engagement with the central government and the United Nations, urging them to set up a mechanism to allow the people of Punjab to exercise the right to self-determination.”
On the re-assertion by Sikh hardliners abroad, he says, “Majority fundamentalism breeds minority fundamentalism. To counter the Hindutva agenda of transforming India into a Hindu state, Sikhs have got pro-active with their Khalistan agenda.”
Indian politicians targeted in US, UK
Three Khalistan supporters tried to distrupt a public event of Rahul Gandhi in London on August 25, a day after the Congress leader denied his party’s role in the 1984 Sikh riots. The same day, DSGMC member and Akali Dal leader Manjeet Singh GS was thrashed outside a gurudwara in California, US.