Home Latest News Thirty Years Later, ‘Khalistan’ Support Dries Up

Thirty Years Later, ‘Khalistan’ Support Dries Up

by AFP
The Golden Temple in Amritsar. Narinder Nanu—AFP

The Golden Temple in Amritsar. Narinder Nanu—AFP

Sikhs in India say the current generation is more worried about employment than an independent homeland.

As retailer Sukhdeep Singh visits the Golden Temple in northern India, Sikhism’s holiest shrine, he laments the bloodbath 30 years ago that catapulted his religion into controversy.

The Indian military’s 1984 assault on the Golden Temple in Amritsar—called Operation Blue Star—was aimed at flushing out militants holed up inside demanding an independent Sikh homeland. Thirty years later, support for such a homeland is all but dead, with Sikhs, particularly younger ones, more interested in jobs than a separate nation, according to experts.

“I regret the events of 1984,” said Singh, ahead of the June 6 anniversary of the assault that killed at least 400 people. “People don’t want any more violence and bloodshed,” the 31-year-old, who is based in Melbourne and was visiting his family in Amritsar in Punjab state, said. “I think we are better off remaining with India,” he added as he toured the temple and its museum, which attract scores of visitors every year.

Sikh hardliners’ struggle for “Khalistan,” or the land of the pure, peaked during the 1970s with demands for its creation in Punjab, between India and Pakistan. The struggle culminated in the deadly storming of the temple, ordered by the government, which also substantially damaged the building.

The Sikh community was enraged by what it felt was desecration of the revered shrine, and later that year India’s then-prime minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her own Sikh bodyguards. The assassination triggered anti-Sikh riots in which some 3,000 people were killed, many of them on the streets of New Delhi.

By the mid-1990s, demands for “Khalistan” were fading away, although the anniversary of the raid is still observed every year with protests, especially in Punjab. “People in Punjab have moved on from 1984,” said Sukhdev Sandhu, a prominent Sikh in Punjab opposed to “Khalistan.”

“The movement flourished in the past because of the support from the youth but now the younger generation has different priorities,” he said. “They want employment not guns.”

Support, however, for the independence movement still exists among the Sikh diaspora in Britain, Canada and the United States. The overseas population of Sikhs, estimated to number between 18 to 30 million, has maintained strong connections with Punjab ever since migrants first left the subcontinent in the 19th century. The diaspora still tries to mobilize support for “Khalistan,” and even provides funds to keep the separatist idea alive, said Kanwar Pal Singh, spokesman of Dal Khalsa group, which is still pushing for the homeland.

Still-simmering anger over the temple raid was evident when Kuldip Singh Brar, commander of Operation Blue Star, was attacked on a London street in 2012. A Sikh gang was found guilty of the revenge knife attack, which the commander survived. “The aspirations of the diaspora for a Sikh country are very strong,” said Singh, whose outfit publishes literature to promote the idea of “Khalistan” and organizes June 6 protests. “They feel history has been unkind to Sikhs. While Hindus got India, Muslims got Pakistan, but Sikhs missed the bus.”

Singh was speaking at the Amritsar office of the outfit, adorned with posters of prominent Sikh figures, including rebel icon Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale holding a machine gun.

Bhindranwale, a dominant leader who almost ran a parallel state from within the temple complex at the height of Sikh militancy, was gunned down by Indian troops during the 1984 raid. He tapped into widespread anger among Sikhs over their perceived discrimination by the government, which he said had refused to recognize the linguistic, cultural and religious rights of their community. To avenge Bhindranwale’s killing, Sikh nationalists based in Canada blew up an Air India flight a year later, killing 329 people.

Analysts say Punjab’s geopolitical significance—the landlocked region shares borders with Pakistan and Kashmir—means sovereignty is almost impossible. “Also, the Sikhs have integrated nicely with the Hindus and there is no longer any discrimination against the community,” said Beer Good Gill, professor of history at Amritsar’s Guru Nanak Dev University. “We have had a Sikh as our prime minister for 10 years,” she said referring to Manmohan Singh, who retired at the just-concluded election. “[Besides] We have already lost hundreds of our people in mindless killings, we can’t afford to lose another generation.”

Gill says in her interactions with students in the last 20 years, “not even one of them had raised the bogey of Khalistan.”

Sandhu said public opinion in Punjab, where the movement was strongest, turned over the years against the militants who became embroiled in deadly crime. “They [the public] started informing police of their presence when they saw they were killing their own neighbors,” said Sandhu. “It was the beginning of the end of Khalistan. Today it’s been reduced to mere tokenism. It only exists in pamphlets and slogans raised each year when the Blue Star anniversary is observed,” he said.

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Kanwar Partap Singh Gill June 3, 2014 - 4:43 am

In my opinion, events of 1984 (Sikh slaughter in June and
November 1984) is a repetition of History on Hindushaitani sub- continent.
While the first was propelled by the contemporary Shankercharya in 304–232 BC
(Reign of “King Asoka”) and was reasoned around the danger of Buddhism (and its
threat to) the Sanaatan Pedigree. It resulted in extinction of Buddhism from it
birthplace. In the later episode of 1984, it was the King equivalent (by an
un-ethical corollary), the Head of State of the time, Mrs. Indira Gandhi (?
Khan), forced by the Shankercharians – Arun Singh, Rajiv and Arun Nehru – for
their own political gains. King Asoka killed millions of Buddhists, their Monks and chased the leftover of their pedigree beyond Sanatani Borders, and that is probably why , there are no Buddhists seen around the Birth Place of Buddha. The memorial, for commemoration of that annihilation, like the past of the Sanatana Dharma, vested into Rama Ravan, Pandus ,Kourav etc are hidden-the most monstrous and Barbaric are usually glorified and shall be kept enliven in memories.

King Asoka Emblem is in present India’s Official Seal. Imagine the hype of Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-Violence under the present Official Seal of Asoka -The murderer.

In the later Episode of 1984, Sikhs were not Buddhists, my explanation should hold them well entrenched where they belonged (the place where only the Brave Hearts could candidly confirm that there is – not to say why; there is -not to question how; there is but to do and die). That is why the Sikhs are not chased out but the Sikhs chase them out, some even from the corridor of their lives and their number, unlike Buddhists, grew many fold not only around their Guru ‘s place but also worldwide.

I believe Shaitaans have also noticed this trend and abandoned any more plans
to start a war with Pakistaan on other side of the border and butcher Sikhs on
their own side (They probably already know they have to hold line at Ambala,
Beas or perhaps even Sultaanwind ! ). So they started killing them by proxy now
– freely feeding them drugs. Scary, but true. I believe that was one strong reason for the revolutionary success of Aam Admi Party in Punjab – A Punjab that now clearly
proved to be evolving beyond its religion and caste barriers.

For those who ask – Can 1984 can happen again? The short answer is NO, 1984 will not happen ever again because Sikhs will continue to glorify and eulogize its “martyrs” (like Ex-Army urban warfare master tactician Maj Gen Shabeg Singh) so that some of the biggest names in the Republic of India, in the field of “national” politics stay afraid of existence of a power so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they better not speak above their
breath when they speak in condemnation of it.

Jaggy June 3, 2014 - 1:17 pm

I am a hindu, was living and travelling all around Punjab, during the 1980’s. it was a very sad period. i lived it, experienced it, feared it. Hated it.
Yet, The killings of Sikhs in Delhi was the most shameful period in my life. I still am utterly ashamed that “congress” goons murdered so many innocent sikhs.

kapildevaggarwal June 5, 2014 - 6:46 am

issue is whether operation bluestar was attack on Golden Temple or for freedom of Golden Temple. Issue is; was it protection or invasion. Bhindranwale was stooge of Zail Singh. who was then Home minister of India under Indira gandhi. Bhindranwale rose under protection of Zail Singh who did not allow Darbara Singh to take any action against Bhindranwale. Akalis at that time had their own axe to grind as inspite of having Punjabi Suba and division of Punjab to get punjabi suba they lost elections to Congress. SGPC was formed after grandfather of Simranjit Singh Mann honored General O’dyer in Golden temple after O’dyer massacred hundreds of unarmed innocent panjabis in Jallianwala Bagh in April 1919 as true khalsa and made him honorary Sikh for killings committed in jallain wala bagh. There is still a miniscule minority of Sikhs who believe that true Khalsa or a True Sikh is a person who commits mass murder of unarmed innocents and hence they went about committing mass murders in (buses, parks, trains, markets), torture, rape, extortion while operating from within Golden temple just like they did in April 1919 and called themselves Khalsa. By May 1984, Golden ‘temple’ was a fortified military building with holes in every walls for machine guns, RPGs and Rocket launchers and armed men roaming about in ‘parikarma’ with hot weapons and dead bodies of young sikhs found in golden ‘temple’ severs on daily basis. law just went in with bigger weapons after they refused to come out on their own and freed Golden temple for peaceful possession of SGPC. Correspondence of SGPC and Akali dal seeking freedom of Golden temple from anti social and anti human elements is classified. source; “Lies your teacher taught you – Truth of operation bluestar”


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