Monday June 17, 2024

India worries about Sikhs

By Abdul Zahoor Khan Marwat
December 21, 2018

The Indian Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, believes and also says so that attempts are being made through “external linkages and external abetment to revive insurgency in Assam and Punjab”. He referred to a pro-Khalistan rally organized in the UK by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), an international advocacy group involved in the Indian Punjab Independence Referendum 2020 for Sikh right to self-determination. Hundreds of Sikhs had turned out at the Trafalgar Square in London on August 12 in support of a pro-Khalistan rally. Sikhs for Justice had said its rally was intended to raise awareness for a non-binding referendum in 2020, calling for Punjab to be granted independence.

Addressing a gathering of senior army officers and defence experts at a seminar on ‘Changing Contours of Internal Security in India: Trends and Responses’, General Rawat said: “Punjab has been peaceful but because of these external linkages, attempts again are being made to revive insurgency in the state. We have to be very careful. Let us not think that Punjab (situation) is over. We cannot close our eyes to what is happening in Punjab. And, if we do not take early action now, it will be too late.” The Indian Punjab saw one of the worst phases of insurgencies in the 1980s during the pro-Khalistan movement, which was eventually quelled by the Indian government.

Admitting that insurgency cannot be dealt with military force, General Rawat chief pitched for adopting an approach in which all agencies, the government, civil administration, military and police work in an integrated manner. “The resolution of Naga insurgency can be forerunner to the Manipur insurgency situation. There are some linkages between the two. But, if that resolution does not satisfy Manipuris then the insurgency in that state will take a different turn,” Rawat warned.

There is a wave of radicalization among the young Sikhs, who are moving towards another independence movement since 1984 and the Khalistan idea is generating deep interest in East Punjab. The reasons why Sikhs are deeply upset is that more than 150 incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib have occurred in the East Punjab, deeply upsetting the population. The consequent protests and demonstrations have been badly tackled by the Indian police and agencies, increasing the chasm between the Sikhs and Indian state. Meanwhile, Hindu right wing across the country is also stoking Sikh radicalism as saffron outfits, including the RSS and Shiv Sena, have landed in Punjab in large numbers.

But the Indian general does not admit to the above issues but claims that Pakistan and its intelligence agencies are supporting Sikhs covertly, stating that internal security is one of the biggest problems in the country but “we have not been able to find a solution because it has external linkages.”

This is absolutely not true. Pakistan or her intelligence agencies are not fomenting trouble in any Indian state in any manner. If Sikhs support Khalistan because of the Anand marriage act that is still not applied on them and they are still forced to marry under the Hindu marriage act, the Indian police killing hundreds of innocent Sikhs extra judicially whose mass graves were also found, the Sikh Diaspora in Western countries and Sikh population in East Punjab not forgetting the atrocities of Indian Army at Akali Takht in Amritsar in 1984 and the massacre of Sikhs in New Delhi following the killing of Indira Gandhi, Pakistan has nothing to do with it.

Recently, Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Ajay Bisaria was confronted by Sikh activists at Punja Sahib Hasan Abdal who feel that the Indian government and her agencies were involved in production of a controversial film, which amounted to desecration of Sikh culture and religion as Hindutva mindset wants to put down the Sikh identity.

As it is, the Indian establishment is deeply worried because the Sikh Community across the region is celebrating inauguration of work on the Kartarpur Corridor. In Indian Punjab, jubilant male and female Sikhs are dancing and distributing sweets. On November 28, 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan had laid the foundation stone of Kartarpura Corridor to facilitate the Sikh community through visa-free entry to Gurdawara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpura near border with India.

Meanwhile, Azad Jammu Kashmir government wants to open the religious sites for Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists following Pakistan government’s decision to open the Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh pilgrims. The AJK PM has forwarded a proposal to the government of Pakistan for approval. “We have more than 600 sites of Hindu, Sikh and Budh religions, including Sharda and Ali Baig in AJK,” the AJK premier said. “We are planning to renovate, recondition and open these places for followers from Indian-administered Kashmir.” The move will strengthen the confidence between the people, and governments of Pakistan and India to resolve conflicts peacefully in the region, he added, asking the Government of Pakistan to open all the traditional routes between Azad Kashmir and Indian-administered Kashmir for religious visitors.

The positive gestures from Pakistan have nothing to do with efforts of the Sikh community in India and its Diaspora across the globe to resist Hindutva and resurrect the Sikh culture in its traditional glory and spirit.