The second night of 2016 witnessed a strange sequence of events around Pathankot in Indian Punjab. Reportedly an official SUV belonging to the SP of Pathankot was hijacked by terrorists, who managed to throw out the SP and head towards the airforce base of Pathankot, one of the most strongly guarded airbases in India.
The hijackers easily penetrated the heavily guarded airbase. Incidentally the entrance barriers of the airbase were removed exclusively for the vehicle to enter. The attackers then went on a terrorising spree for almost a full day, right under media glare.
Early morning the Indian media had already traced the origin of these gunmen to Bahawalpur (Pakistan). There was also talk of telephone calls between the gunmen and their so-called Pakistani handlers.
Was this a repeat of the Dinanagar False Flag operation to hit Pakistan in a classic three-in-one strategy? Or is this part of a larger game by Indian intelligence to pre-empt the Khalistan 2020 referendum being built up by the Sikh diaspora at the international level. In my opinion, the attack was aimed at four major objectives. One, show the world that, despite Modi’s Lahore yatra, Pakistan has continued to support terror in India. Two, create a wedge between Pakistani political and military leadership. Three, put terrorism (read: Pakistan sponsored) as the main agenda for any negotiations between India and Pakistan; and four, convince the Sikhs supporting the Khalistan cause of Khalistan at home and abroad that Pakistan was destabilizing the peaceful environment in Indian Punjab.
Khalistan 2020 is becoming a major movement in Canada, US, Europe, South East Asia and Australia. The Sikh Federation UK has already presented their manifesto. The three major objectives include:
• Independent public inquiry into the actions of the UK government in the lead up to and after the June and November 1984 Sikh genocide, including restrictions imposed on British Sikhs following pressure by India.
• Call for the UK government to recognise the events of June and November 1984 as a Sikh genocide, and backing for a UN-led inquiry into the atrocities committed by the Indian authorities.
• Call for the UK government to recognise and support the application for self-determination to the Sikhs for an Independent Khalistan.
Similarly, a major US-based Sikh organisation, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), has been lobbying for an independent Khalistan, and for the RSS to be declared a terrorist organisation. Last year, Modi was confronted by mostly Sikh protesters calling on Modi to answer for his human rights record. As reported by NBC News on September 27 last year, local activists led by the Sikh community, protested outside San Jose’s SAP Center during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Silicon Valley tour to draw attention to Modi’s record on India’s religious minorities. Almost 3,000 people gathered outside San Jose’s SAP Center ahead of Modi’s speech, accusing him of implementing “regressive” policies in India that hamper the freedoms and human rights of Indian communities.
In Canada Sikhs, under the leadership of the legal adviser of SFJ, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, intend to submit the ‘Punjab Referendum Petition’ to the prime minister of Canada, this is widely supported by management committees of Gurudawaras across Canada.
Dr Amarjit Singh of SuchOSuch programme of TV 84 is a Sikh TV personality based in the US. In his programme on July 27, 2015, Dr Amarjit Singh spoke about ‘who masterminded the Dinanagar terrorist attack’. Dr Amarjit was very critical of Indian intelligence and of state-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir and Indian Punjab. He quoted Sikh sources within Indian Punjab that there was unanimity of the view that Dinanagar was conducted by Indian intelligence agencies to drive a wedge between the Kashmiri and Sikh communities.
Apparently the Indian security establishment, led by Doval, is finding it increasingly difficult to stem the tide of Khalistan 2020. An international referendum by the Sikh diaspora could trigger a wave of independence movements across India and jolt the very foundation of the Indian Union. It could also scuttle India’s strategic manoeuvres to get a permanent foothold in the UN Security Council and tarnish India’s secular image, which it has painstakingly built over the last six decades.
Indian Punjab is India’s jugular vein; it not only connects it geographically with Indian Occupied Kashmir but also forms a pillar of secular India. An independent Khalistan is a death warrant for the Indian Union, so the stakes are too high for all the heads residing in South Block and North Block. The resurrection of the spirit of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindarnwale and his larger message in the shape of Khalistan is the last thing India would want to see; but it is happening.
Sikhs have also been demanding repeal of an ambiguous clause in the Indian constitution of 1949 – Article 25(2)(b) which states that ‘reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.’ This clause, according to the Sikh community, has denied them their identity as a separate religious community.
Unfortunately, the Indian response to legitimate aspirations of minority communities like Sikhs and Muslims has been coercive and deceitful; Indian Punjab is likely to become the new battleground between the Sikh community and the Hindutvadi Nazis. Pakistan, as the favourite whipping boy of the Indian security establishment, will have to remain in the eye of the storm blowing across the River Ravi and should expect more false flag operations like Dinanagar and Pathankot.
Unfortunately, there is little debate in Pakistani think tanks and media on issues related to India’s internal politics, especially the conflicts within the Indian Union. Immersed in Shining India and the cultural onslaught of Bollywood, Pakistanis keep flocking to the cinemas for the next box office hit. We hardly find any India chairs in our academia where a serious debate on Indian polity and internal dynamics could take place.
There is a need for a serious debate on thwarting the Indian media blitz, which is borne out of a frustrated policy of coercion. We need to develop a comprehensive national response via a Pakistani narrative with clearly defined red lines against Indian media.
The writer is a Lahore-based defence analyst.
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