While a demand for ‘Khalistan’ (or pure state) has disappeared from the mainstream politics in Punjab, it refuses to die, and, raises its ugly head every now and then. There are 2 specific causes for that, one, some of our opportunist politicians raise this issue, whenever elections in Punjab are near, two, foreign intelligence organizations such as ISI have their covert operations alive & kicking by funding “apolitical” fronts such as SFJ (Sikhs for Justice), which is in cahoots with IAMC (Indian-American Muslim Council) etc. to demand “justice” for minorities (specifically, for events that transpired in 1984). I won’t go into the local politics because people of Punjab largely see through it these days, however, point#2 requires a bit more elucidation. Now, any rational person would not be averse to this since it’s for a just cause, however, the manner of their operation is of concern, both to the Indian government, and, the security agencies. Such organizations, propelled by their handlers (such as ISI, and others too), not only, often generate exaggerated, or, at times, fake atrocity literature to corner the government diplomatically, but also indulge in anti-national activities by fueling separatism. The downside of this being, Indian establishment can not present a coherent case to the International community, highlighting the role of ISI, because it is conveniently termed as a ‘homegrown insurgency’ due to human rights violations. This is exactly what has been happening in Kashmir for the last 2 and a half decades.
Although there are wider implications, I’d like to restrict the discussion to the role of SFJ, and, their much celebrated “Sikh Referendum 2020”. There are a few pointed questions that would expose the hypocrisy of organizations of this nature that play with the emotional sensibilities of people, by keeping their wounds alive and making promises which are dead on arrival. Specifically, SFJ is instigating the Sikh community living abroad for a referendum to demand a separate Sikh nation, aka, Khalistan. Hypocrisy of this move is highlighted by following points:
1. Birthplace of Sikhism is Nankana Sahib (West Punjab in Pakistan), however, I don’t see that being a part of talks during Khalistan. Why only East Punjab citing Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar as the spiritual seat of Sikhism?
2. What legal ground does SFJ have, to hold a referendum? A referendum is possible for a group of people who actually own some land. However, since SFJ (and other organizations) don’t own any land, this demand is a mere eyewash. Moreover, the provision to hold a referendum should be available in the host country’s constitution, but, no such clause exists in the Indian Constitution. No matter how much they cry hoarse at the UN, this is legally not permissible.
3. My understanding is that Khalistan is a ‘pure state’ where Guru’s 5Ks (articles of faith: Kesh, Kangha, Kara, Kachera, Kripan) need to be adhered to. However, there are quite a few Sikhs supporting Khalistan out there who don’t adhere to these tenets, especially in the west. Do these organizations imply that such Sikhs would become more pious once Khalistan is formed, and that they are not pious enough yet? Most of these young people were born in late 80s, early 90s, who have assimilated with the western societies. Is it realistic to expect that they would suddenly adopt these articles of faith and move to Khalistan?
4. As per an Indian Khalistani crusader Simranjit Singh Mann, ‘Sikh Nation’ is to be comprised of East Punjab, West Punjab, Sindh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan (not sure why this is included). This region would act as buffer state between 3 nation-states of India, Pakistan (whatever is left of it) & China. Let’s for an instance consider that they are able to create a Khalistan via referendum from the Indian Part. How do they plan to take hold of West Punjab & Sindh? Considering that Pakistan is developing tactical nukes and won’t be shy to use them, if push comes to shove. Moreover, given that Sikhs & Muslims have been at odds politically, can they really expect the Punjabi Sunnis to be mute spectators, who, for the record, did not even tolerate Bangladeshi co-religionists.
5. A follow-up question with the previous premise. How do they plan to sustain Khalistan economically? Foreign remittances only? Khalistan (considering only East Punjab) would essentially be a landlocked “country”, with 3 bigger countries surrounding it (India, Pakistan, China). How do they plan to maintain the sovereignty of this fabled ‘Sikh nation’, despite 3 nuclear states around it? If the modern day history of nation-states teaches us anything, it is that all smaller countries around a bigger one live in its shadow.
6. Considering the rise of Islamic terrorism, and, more often than not, Sikhs being targeted in the west because of them resembling Muslims with beards (which is only going to increase in future because of ISIS). Do they really believe that they would be able to sustain their campaign, given that the West is dealing with problems in its own societies.
It all sounds good from a distance, and, a notion of land based on religious tenets that are pure is an idea worth romanticizing about. And, one would not even fathom that it would be an oppressive state like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia considering that Sikhism is a dharmic faith, hence, has some plurality built into it. However, given the geopolitics in this region, it’s just an idea that might sound utopian on paper, but, is impossible to achieve and sustain. In addition to this, India could not be balkanized back in 60s-80s when it was at its weakest, I don’t see such a possibility arising in current times when we have grown economically, and, attained an equilibrium to sustain a middle class comprising of all communities.