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Map of Khĝlistĝn
Flag of Khalistan
Currency of Khalistan

Khālistān (Punjabi: ਖਾਲਿਸਤਾਨ) (lit. "pure-land") is the name given to the proposed nation-state encompassing the present Indian state of Punjab and all Punjabi-speaking areas around its borders. A movement for Khalistan was precipitated when the Indian Army attacked the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) in June 1984. The attack, which had been planned several months beforehand was carried out during one of the most important anniversaries in the Sikh calendar. The army's refusal to allow the many Sikhs who had gathered at the Harmandir Sahib, in the days shortly before the anniversary on the 16 of June (when Sikhs commemorate the martyrdom of their first martyr, the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Devs) resulted in an extremely high number of Sikh casualties.<ref>Joyce Pettigrew, "Parents and Their Children in Situation of Terror: Disappearances and Special Police Activity in Punjab," Death Squad: The Anthropology of State Terror (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), p. 204. </ref> The army operation was followed by wholesale killings of Sikh males between the ages of 15 and 35 in Punjab’s villages.<ref>Mary Anne Weaver, The Christian Science Monitor, October 15, 1984. Also see ibid.</ref> These events, together with organized massacre of Sikhs in India’s major cities in November 1984, and daily terror families subsequently experienced in Punjab’s villages gave rise to resistance.<ref> Joyce Pettigrew, "Parents and Their Children in Situation of Terror: Disappearances and Special Police Activity in Punjab," Death Squad: The Anthropology of State Terror (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), p. 204. </ref> A Sarbat Khalsa (general congregation of the Sikh people) was convened at the Akal Takht, the Sikh seat of temporal authority in Amritsar, on January 26, 1986. The gathering passed a resolution (gurmattĝ) favoring the independence of Punjab (Khalistan).<ref> Joyce Pettigrew, "Parents and Their Children in Situation of Terror: Disappearances and Special Police Activity in Punjab," Death Squad: The Anthropology of State Terror (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), p. 205.</ref> Khalistan is envisaged as a secular state, rejecting theocracy and espousing a liberal form of nationalism in which all communities may live as equals.<ref> Singh, Kapur, “Golden Temple and Its Theo-political Status,” [1] (last accessed May 20, 2004). Historically, all Sikh states have been based on secular, non-theocratic laws because the Sikhs neither have a priestly class, which may rule in the name of an invisible God, nor do they have a corpus of civil law of divine origin and sanction.</ref>

Khalistan - If Before Partition


Sikh Role Against British Colonialism in South Asia (1912-1947)

The status of the Sikhs as a legitimate third-party to the sovereignty of British India, along with Hindus and Muslims, and the role played by the Sikhs to end British colonialism are important factors that have contributed to the discourse on Khalistan. As erstwhile sovereigns of Punjab, the Sikhs—who constituted about 1.1 percent of the population of British-India<ref>Singh, Iqbal, Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis, New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986, p. 33</ref>—played a disproportionate role in the struggle to free the subcontinent of British colonialism. The table below summarizes the Sikh contribution in the freedom movement. The data reflects Sikhs serving prison sentences, being deported to nearby islands in exile, facing capital punishment and enlisting themselves in the Indian National Army that was organized to oppose the British.

Table 1: Sikh mobilization for India’s freedom struggle <ref>Singh, Iqbal, Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis, New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986, p. 33</ref>

Type All Communities Sikhs Percentage
Prison term over 1-year 2,125 1,550 75%
Deported 2,646 2,147 80%
Indian National Army 20,000 12,000 60%

Sikhs Accepted as a Legitimate Third Party to India's Sovereignty, Along With Hindus and Muslims

With the possibility of an end to British colonialism in sight, the Sikh leadership became concerned about the future of the Sikhs. The Sikhs and the Muslims had unsuccessfully claimed separate representation for their communities in the Minto-Morley Scheme of 1909.<ref>Singh, Iqbal, Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis, New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986, p. 35</ref> The Congress, led by predominantly a Hindu majority, denied Sikhs their separate identity and labeled them as a sect of Hinduism. Even though the Sikhs occupied 19.1 percent of the seats in the Punjab Legislature, in a document on the future of British-India in response to the Simon Commission in 1927, the Congress leader Motilal Nehru defined the future of the subcontinent in Hindu and Muslim terms.<ref>Singh, Iqbal, Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis, New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986, p. 36</ref> Nehru’s report evoked strong condemnation from Sikh leaders.

Diarchy was introduced in 1935, guaranteeing a majority for Muslims in Punjab, which changed Hindu attitudes towards the Sikh demand for reasons of political expediency. The Hindus aimed to reduce the Muslim majority in the Punjab Legislative Council.<ref>Singh, Iqbal, Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis, New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986, p. 36</ref> At this time, the Hindus not only accepted Sikhs as a distinct community, but also supported the Sikh demand for adequate political representation. In December 1929, Sikh leaders were also assured by Motilal Nehru and Mohandas Gandhi that Congress would accept no political situation for the future of British India unless it satisfied the Sikhs.<ref>Singh, Iqbal, Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis, New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986, 1999, p. 36.</ref> Accordingly, the Congress passed a resolution during its Lahore session:

" the Sikhs in particular, and Muslims and other minorities in general have expressed dissatisfaction over the solution of communal questions proposed in the Nehru Report, this Congress assures the Sikhs, the Muslims and other minorities that no solution thereof in any future constitution will be acceptable to the Congress that does not give full satisfaction to the parties concerned.<ref>Quoted in Singh, Iqbal, Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis, New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986, 1999, p. 36.</ref>

M.K. Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Congress' Assurances to the Sikhs

A Quote from Gurbilas Patshahi 10 which is contaminated today

Gandhi stated that the resolution was adopted by the Congress to satisfy the Sikh community.<ref>Singh, Iqbal, Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis, New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986, 36.</ref> Addressing a meeting at Gurdwara Sis Ganj, Delhi, he said:

"I ask you to accept my word…and the resolution of the Congress that it will not betray a single individual, much less a community…our Sikh friends have no reason to fear that it would betray them. For, the moment it does so, the Congress would not only thereby seal its own doom but that of the country too. Moreover, Sikhs are a brave people. They know how to safeguard their rights by exercise of arms if it should ever come to that."<ref>Quoted in Singh, Iqbal, Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis, New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986, p. 37</ref>

Jawaharlal Nehru reiterated Gandhi’s assurance to the Sikhs at the All India Congress Committee meeting in Calcuatta in 1946. He declared:

The brave Sikhs of Punjab are entitled to special consideration. I see nothing wrong in an area and a set-up in the North wherein the Sikhs can experience the glow of freedom.<ref>The Statesman, Calcutta, July 7, 1946 quoting Jawaharlal Nehru in Singh, Iqbal, Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis, New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986, p. 37.</ref>

With the Muslims proposing the creation of a Pakistan to safeguard their interests, some Sikhs put forth the idea of carving out a Sikh state of Khalistan.<ref>For instance, in 1940, Dr. Vir Singh Bhatti demanded the formulation of the Sikh state of Khalistan as a buffer state between Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India.</ref> During a prolonged negotiation process during the 1940s between the British and the three groups seeking political power—Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs—the Congress Party continually extended such promises to prevent Sikhs from allying with the Muslim League. To win Sikh support, Jawaharlal Nehru again declared:

Redistribution of provincial boundaries was essential and inevitable. I stand for semi-autonomous units…if the Sikhs desire to function as such a unit, I would like them to have a semi-autonomous unit within the province so that they may have a sense of freedom.”<ref>Congress Records, quoted in Singh, Iqbal, Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis, New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986, p. 38.</ref>

These pledges of by Nehru and Gandhi on behalf of the Indian Congress were formalized through a resolution in the Constituent Assembly on December 9, 1946:

Adequate safeguards would be provided for minorities in India…It was a declaration, pledge and an undertaking before the world, a contract with millions of Indians and, therefore, in the nature of an oath we must keep.<ref>Quoted in Singh, Iqbal, Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis, New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986, p. 38.</ref>

During a press conference on July 10, 1946 in Bombay, Nehru’s controversial statement that the Congress may “change or modify” the agreed upon agreement came “as a bombshell”.<ref>Singh, Iqbal, Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis, New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986, p. 38.</ref> As a consequence, Mohammad Ali Jinnah—the charismatic leader of the Muslim League—was forced to seek safeguards for his community through the creation of a separate Pakistan.

Repudiation of Promises by Indian National Congress

After the departure of the British, the Congress Party would repudiate all pledges and Constituent Assembly resolutions promulgated to safeguard Sikh interests.<ref>PSingh, Iqbal, Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis, New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986, p. 38-39.</ref> Many Sikhs felt that they had been tricked into joining the Indian union. On Nov. 21, 1949, upon the review of the draft of the Indian Constitution, Hukam Singh, the Sikh representative, declared to the Constituent Assembly:

Naturally, under these circumstances, as I have stated, the Sikhs feel utterly disappointed and frustrated. They feel that they have been discriminated against. Let it not be misunderstood that the Sikh community has agreed to this [Indian] Constitution. I wish to record an emphatic protest here. My community cannot subscribe its assent to this historic document.<ref>Singh, Gurmit, History of Sikh Struggles, New Delhi: South Asia Books, 1989, p. 110-111</ref>

Growth of Sikh National Consciousness (1947-1966)

The Sikhs, whose participation in India’s independence struggle was disproportionate to their small numbers (see Table 1), were labeled as a "criminal tribe" in postcolonial India. According to Kapur Singh, who was the Deputy Commissioner at Dalhousie and a member of the Indian Civil Service (ICS) at the time:

In 1947, the governor of Punjab, Mr. C.M. Trevedi, in deference to the wishes of the Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and Sardar Patel, the Deputy Prime Minister, issued certain instructions to all the Deputy Commissioners of Indian Punjab…These were to the effect that, without reference to the law of the land, the Sikhs in general and Sikh migrants in particular must be treated as a “criminal tribe”. Harsh treatment must be meted out to them…to the extent of shooting them dead so that they wake up to the political realities and recognize “who are the rulers and who the subjects.” <ref>Singh, Kapur, Sachi Sakhi, Amritsar: SGPC, 1993, p. 4-5. Kapur Singh was one of the officials who received a copy of the memorandum and speaks as an insider.</ref>

Master Tara Singh summed up Sikh sentiments in his Presidential Address to the All India Sikh Conference on March 28, 1953:

English-man has gone, but our [Sikh] liberty has not come. For us the so-called liberty is simply a change of masters, black for white. Under the garb of democracy and secularism, our Panth, our liberty and our religion are being crushed.<ref>Kapur, Anup Chand, The Punjab Crisis, New Delhi: S. Chand, 1985, p. 45.</ref>

Linguistic issues cause civil unrest in Punjab

In the 1950s and 1960s, linguistic issues in India caused civil disorder when the central government attempted to marginalize a select group of regional languages. Hindi was imposed as the national language on all Indians by the Hindu elite leading the Congress. “The nationwide movement of linguistic groups seeking statehood resulted in a massive reorganization of states according to linguistic boundaries in 1956. However, Punjabi, Sindhi and Urdu were the only three languages not considered for statehood.”<ref>Deol, Harnik, Religion and Nationalism in India: The Case of the Punjab, London: Routledge, 2000, p. 93.</ref> As a result, the Shiromani Akali Dal, the party representing the Sikhs in Punjab, initiated its first major movement in August 1950 that lasted two decades.<ref>Ibid, p. 93</ref> The Akali Dal sought to create a Punjabi suba, a Punjabi-speaking state. This case was presented to the Sates Reorganization Commission established in 1953. The Akali Dal’s manifesto declared:

The true test of democracy, in the opinion of the Shiromani Akali Dal, is that the minorities should feel that they are really free and equal partners in the destiny of their bring home a sense of freedom to the Sikhs, it is vital that there should be a Punjabi speaking language and culture. This will not only be in fulfillment of the pre-partition Congress program and pledges, but also in entire conformity with the universally recognized principles governing formation of provinces…The Shiromani Akali Dal has reason to believe that a Punjabi-speaking province may give the Sikhs the needful security. It believes in a Punjabi speaking province as a autonomous unit of India.”<ref>Quoted in ibid, p. 94.</ref>

Many Hindus of Punjab reject Punjabi as their Native Language

A communal response from the Hindus of Punjab further complicated the Sikh demand. There was a Hindu opposition to the adoption of Punjabi as an official language in the Punjabi-speaking areas. Accordingly, Punjabi-speaking Hindus declared Hindi as their mother tongue in the censuses of 1951 and 1961. Paul Brass notes, “There is a good reason to believe…that the 1961 census accurately reflects that language preference of the people of the Punjab, although certainly not the actual mother tongue spoken.”<ref>Quoted in ibid, p. 95.</ref> Why would Punjabi Hindus misrepresent and repudiate their linguistic heritage? According to Paul Brass, “The dominant Hindu majority, unable to assimilate the Sikhs, adopted the tactic of avoiding their language so that the Sikhs, a minority people by religion, might become a minority by language as well.”<ref>Quoted in ibid, p. 95.</ref>

The demand for adoption of Punjabi for Punjabi-speaking areas intensified the rift between Hindus and Sikhs of Punjab. As the Hindus raised the slogan of “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan” (lit. “the Hindi language, Hindu religion and Hindu India”), relations between the Akali Dal and the Congress government suffered as well.

The States Reorganization Commission, not recognizing Punjabi as a language that was distinct grammatically from Hindi, rejected the demand for a Punjabi suba or state. Another reason that the Commission gave in its report was that the movement lacked general support of the people inhabiting the region, a reference to the Punjabi Hindus who were opposed to the creation of a Punjabi-speaking state.<ref>Ibid, p. 95.</ref> The Sikhs felt discriminated against by the commission. Hukam Singh of the Akali Dal wrote, “While others got States for their languages, we lost even our language.”<ref>Quoted in ibid, p. 95.</ref> The Akali Dal saw the refusal of the Commission to concede to the Sikh demands as a sign of intolerance against a religious community that spoke a distinct language, which was both linguistically and lexically distinct from Hindi.<ref>Ibid, p. 95.</ref> Fateh Singh, a leading Sikh representative, further noted, “No status is given to the Punjabi language, because Sikhs speak it. If non-Sikhs had owned Punjabi as mother tongue then the rulers of India would have seen no objection in establishing a Punjabi State.”<ref>Quoted in ibid, p. 95-96.</ref>

The Akal Takht Launches a Movement for the Punjabi Suba

The Akal Takht played a vital role in organizing Sikhs to campaign for the Punjabi suba. During the course of the campaign, twelve thousand Sikhs were arrested for their peaceful demonstrations in 1955 and twenty-six thousand in 1960-61.<ref>Ibid, p. 96.</ref> Finally, in September 1966, the Punjabi suba demand was accepted by the central government and Punjab was trifurcated under the Punjab State Reorganization Bill. Areas in the south of Punjab that spoke a language that is a derivative of Braj formed a new state of Haryana and the Pahari- and Kangari-speaking districts north of Punjab were merged with Himachal Pradesh, while the remaining areas formed a new state of Punjab. As a result, the Sikhs became a majority in the newly created Punjabi suba.<ref>Ibid, p. 96. The current Sikh population in Punjab is a little over sixty percent.</ref> Harnik Deol observes overtones of religious nationalism in this movement:

The main driving force of the Punjabi suba movement was the Sikh leadership saw a separate political status for the Sikhs as being essential for preserving the Sikh identity. Thus, the Akali leader Master Tara Singh noted in 1945, “there is not the least doubt that the Sikh religion will live only as long as the panth exists as an organized entity.”…It was further argued that the panth was based on the common ideology of Sikh religion. A prominent Akali leader argued that the ideology of the panth binds its adherents together in “Kinship which transcends distance, territory, caste, social barriers and even race.” By this logic the panth was coeval with the Sikh nation.<ref>Ibid, p. 98.</ref>

The Current Conflict (1978-Present)

In 1978, thirteen Sikhs were killed by the Nirankari group in Amritsar. To provide relief to the assailants, the central government moved the case to courts in the neighboring Hindu-dominated state of Haryana, where they were acquitted, increasing the Sikh alienation from India.

River Waters Dispute with Non-riperian States

Before the creation of the Punjabi suba, Punjab was the master of its river waters. When the Punjabi suba was created, the central government—against the provisions of the Indian constitution—introduced sections 78 to 80 in the Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966, under which the central government “assumed the powers of control, maintenance, distribution and development of the waters and the hydel power of the Punjab rivers.”<ref>Singh, Gurdev, “Punjab River Waters”, Chandigarh: Institute of Sikh Studies, 2002. (last accessed, May 12, 2004).</ref> With seventy-five percent of Punjab’s river water being diverted to non-riparian, Hindu-dominated states of Haryana and Rajastan, the Sikhs have perceived the central government’s violation of the Indian constitution as a measure to break the Sikhs economically, since the vast majority of the people of Punjab are dependent on agriculture.<ref>States have full ownership and exclusive legislative and executive powers to their river waters under Articles 246(3) and 162 of the Indian Constitution.</ref> Similar river water disputes in other parts of the country have been resolved according to the Indian constitution, reinforcing the perception of the Sikhs that they are being targeted because of their religion.<ref>In a judicial decision concerning the question whether the Narmada river—which passes through the territory of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat states, but not through the Rajasthan state—could be shared by Rajasthan, it was ruled: “(i) Rajasthan being a non-riparian state in regard to Narmada, cannot apply to the Tribunal, because under the Act only a co-riparian state can do so; and (ii) the state of Rajasthan is not entitled to any portion of the waters of Narmada basin on the ground that the state of Rajasthan is not a co-riparian state, or that no portion of its territory is situated in the basin of River Narmada.” See Government of India, The Report of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal, vol. III, New Delhi, 1978, p. 30. </ref>

Helplessness of Judiciary in Water Disputes

The following anecdote describes the helplessness of the judiciary in India when it came to such disputes. According to the Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh:

"An organisation of farmers had filed a petition in the High Court, Punjab and Haryana, regarding the unconstitutionality of the drain of the waters of the Punjab to the non-riparian states under the Reorganisation Act. The issue being of fundamental constitutional importance, the Chief Justice, S.S. Sandhawalia admitted the long pending petition and announced the constitution of a Full Bench, with himself as Chairman, for the hearing of the case on the following Monday, the 25th November, 1983. In the intervening two days before the hearing of the case could start, and these two days were holidays, two things happened. First, before Monday, the Chief Justice of the High Court was transferred to the High Court of Patna. Hence neither the Bench could sit, nor could the hearing of the case start. Second an oral application was given by the Attorney General in the Supreme Court requesting for the transfer of the writ petition from the file of the High Court to that of the Supreme Court on the ground that the issue involved was of great public importance. The request was granted; the case was transferred. And there this case of great public importance rests unheard for the last nearly twenty years."<ref>Singh, Gurdev, “Punjab River Waters”, Chandigarh: Institute of Sikh Studies, 2002. (last accessed, May 12, 2004).</ref>

Punjab's Current Water Levels

According to the Earth Policy Institute, Punjab’s water table is falling by one meter per year, which could lead to disastrous consequences for the state and its farmers in the long-term.<ref> (last accessed, May 12, 2004).</ref> This example demonstrates that the Indian constitution is used differently when deciding Sikh-Hindu conflicts and Hindu-Hindu conflicts, which can be seen as a sign of illiberalism. India has a constitution but the government and the judiciary may not to adhere to it, as in this case, when such conformism goes against Hindu interests.

The Akali Dal's Response

The Akali Dal led a series of peaceful mass demonstrations to present its grievances to the central government. The demands of the Akali Dal were based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution [2], which was adopted by the party in October 1973 to raise specific political, economic and social issues. The major motivation behind the resolution was safeguarding of the Sikh identity in a state structure that was decentralized with non-interference from the central government. The Indian state and the Indian media misrepresented the Anandpur Sahib Resolution [3] as a secessionist document in an attempt to malign the Sikhs. The Resolution outlines seven objectives. <ref>Deol, Harnik, Religion and Nationalism in India: The Case of the Punjab, London: Routledge, 2000, p. 101-102.</ref>

1. The transfer of the federally administered city of Chandigarh to Punjab. 2. The transfer of Punjabi speaking and contiguous areas to Punjab. 3. Decentralization of states under the existing constitution, limiting the central government’s role. 4. The call for land reforms and industrialization of Punjab, along with safeguarding the rights of the weaker sections of the population. 5. The enactment of an all-India gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) act. 6. Protection for minorities residing outside Punjab, but within India. 7. Revision of government’s recruitment quota restricting the number of Sikhs in armed forces.

Along with these demands, the issue concerning the unconstitutional diversion of Punjab’s river waters to non-riparian states has been of fundamental importance. Writing about the nature of these demands, The Wall Street Journal noted:

"The Akali Dal is in the hands of moderate and sensible leadership...but giving anyone a fair share of power is unthinkable politics of Mrs. Gandhi [the then Prime Minister of India]...Many Hindus in Punjab privately concede that there isn't much wrong with these demands. But every time the ball goes to the Congress court, it is kicked out one way or another because Mrs. Gandhi considers it a good electoral calculation."<ref>The Wall Street Journal, September 26, 1983.</ref>

Peaceful Response During Early Stages of Conflict

The early stages of the Sikh agitation for equal rights were peaceful, leading one commentator to note:

"...over 100,000 [Sikh] volunteers have been arrested. This high number of arrests is undoubtedly, a national record and so has been the peaceful nature in which the Satyagrahas [protests] of this magnitude have been handled by the Sikhs, with extreme tolerance."<ref>Sathananthan, S.M. , Hindu-Sikh Conflict in Punjab: Cause and Cure, London: Transatlantic India Times, 1983, p. 15.</ref>

According to an editorial in The New York Times:

"There was a nonviolent Sikh protest movement, but it was eclipsed when the Prime Minister rebuffed its demands…Since Indian independence in 1947, Sikhs have pleaded for greater autonomy and for specific recognition of their religion in the Constitution."<ref>The New York Times, Editorial, June 8, 1984.</ref>

In a politically charged environment, Lala Jagat Narain, the owner of the Hind Samachar group of newspapers, was assassinated by Sikh militants in September 1981. He had been instrumental in persuading Punjabi Hindus to declare their mother tongue as Hindi. His editorials consistently attacked the Akali Dal’s leadership. His assassination led to mob violence by Hindus, who set Sikhs shops on fire and burnt the offices of the Akali Patrika, a Punjabi newspaper that represented Sikh interests. The government acted hastily by arraigning Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a charismatic Sikh preacher who had risen to popularity in Punjab for his harsh critique of the government.<ref>Deol, Harnik, Religion and Nationalism in India: The Case of the Punjab, London: Routledge, 2000, p. 104.</ref>

The vernacular press printed pamphlets and posters along with oral forms of communication, such as cassettes, enabled Bhindranwale to transmit his message to a wide range of Sikhs in Punjab and abroad. The political implications of such a movement were immense. It created solidarity and uniformity among practicing Sikhs and it influenced those Sikhs who were not interested in religion to become devout practitioners of faith. Bhindranwale’s emphasis on a distinct Sikh identity and his insistence on fighting for justice provided all the needed ingredients to strengthen the Sikh movement for greater autonomy.

Voluntary Arrest of Bhindrawale

On September 1981, Bhindranwale voluntarily offered his arrest in Amritsar, where he was detained and interrogated for twenty-five days, but was released because of lack of evidence. After his release, Bhindranwale relocated himself from his headquarters at Mehta Chowk to Guru Nanak Niwas within the Darbar Sahib precincts.<ref>Ibid, p. 105.</ref> Many Sikhs today criticize this move because they think that it gave the state an excuse to attack the Darbar Sahib, but this criticism is unwarranted. As we will see, the Indian army attacked not only this important shine, but dozens of additional shrines across Punjab where there were no Sikh nationalists or militants in residence. Bhindranwale’s presence at the shrine, therefore, was a minor factor, if a factor at all, in Indira Gandhi’s decision to attack the Darbar Sahib. In fact, “the then deputy commissioner of Amritsar, Gurdev Singh…said that he had categorically informed the highest officials of the Punjab government that if they wanted to arrest Bhindranwale, there would be no major difficulty in organizing it. The chief minister, the governor of Punjab and other senior officials told him that the directive to take action against Bhindranwale had to come from Delhi.”<ref>Kumar, Ram Narayan, et. al., Reduced to Ashes, p. 34</ref> These orders never came because Bhindranwale had no outstanding charges against him. Arun Shourie of The Indian Express noted, "For all I know, he [Bhindranwale] is completely innocent and is genuinely and exclusively dedicated to the teachings of the Gurus.”<ref>Arun Shourie, “The consequences of pandering”, The Indian Express, May 13, 1982.</ref> In December 1983, a senior officer in Chandigarh confessed: “It’s really shocking that we have so little against him [Bhindranwale] while we keep blaming him for all sorts of things.”<ref>India Today, 31 December 1983, page 36.</ref> Therefore, to think that Bhindranwale invited an attack from the Indian army through his presence at the Darbar Sahib is to ignore an established fact that the army operation was planned well in advance, as stated by S. K. Sinha, a major figure in the Indian Army.

Dharam Yudh Morcha Launched by Harcharan Singh Longowal

In August 1982, the Akali Dal under the leadership of Harcharan Singh Longowal launched the dharam yudh morcha, or the “battle for righteousness.” Bhindranwale and the Akali Dal united for the first time; their goal was the fulfillment of the demands based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. In two and a half months, security forces arrested thirty-thousand Sikhs for their peaceful demonstrations to the point that protesting volunteers could not be accommodated in the existing jails.<ref>Deol, Harnik, Religion and Nationalism in India: The Case of the Punjab, London: Routledge, 2000, p. 105.</ref>

Peaceful Protests Organized

In November 1982, Akali Dal announced the organization of peaceful protests in Delhi during the Asian Games. To prevent Sikhs from reaching Delhi, the central government stopped all buses, trains and vehicles that were headed for Delhi to interrogate Sikhs. Background or affiliation did not matter; all Sikhs were profiled, segregated and searched. The Sikhs as a community felt discriminated against by the Indian state. Later, the Akali Dal organized a convention at the Darbar Sahib attended by 5,000 Sikh ex-servicemen—-170 of whom were above the rank of colonel. These Sikhs claimed that there was discrimination against them in government service.<ref>Deol, Harnik, Religion and Nationalism in India: The Case of the Punjab, London: Routledge, 2000, p. 105.</ref>

Agitations over the Definition of Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains as Hindus

The situation in Punjab deteriorated as violence escalated with the murders of Hindus and Sikhs. During this turmoil, the Akali Dal began another agitation in February 1984 protesting against clause (2) (b) of Article 25 of the Indian constitution, which defines Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains as Hindus. Several Akali leaders were arrested for burning the Indian constitution in protest. <ref>Deol, Harnik, Religion and Nationalism in India: The Case of the Punjab, London: Routledge, 2000, p. 106.</ref>

From the point of view of belief rights, India’s defining of its Sikh, Buddhist and Jain citizens as Hindus has serious ramification. For instance, a Sikh couple that marries in accordance to the rites of the Sikh religion must register its marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 <ref>See [4] (last accessed May 12, 2004)</ref> in order to be considered legally married.<ref>In the colonial period the Sikh marriages were registered under the Anand Marriage Act of 1909, which was named after the Sikh marriage ceremony, the Anand Karaj. The Anand Marriage Act was repealed in the postcolonial India.</ref> This amounts to a coercive declaration that the couple is a Hindu. The contents of clause (2) (b) of Article 25 of the Indian constitution and the laws based on its understanding are in violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) calling for free exercise because Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains are forced to identify themselves as Hindus even for the simple purpose of obtaining a marriage certificate.<ref> Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” ([5]). Also see, Article 18 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). </ref> Here India’s secular credentials come into question because the state and its legislators abrogated to themselves the authority to define the beliefs of religious communities to which they do not belong. Furthermore, India’s overt attempt to categorize its religious minorities as Hindus in spite of strong protests attests to the state’s illiberal policies.

Indian Army Prepares for Attack on the Darbar Sahib, the Golden Temple

For over a year, the Indian army had been preparing for an attack on the Darbar Sahib. To legitimize the attack, according to Subramaniam Swami—-a member of the Indian Parliament—-the central government had created a disinformation campaign. In his words, the state sought to “make out that the Golden Temple was the haven of criminals, a store of armory and a citadel of the nation’s dismemberment conspiracy.”<ref>Swami, Subramaniam, Imprint, July 1984, p. 7-8. Quoted in Kumar, Ram Narayan, et al, Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab, Kathmandu: South Asia Forum for Human Rights, 2003, p. 34. (Hereafter, Reduced to Ashes.)</ref>

The Role of the Third Agency

Surya magazine (started by Maneka Gandhi, Indira's daughter-in-law) published a special report detailing how the 'Third Agency', a special intelligence outfit created by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Secretariat, R. Shankaran Nair, was instrumental in smuggling most of the arms inside the Darbar Sahib.<ref>Bajaj, Rajeev, K., “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” Surya, September 1984, p. 9-10.</ref> “One week before the Army action, Punjab police had intercepted two truck loads of weapons and ammunition in the Batala sub-division of Gurdaspur district. But the officer of the Third Agency, in-charge of Amritsar, persuaded the director-general of police (DGP) to release them and send them along safely to the Golden Temple.”<ref>Kumar, Ram Narayan, et. al., Reduced to Ashes, p. 34. For full details, see Surya cover story, ibid, p. 13. </ref>

Invasion Takes Place on a Major Sikh Holiday

According to plan, the Indian army invaded the Darbar Sahib in an assault that was code named “Operation Blue Star” on June 5, 1984 to coincide with the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan, who had constructed the Darbar Sahib. It is common knowledge that this gurpurab (commemoration of Guru Arjan’s martyrdom) attracts an unusually large number of Sikh visitors at the Darbar Sahib, just like a large number of Muslims visit Mecca during the month of Ramadan. Then, why did the Indian army attack the most important Sikh shrine on this particular day? Ram Narayan Kumar notes, “Operation Blue Star was not only envisioned and rehearsed in advance, meticulously and in total secrecy, it also aimed at obtaining the maximum number of Sikh victims, largely devout pilgrims unconnected with the political agitation.”<ref>Kumar, Ram Narayan, et. al., Reduced to Ashes, p. 34. For full details, see Surya cover story, ibid, p. 35.</ref>

The Scale of the Attack

Cynthia Kepply Mahmood, describing the scale of the attack, writes:

"When it [the Indian army] attacked the Akal Takht part of the Golden Temple complex at Amritsar in 1984, containing the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, the ostensible aim was to rid the sacred buildings of the militants who had taken up shelter inside. But the level of force used in the attack was utterly incommensurate with this limited and eminently attainable aim. Seventy thousand troops, in conjunction with the use of tanks and chemical gas, killed not only the few dozen militants who didn’t manage to escape the battleground but also hundreds (possibly thousands) of innocent pilgrims, the day of the attack being a Sikh holy day. The Akal Takht, the seat of temporal authority for the Sikhs, was severly damaged and the Sikh Reference Library, an irreplaceable collection of books, manuscripts, and artifacts bearing on all aspects of Sikh history, was burned out. Thirty-seven other shrines were attacked across Punjab on the same day. The only possible reason for this appalling level of state force against its own citizens must be that the attempt was not merely to “flush out,” as they say, a handful of militants, but to destroy the fulcrum of a possible mass resistance against the state."<ref>Mahmood, Cynthia Keppley, “Dynamics of Terror in Punjab and Kashmir,” Jeffrey A. Sluka, ed., Death Squad: The Anthropology of State Terror, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000, p. 77.</ref>

The Targetting of Civilians During the Attack

The most disturbing aspect of the operation was the targeting of civilians by the Indian army. Contrary to the statement of army Lt. General K. Sundarji, “We went inside [the Darbar Sahib] with humility in our hearts and prayers on our lips”<ref>Quoted in Brar, K.S., Operation Blue Star: The True Story, New Delhi: UBSPD, 1993, p. 74.</ref>-—for the invading troops “every Sikh inside was a militant.”<ref>Kumar, Ram Narayan, et. al., Reduced to Ashes, p. 38.</ref> Mark Tully, in his famous account of the invasion, writes: “Karnail Kaur, a young mother of three children, said, ”When people begged for water some jawans [soldiers] told them to drink the mixture of blood and urine on the ground.”

Tully records an eye-witness account by Bhan Singh, the then SGPC Secretary:

"I saw about thirty-five or thirty-six Sikhs lined up with their hands raised above their heads. And the major was about to order them to be shot. When I asked him for medical help, he got into rage, tore my turban off my head, and ordered his men to shoot me. I turned back and fled… Sardar Karnail Singh Nag, who had followed me, also narrated what he had seen, as well as the killing of thirty-five to thirty-six young Sikhs by cannon fire. All of them were villagers."<ref>Tully, Mark and Jacob, Satish, Amritsar: Mrs. Gandhi’s Last Battle, New Delhi: Rupa and Co., 1985, p. 170.</ref>

C.K.C. Reddy, while writing on the army action notes:

"The whole of Punjab and especially the Golden Temple Complex, was turned into a murderous mouse trap from where people could neither escape nor could they seek succor of any kind… The bodies of the victims of the military operations in Punjab were destroyed without any attempt to identify them and hand them over to their relatives for religious ceremonies… The most disturbing thing about the entire operation was that a whole mass of men, women, and children were ordered to be killed merely on the suspicion that some terrorists were operating from the Golden Temple and other Gurdwaras. There had been no judicial verdict of guilt against definite individuals who had been taking shelter in the Golden Temple."<ref>Reddy, C.K.C., et. al., Army Action in Punjab: Prelude & Aftermath, New Delhi: Samata Era Publication, 1984, p. 46-48</ref>

The Sikh Rememberence of the Attack as a Holocaust

The Indian army’s invasion of the Darbar Sahib claimed as many as “7,000 to 8,000” lives according to some eyewitness accounts. The event is remembered by Sikhs as a ghalughara (holocaust) like the afore mentioned attacks by the Afghan invader Ahmed Shah Abdali)<ref>For a range of number estimates, see Kumar, Ram Narayan, et. al., Reduced to Ashes, p. 38.</ref> While there is ample evidence to show that Bhindranwale was fighting for the demands articulated in the Anandpur Sahib Resolution and not for the separate state of Khalistan, the Indian army’s invasion was not seen by the Sikhs as “a security operation but a clash between two nations, the first ‘war for Khalistan’”.<ref>Singh, Gurharpal, Ethnic Conflict in India: A Case-Study of Punjab, New York: St. Martin’s Press, Inc., 2000, p. 114.</ref> As Joyce Pettigrew puts it:

"The sacrifice of Bhindranwale’s life and that of his followers drew attention to the fact that Sikhs live by a model of society opposed to that for which India stood. They were slaughtered in defense of their conception of what society should be."<ref>Quoted in Singh, Gurharpal, Ethnic Conflict in India: A Case-Study of Punjab, New York: St. Martin’s Press, Inc., 2000, p. 114.</ref>

Operation Wood Rose: Massacre of Amritdhari Sikhs

The army operation was followed by another government-sponsored initiative, code-named, “Operation Woodrose”, in which the Indian army sought to eliminate all Amritdharis (members of the Khalsa Panth) across the villages of Punjab. Baatcheet, the Indian Army’s bulletin, made an appeal to all soldiers in June 1984:

"Any knowledge of the "Amritdharis" who are dangerous people and pledged to committing murder, arson and acts of terrorism should be immediately brought to the notice of the authorities. These people may appear harmless from outside but they are basically committed to terrorism. In the interest of us all, their identity and whereabouts must always be disclosed."<ref>Baatcheet, Serial Number 153, June 1984. For full text, see [6]</ref>

Report by Christian Science Monitor

All initiated Sikhs were “terrorists” in the eyes of the Indian state and were to be killed extra-judicially. The Christian Science Monitor reported:

"The pattern in each village appears to be the same. The Army moves in during the early evening, cordons a village, and announces over loudspeakers that everyone must come out. All males between the ages of 15 and 35 are trussed and blindfolded, then taken away…Thousands have disappeared in the Punjab since the Army Operation began. The government has provided no lists of names; families don't know if sons and husbands are arrested, underground or dead."<ref>Mary Anne Weaver, The Christian Science Monitor, October 15, 1984.</ref>

Events in Lights of the U.N. Genocide Convention

Sikhs have argued that the Article 2 of the Genocide Convention is applicable to these massacres since they were “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.<ref>According to Article 2 of the on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (“Genocide Convention”): “...genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.</ref> The law of the land was disregarded completely when it came to the Sikhs challenging the notion whether the Indian democracy is built on individual rights, which the Sikh claim have varied according to the religious affiliations of those concerned. Joyce Pettigrew in her case-studies presented in The Sikhs of the Punjab: Unheard Voices of State and Guerilla Violence has shown that some affluent Sikhs with sufficient connection in the government, who did not subscribe to nationalism, became victims of state terror because of their religious identity as Sikhs.<ref>Pettigrew, Joyce, The Sikhs of the Punjab: Unheard Voices of State and Guerilla Violence, London: Zed Books, 1995.</ref>

Pogroms Against Sikhs after two Sikhs Assasinate Indira Gandhi

On the morning of October 31, 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assasinated by two Sikhs of her security detail in her Home's garden in New Delhi. The assassination triggered organized violence against Sikhs across north India. In the words of Khushwant Singh, on the night of October 31, “Politicians belonging to the ruling Congress party met to decide how to teach the Sikhs a lesson they would never forget.”<ref>Kumar, Ram Narayan, et. al., Reduced to Ashes, p. 42.</ref> Ram N. Kumar describes the nature of organization of these state sponsored pogroms against Sikhs:

Early next morning, hordes of people from the suburbs of Delhi were transported to various localities in the city where the Sikh population was concentrated. The mobilization suggested backing of an organization with vast resources. The criminal hordes carried crude weapons…and combustible material, including kerosene, for arson. They were also supplied with lists of houses and business establishments belonging to the Sikhs in various localities. The government controlled television station Doordarshan, and the All India Radio began broadcasting provocative slogans seeking bloody vengence, "khoon ka badla khoon se lenge (Blood for blood!)". Murderous gangs of 200 or 300 people led by the leaders, with policemen looking on, began to swarm into Sikh houses, hacking the occupants to pieces, chopping off the heads of children, raping women, tying Sikh men to tires set aflame with kerosene, burning down houses and shops after ransacking them… In some areas, the Sikh families grouped together for self-defense. The police officials then arrived to disperse them, by force when persuasion did not work… Khushwant Singh stated, ”I realized what Jews must have felt like in Nazi Germany." He concluded: "The killing assumed the proportions of a genocide of the Sikh community."<ref>Kumar, Ram Narayan, et. al., Reduced to Ashes, p. 42-3.</ref>

State-operated national television was used by the state to incite violence against the Sikhs, in violation of the Article 20.2 of the ICCPR and the Article 7 of the UDHR. Encyclopedia of Genocide cites these events in its entry on “Genocide of Sikhs”.<ref>Charny, Israel W., ed., Encyclopedia of Genocide, vol 2, Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1999, p. 516-517.</ref>

Sixteen Politicians Named as Organizers of the Pogroms

Two major civil-liberties organizations issued a joint report on the anti-Sikh pogrom naming sixteen important politicians, thirteen police officers and one hundred and ninety-eight others, accused by survivors and eye-witnesses.<ref>Kumar, Ram Narayan, et. al., Reduced to Ashes, p. 43.</ref> In January 1985, journalist Rahul Bedi of the Indian Express and Smitu Kothari of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties “moved the High Court of Delhi to demand a judicial inquiry into the pogrom on the strength of the documentation carried out by human rights organizations. Justice Yogeshwar Dayal dismissed the petition after deprecating ‘those busybodies out for publicity, who poke their noses into all matters and waste the valuable time of the judiciary.’”<ref>Kumar, Ram Narayan, et. al., Reduced to Ashes, p. 43-4.</ref>

Denial of Justice

As it is often the case in illiberal states, a number of politicians who organized the pogrom were rewarded with electoral success by the Congress party and by their Hindu constituents. The Misra Commission was appointed to investigate the killings as a tactic to delay and deny justice. According to Patwant Singh:

The Government received the Misra Commission’s report…and took six months to place it before parliament...a full 27 months after the killings. A weak and vapid report, it let key Congress figures off the hook and characteristically recommended the setting up of three more committees…The third committee spawned two more committees plus an enquiry by the Central bureau of Investigation (CBI). When one of these two, the Poti-Rosha Committee, recommended 30 cases for prosecution including one against Sajjan Kumar, Congress MP [Member of Parliament], and the CBI sent a team to arrest him on 11 September 1990, a mob held the team captive for more than four hours! According to the CBI’s subsequent affidavit filed in court, “the Delhi Police far from trying to disperse the mob sought an assurance from the CBI that he [Sajjan Kumar] would not be arrested.” The CBI also “disclosed that [another committee’s] file relating to the case [against him] was found in Sajjan Kumar’s house.” The MP was given “anticipatory bail while the CBI team was being held captive” by his henchmen.

Patwant Singh continues,

Justice Mirsa became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and after retirement chairman of the National Human Rights Commission; the accused MPs, except one, were again given Congress tickets to stand for parliament; one of them, H.K.L. Bhagat, became a cabinet minister; three accused police officers were promoted and placed in high positions…The Sikhs, determined to see those they believe to be guilty punished, continue to press for justice although fully aware of the fact that in India too, as Solzhenitsyn wrote about his country, “the lie has become not just a moral category, but a pillar of the state.”<ref>Singh, Patwant, The Sikhs, New York: Knopf, 2000, p. 223-224.</ref>

There was a collusion between India’s executive branch, its legislators, judiciary and law enforcement agencies. In May 2004, two senior Congress politicians, Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler, “widely cited as perpetrators of the 1984 pogroms against Sikhs by survivors and witnesses”<ref> [7] (last accessed May 20, 2004). </ref> were elected as Members of Parliament, in addition to Kamal Nath who had attacked Gurdwara Rakab Ganj in Delhi. Furthermore, Manmohhan Singh, a Sikh who defended India’s human rights record during the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993 and does not acknowledge his party’s role in the pogroms against Sikhs in November 1984, ascended to the position of Prime Minister of India in May 2004.<ref>[8] (last accessed May 20, 2004).</ref>

India's Response to the Khalistan Movement

During the late 1980s and the early 1990s, there was a dramatic rise in Sikh militancy in Punjab. Scholars have been unable to assess the claims of the government concerning the scale of violence. Lack of independent reporting by the press contributed toward the defamation of militants who enjoyed popular support toward the beginning of Khalistan's independence movement.<ref>The Press Council of India, Crisis and Credibility, New Delhi: Lancer International, 1991, in Sandhu, Ranbir Singh, Struggle for Justice: Speeches and Conversations of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Dublin: Sikh Educational and Religious Foundation, 1999, p. xlvi (Struggle for Justice, hereafter).</ref> The Times of India reported:

"Often and unwittingly…journalists fall prey to the government disinformation which suavely manages to plant stories…The confusion gets compounded when government agencies also resort to feeding disinformation on letterheads of militant organizations since there is no way of confirming or seeking clarifications on press notes supposedly issued by militants who are underground and remain inaccessible most of the time."<ref>Kumar, Dinesh, “Dispatches from the Edge”, The Times of India, August, 11, 1991.</ref>

Ram Narayan Kumar, a human rights activist with considerable work experience in Punjab, provides remarkable insights into the workings of the state that sought to discredit the Sikh movement. He writes:

"My own research on Punjab…suggested that the state agencies were creating vigilante outfits in order to infiltrate the Sikh radical movement and generate a climate of moral revulsion by engineering heinous crimes which they then attributed to armed Sikh groups."<ref>Kumar, Ram Narayan, et. al., Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab, p. 42-43.</ref>

Peace Initiatives

The Indian state has consistently undermined peace initiatives that could have led to peace and stability in Punjab. There has been much reluctance on the part of the central government to recognize Sikh grievances. The one and only attempt of the central government to seek a political solution to the grievances presented by the Sikhs resulted in the Rajiv-Longowal Accord, which took place between the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, the then President of the Akali Dal who was later assassinated. The accord recognized the religious, territorial and economic demands of the Sikhs that were thought to be non-negotiable under Indira Gandhi’s tenure. While the agreement provided some basis for a return to normalcy, it was denounced by Sikh militants who claimed that the Indian state could not be trusted. Their claim became valid when the territorial transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab—scheduled for January 26, 1986—was first delayed, then postponed and eventually suspended by the central government.<ref>Singh, Gurharpal, Ethnic Conflict in India: A Case-Study of Punjab, New York: St. Martin’s Press, Inc., 2000, p. 132.</ref> The table below provides the solutions outlined in the agreement and the status of their implementation.

Table 2: Rajiv-Longowal Accord<ref>Singh, Gurharpal, Ethnic Conflict in India: A Case-Study of Punjab, New York: St. Martin’s Press, Inc., 2000, p. 133 (adapted).</ref>

Issue Agreement Implementation
Implementation of Anandpur Sahib Resolution (ASR) seeking greater autonomy to states Referred to Sarkaria Commission Report Oct. 1987: Rejects ASR approach to Center-State relations
Transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab To be transferred by Jan. 1986. Punjab to compensate Haryana with equivalent territory for a new capital. Other territorial disputes to be settled by a commission. Three commissions (Matthew/Venkatarmiah/Desai) fail to provide an agreement. Strong opposition in Haryana. July 1986: union government suspends the transfer for an indefinite period.
Sharing of Ravi-Beas Waters by non-riparian states A tribunal headed by a Supreme Court judge to adjudicate. July 1985 consumption as a baseline. May 1987: Eradi Tribunal reduced Punjab’s July 1985 level while doubling Haryana’s share.
Prosecution of those responsible for November 1984 Anti-Sikh Pogroms Referred to Mishra Commission February 1987: Absolves Congress (I) of responsibility placing guilt on Delhi police.
Army Deserters To be rehabilitated and given gainful employment August 1985: 900 out of 2,606 deserters rehabilitated.
Political Detainees Release of political detainees and withdrawal of special powers Limited releases. May 1988, Parliament passes the 59th amendment to the constitution. The amendment allowed for the suspension of the rights to life and liberty, habeas corpus, freedoms of speech and association, and the guarantee of fundamental rights.
Religious Autonomy Enactment of an all-India Gurdwara act Not enacted; May 1988: Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Ordinance.

The failure of the central government to implement the agreement led to further alienation of the Sikhs from the Indian state. On April 29, 1986, an assembly of thousands of Sikhs at the Akal Takht made a declaration of an independent state of Khalistan. These events were followed by a decade of violence and conflict in Punjab.

A recent observation by Tapan Bose of the South Asia Forum for Human Rights provides a critique of the Indian claim that normalcy and peace have returned to Punjab and by implication no peace initiatives are needed:

"...the silence of graveyard that obtains in Punjab today is not a reflection of peace. The enquiry being conducted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in the disappearances and illegal cremations in Punjab, shows the deep social division that is endangering the prospects of justice and peace in the state...Although this matter or police abductions leading to illegal cremations was initiated six years ago before the NHRC, the commission unfortunately has failed to examine a single case of abuse. It has also not heard a single victim's testimony or deposition."<ref>Kumar, Ram Narayan, et. al., Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab, p. IV.</ref>

Recent Developments

According to Amnesty International, the Indian state has sought to stifle the basic human rights of the Sikhs by creating a culture of impunity where large-scale extrajudicial killings, torture, custodial rape, use of draconian laws by state agencies are natural occurrences that go unpunished.<ref>Amnesty International, "India: Break the cycle of impunity and torture in Punjab," January 2003. [9]. </ref>

While mass media reports claim that “normalcy” has returned to Punjab, impartial observers like Amnesty International assert that the basic human rights of the Sikhs continue to be violated by the Indian state.<ref>Amnesty International, “India: Break the cycle of impunity and torture in Punjab”, January 2003. [10].</ref> From recent events, it appears that a demand for Khalistan persists in sections of the Sikh community. On April 14, 2004, Daljit Singh Bittu founded a new political party, the Shiromani Khalsa Dal, with “establishment of a free, sovereign, and separate Khalsa state” as its primary objective.<ref>Shiromani Khalsa Dal, “Daljit Singh Founds New Party on Idealism and Activism”, [11].</ref> Second, on April 29, 2004, the Dal Khalsa, a Sikh nationalist organization, began a week long “Khalsa Freedom March” from the Akal Takht in Amritsar with an objective of gaining support for the idea of Khalistan by peaceful means.<ref>Sikhe News Bureau, “Khalsa March for Freedom”, [12].</ref> A large number of gurdwĝras (the Sikh houses of worship), across Punjab and in the diaspora continue to celebrate the "martyrdom" anniveraries of Sikhs who died fighting in the Khalistan freedom struggle. While fear of human rights abuses keeps sloganing in Punjab to the minimum, the Sikh organizations in the diaspora (primarily Europe, North America and Australia) continue to lobby for the secession of Khalistan from the Indian union.

Creation of the Punjab Rights Forum

In June/July 2005 following the arrests of dozens of alleged Babbar Khalsa (International) militants and sympathizers in Punjab and Delhi, a number of Punjab based pro-Khalistan political parties and organizations joined forces with a dozen odd Human Rights, Religious and Kisan groups to form a loose coalition known as the Punjab Rights Forum.

References and notes


See Also

External links