The idea of a separate Sikh state came up for the first time in the early 20th century, with the rise of Sikh nationalism in British India. The declaration of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699 and the religio-political vision that came with it fired the Sikh imagination with the belief that it was their God-given right to rule the Punjab.
Before partition, when the Muslims proposed the creation of an Islamic-majority Pakistan, many Sikhs staunchly opposed the concept. A section of Sikh leaders grew concerned that their community would be left without any homeland following the partition of India between the Hindus and the Muslims.
In the 1970s and ’80s a violent secessionist movement to create Khalistan paralyzed the Punjab for a decade. It received support from the All India Sikh Students’ Federation and was led most effectively by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The movement failed for a complex set of reasons, but every now and then voices have been raised for Khalistan. Operation Bluestar was carried out by the Indian military by the ordersame of Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to remove militant religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed followers from the buildings of the Harmandir Sahibcomplex in Amritsar, Punjab. In July 1983, the Sikh political party Akali Dal’s President Harcharan Singh Longowal had invited Bhindranwale to take up residence in Golden Temple Complex. In the violent events leading up to the Operation Blue Star since the inception of Akali Dharm Yudh Morcha, the militants had killed 165 Hindus and Nirankaris, even 39 Sikhs opposed to Bhindranwale were killed. This led to 410 deaths in violent incidents and riots.
Over the past few years, various Khalistani groups have been active across the globe and have tried to destroy the peace and harmony through their actions. Reports say that during 2016, there were instances of pro-Khalistan activity when Sikh devotees had visited Pakistan during the celebration of Guru Nanak Dev’s birthday and the pro-Khalistani radical Sikh groups set up the Khalistan stage at the Nankana Sahib. The meetings were held by radical leaders Avtar Singh Sanghera, Manmohan Singh Bajaj, Tara Singh, Joga Singh, Satinder Pal Singh and Gopal Singh Chawala. Since then there have been various attempts to raise the voice of Khalistan. In early 2018, some militant groups were arrested by police in Punjab and the Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh claimed the recent extremism is backed by Pakistan’s ISI and “Khalistani sympathisers” in Canada, Italy, and the UK. There is some support from fringe groups abroad, especially in Canada but the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeauhas declared that his country would not support the revival of the separatist movement. Recent reports clearly indicate a rise in pro-Khalistan sentiments among the Sikh Diaspora overseas looking to revive the secessionist movement.
Recently India had handed over a 23-page dossier to Pakistan on July 14 at a high-level delegation at the Wagah border in which the government listed out its concerns about pro-Khalistan elements India has in its dossier shared a detailed list of events between 2016 and 2019 that were orchestrated by Khalistani elements saying that the four annual Indian Sikh Jathas who visit important gurdwaras in Pakistan every year under a bilateral protocol to visit religious shrines (1974), have been regularly subjected to anti-lndia propaganda during their visit against the spirit of the protocol and in complete subversion of the objective of the noble bilateral arrangement. that are promoting anti-India activities. India is said to have shared evidence on all the above incidents in form of photos and videos.
The Sikh Diaspora is seen as a torch-bearer of the Khalistan movement, now considered to be highly political and military in nature and the Indian government is keen to wipe out all the anti-national elements as this movement can turn out to be violent and is in the government’s biggest scheme of things.