June 6, 1984, is historic from the view of the Khalistan movement when one of its leading figures was martyred by Indian security forces in the battle for Akal Takht. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s legend has not only lived on but has now become a source of strength for Sikh community across the globe, including India.

Bhindranwale was a flamboyant leader who dedicated his life for Sikh freedom. He called for Sikh community to return to roots of Sikhism, fighting against the consumption of liquor, drugs and laxness in religious practices, such as the cutting of hair by Sikh youth.  Launching the Dharam Yudh Morcha in August 1982, Bhindranwale aimed at the fulfillment of a list of demands based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. Thousands of people joined the movement in the hopes of acquiring a larger share of irrigation water and the return of Chandigarh to Punjab.

Operation Blue Star, with heavy support of armour and artillary was launched in Jun 1984 to eliminate Bhindranwale and his valiant soldiers including former Sikh Maj Gen Shabeg Singh. Bhinranwale was martyred by the Indian Army on June 6, creating ripples across India and paving way for permanent fissures between the Sikh and Hindu community.

From grandeur of Sikh rule in the subcontinent to bitter memories of Operation Blue Star and desecration of Akal Takht in 1984 (which resulted into a mutiny in Indian Military), Khalistan has remained a dream for the Sikhs of India as well as their strong Diaspora around the entire globe.

In Canada, US,UK, Europe, South East Asia and Australia, Khalistan 2020 is becoming a major movement. The Sikh Federation UK had already presented their manifesto with three major objectives :

• Independent inquiry into the actions of the UK government in the lead up to and after the June and November 1984 Sikh genocide.

• Call for the UK government to recognise the events of June and November 1984 as a Sikh genocide

• Call for the UK government to recognise and support the application for self-determination to the Sikhs for an Independent Khalistan.

A US and Canada based organisation, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) under the  Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, has been lobbying for an independent  Khalistan, and for the RSS to be declared a terrorist organisation.

Dr Amarjit Singh of Such O Such programme of TV 84 is a Sikh TV personality based in the US. He has been regularly airing the cause of Khalistan and strongly believes that Indian intelligence is involved in state-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir and Indian Punjab. He quoted Sikh sources within Indian Punjab that there was unanimity of the view that Dinanagar and Pathankot were false flag operations conducted by Indian intelligence agencies to drive a wedge between the Kashmiri and Sikh communities.

Indian security establishment is finding it difficult to stem the tide of insurgencies in Kashmir, Khalistan and Naxal dominated areas. An international referendum by the Sikh diaspora in 2020 could trigger a wave of independence movements across India and jolt the very foundation of the Indian Union.

As reported by Times Colonist in the Canadian press on 18 April, Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s visit to his native India in April ran into controversy after one of the country’s political leaders accused him of being a Sikh nationalist. Amarinder Singh, the CM of Indian Punjab where Sajjan was born, made the explosive accusation in an interview on Indian TV in advance of Sajjan’s trip. In the interview, Singh expressed anger over not being allowed to speak at political rallies in Canada last year before calling Sajjan and the other Sikh members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet “Khalistanis”.

“I’m not going to meet him,” Singh said. “There are five ministers who are Khalistanis and I am not interested in meeting any Khalistanis.”

Hindustan Times on May17, talked of India-Canada relations taking another hit as a retired senior ex CRPF officer Tejinder Singh Dhillon, was denied entry at Vancouver airport, partly because immigration authorities deemed him to have served a government that engages in “Terrorism, systematic or gross human rights violations, or genocide”.

Sikh24.com, reported on 14 February, 2017, about a large gathering at Sri Fatehgarh Sahib to mark the 68th birth anniversary of Bhindranwale. Sikh masses arrived from all over Punjab, including from United States, Canada, England and Germany.  Sikh youth arrived in jeeps, motorcycles, buses wearing kesri dastars and holding nishan sahibs. During the commemoration programs, the All India Sikh Students Federation conducted a campaign to get signature in support of petition moved in International Court of Justice in Hague (Netherlands) seeking a referendum on SYL-Canal issue of Punjab. The campaign witnessed a robust response as more than 35,000 Punjab citizens signed the petition.

Sikhs have also been demanding the 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.

Why Pakistan has not discussed the issue of Khalistan when Modi openly talks of Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, this needs some insight. Unfortunately, there is little debate in the Pakistani media on issues related to India’s internal politics, especially the conflicts within the Indian Union.

Taking a leaf from my previous article in 2013 on the Sikh struggle; two trends are clearly visible, Sikh frustration within Indian polity and Sikh diaspora becoming more proactive. The promulgation of Sikh Congressional Caucus in the US in 2014 is viewed by India as part of Khalistan movement. The Times of India then observed that , “The Indian effort to sensitise US lawmakers to New Delhi’s concerns began even before the launch of the caucus, but much to the Indian embassy’s surprise and dismay, pro-Khalistani Sikhs succeeded in getting the caucus off the ground. In the process, they are said to have sidelined mainstream nationalist Sikhs.”

Since his death, Bhindranwale has remained a controversial figure in Indian history. While the Sikhs’ highest temporal authority Akal Takht describe him a great martyr of the Sikh Nation, who made supreme sacrifice for the sake of faith, the Indian government views him as an extremist.”

With fertile lands and an enterprising community, Khalistan could become an independent and thriving state in the region and could also act as a bridge between Pakistan, India and the prospective state of Jammu and Kashmir.