The recent incident of the killing of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada has dragged the attention of the international community towards Indian politics, which is passing through strong ideological ramifications of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has altered the fundamental ideological foundations of the Indian nation and introduced various policies targeting the Sikh diaspora living outside India. Nijjar was a Canadian Sikh and an active supporter of the decades-long Khalistan movement, a united call of the Sikh community for getting a separate independent homeland.
The support for the Khalistan movement has jeopardized the status of the Sikh community in India, and Nijjar’s murder has validated that the Sikh community is not safe outside India as well.
Initially, it was widely believed that the Sikh population is persistently facing multileveled violence consisting of targeting killings and forced disappearance in India due to their increasing support for the proposed Khalistan state. The murder of a Sikh leader in a foreign land has confirmed that the Indian government under Modi’s ultra-national religious agenda has started overtly targeting prominent Sikh voices around the world. The Sikh community’s efforts to demand an independent homeland have become the prime causes of New Delhi’s spreading violence against the supporters of the Khalistan state. The efforts of the Sikhs to create a separate state became prominent in the 1980s when the Indian government preferred to use military force to curb the support of the proposed Khalistan state. Operation Blue Star, carried out by the Indira Gandhi government, formalized New Delhi’s anti-Sikh policies without calculating the consequences of these policies on Indian domestic politics.
The military operation on the holiest place of Sikh has endangered the Sikh residents in India, parallel to raising various critical questions on the status of minority rights in India. The attack on the Golden Temple Complex in 1984 turned this Khalistan movement violent with the death of Prime Minister Gandhi, and it widened the gaps between Hindu and Sikh communities in India. The launching of an armed operation on the holiest place of Sikhs inflicted a sense of insecurity in the minds of Sikh believers across the world.
This scenario has resulted in an unprecedented growth of the Sikh diaspora across the globe due to the insufficient security arrangements of the Indian government for the Sikh community. An overwhelming wave of anti-Sikh violence prevailed in India and started pushing the active supporters of the Khalistan movement outside India. The leading state officials from New Delhi under different political administrations remained ineffective in safeguarding the status of the Sikh community in Indi, and it has resulted in various unreported fanatical trends of Hindutva ideology against the Sikh population.
The arrival of Modi in Indian politics as the fourteenth Prime Minister of India and his proven involvement in the famous anti-Muslim Gujarat riots dragged New Delhi towards the vicious ideological politics of Hindutva.
This situation unprecedentedly increased the insecurities of the Muslim and Sikh population of India. Apart from targeting the Muslim population in India and its occupied areas of Kashmir, Sikh support for the Khalistan cause has gained substantial attention from the Hindutva leaders, where Modi’s government can be treated as an exception. In response to the increasing insecurities of the Sikh population in India, a number of countries have started hosting and peacefully managing the Sikh communities in their respective societies parallel to safeguarding their fundamental rights. Canada is one of the few states where the government has ensured the safety of the Canadian Sikh population and provided them with a peaceful and secure social environment. The recent episode of the Nijjar’s murder has raised serious questions about the Canadian government’s law for protecting Sikh communities due to the unregulated and uncontrolled Indian diaspora.
The Canadian government has confirmed the involvement of the Indian government in the murder of a prominent Sikh leader who was a Canadian citizen. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has mentioned that the Canadian formal national security apparatus proved the involvement of the Indian government’s agents in carrying out the operation for killing the former president of Surrey’s Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara. This Gurdwara is a significant religious and cultural center of Sikhs in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. The Canadian government’s findings of proper evidence confirmed a strong connection between the agents of the Indian government and the murder of a Canadian national Sikh leader. The Indian government has rejected the Canadian allegations of New Delhi’s involvement in Nijjar’s killing parallel to asking the Canadian government to take strict actions at the societal level against anti-Indian elements generally and the Sikh community particularly.
This scenario has raised the temperature of diplomatic tensions between the Canadian and Indian governments because the leaders of both nations have started taking an inflexible stand on the issue of Nijjar’s murder. The killing of Nijjar by an Indian intelligence officer cannot be separated from the murders of various other Sikh leaders who were determined to convert the dream of a separate homeland into reality. The post-1984 Indian policies of New Delhi for managing the Sikh communities have directly or indirectly targeted several voices of the Kahlistan movement within and outside India. An overwhelming wave of anti-Sikh obsession among Indian leaders has endangered the status of the Sikh population across Indian society and resulted in the expelling of various Indian national Sikhs from their native areas.
Last year, the death of a famous Punjabi-language singer, Sidhu Moosewala, in the Mansa district of Punjab adequately proved the rising insecurities of the Sikh population in India.
It is widely believed that Moosewala’s support of Sikh rights and his critical political orientations about New Delhi’s anti-Sikh practices were the main reasons for his murder under Modi’s government. While keeping in mind the murder of Mooswala in India and the killing of Najjiar outside India, it is appropriate to validate that the Modi government has launched a widespread international anti-Sikh campaign to suppress the voices of the Khalistan movement. Modi’s corollary of Hindutva ideology cemented in a broader anti-minority policy framework, and the promotion of such policy framework against the Sikh population has multiplied the sufferings of Sikh communities within and outside India. The history of Indian politics is full of multileveled violations of minority rights, and the Modi government has taken several dramatic measures to create India as a Hindu-Only-Nation.
New Delhi’s formal reluctance to address the growing violations of minorities in India has proved that the Modi regime has introduced a process of Hinduziation of Indian society while establishing a covertly functioning global network. The prime targets of this network are the Sikh and Muslim populations because New Delhi has translated the political orientations of both communities as the prime threats to India. Both communities always remained active in opposing the anti-minority obsession of New Delhi under various governments. More validation for this argument can be obtained from the formal positions of various Indian leaders on legitimating the anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh practices of Indian society.
Now, the greater responsibility lies on the international community because a consensus-based and united stance of the state leaders in different regions generally and the government authorities having strong economic and strategic ties with New Delhi are required. The murder of Nijjar has communicated to the whole world that the active intelligence operations of New Delhi are trying to curb the Sikhs’ demands for a separate homeland where they can independently and peacefully practice their religion. It is essential for the custodians of Indian national values to understand the sentiments of the Sikh population associated with the Khalistan movement instead of targeting the active supporters of the proposed Khalitan state. Killing Khalistan’s supporters will only tarnish the Indian national image in the world without providing any substantial advantage to the Indian government.
The author is an Assistant Professor, at the Department of International Relations, National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Islamabad.