The manhunt for Amritpal Singh has finally ended with his arrest from Rode Village in Punjab’s Moga district on April 23. Numerous controversies abound about his arrival to preeminence as well as his arrest with various sectors in India blaming Pakistan-based Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for covering the entire gamut of socio-political and economic travails stumping the Sikh Community in India.
Contrary to such controversies, C. Christine Fair, professor at Georgetown University, encapsulates in its Foreign Policy Article that after talking to some well-placed sources in Punjab and Delhi, it came to the fore that Amritpal might have been nurtured by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and sent abroad to Dubai to track surge of Khalistan Movement over there. It is this pain-staking continuous hare and hounds festered by historically unresolved problems battering the Sikh community that the Khalistan spirit that was always simmering is boiling today. The urge for Khalistan has been simmering even before the independence of India as seen in terms of the creation of the Akali Dal in 1921. Akali Dal was a political party (morphed into Shiromani Akali Dal today) whose minimal demand popped up to be autonomy with secession standing as its maximal position.
India might continue to blame Pakistan for funding or steaming the movement but its own systemic dilemmas are no hidden reality to the world today. Edward Azar mentions in his theory of pro-traced social conflict that economic disparity, political discrimination, and one particular group dominating another become the utmost reasons for any social conflict within a state. This theory fits in India’s case scenario as well whereby the fascist Hindutva regime has the precedence of fraying all its minorities, the Sikh populace being no exception.
The fascist Hindutva regime has the precedence of fraying all its minorities, the Sikh populace being no exception.
In order to attain a separate province for the entire Punjabi population-to and prevent ethnically fragmented, Akali Dal launched a Punjabi Suba Movement in 1945 but instead was met by the Punjab Reorganization Act of November 1966 that not only divided Punjab into two provinces of Punjab and Haryana but also deprived both the provinces of their separate capital even. Chandigarh was designated their joint capital and made a Union Territory, which meant now the provinces were ruled directly by the center. The political landscape fails to change to date to the chagrin of the Sikh community in India.
To further the misery of the bread and basket states of India, their economic status was dreaded further by depriving them of their legitimate share in water. A canal system was put in place over the rivers of Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej that left Punjab with only 23% of water for irrigation, receding the economic woes of the state where the majority of the populace depends on agriculture and irrigation for their livelihood. The fact that the issue would not be revisited added fuel to the fire paving the way for the Anandpur Sahib Resolution of 1973 that called upon India to revisit such moves.
Seeing India was busy enough to design itself as a Hindu-only state, Akali Dal and Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale joined hands in 1982 to launch the Dharam Yudh Morcha in order to implement the resolution. Thousands joined deeming it as the only solution to their long overseen miseries. Such overtures paved the way for the violent Khalistan Movement that killed thousands as India following on its own antecedents used overly excessive force and military under the guise of Operation Blue Star killed Bhindranwale and later India’s own Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. Gandhi has been killed by her own two Sikh security bodyguards. The movement had dwindled in strength due to massive police crackdown, internal fragmentation among the Sikh populace and organizations, and removal of its top brass but neither policy of state repression nor Khalistan spirit ever died.
Subsequent to the treatment of the BJP government to the yearlong Punjab protests by poor farmers against controversial agricultural laws, whereby Narendra Modi called them parasites rather than paving ways to address states’ misgivings towards them. Though the government had to succumb to the farmers’ demands a year later (In November 2021), the event served to be another blow away for the already side-lined Sikh community suffering from Hindutva fascism and systemic repression in the state that now appeared to be the one for Hinduism and Hindu ideologue alone.
Singh has been arrested, Deep Sidhu killed-if not murdered-in a road accident but the nationalism that the community has gained continues to thrive. It is not meant to say that it is certain that India is going to experience Khalistan Movement 2.0 but it should be very clear that way to heal the Khalistan spirit is not by indulging in scapegoating any other country but by looking deep into and making amends to BJP’s fascist state policies working to make India a Hindu-only state to the agony of its all other minorities.
The author is a graduate of International Relations. With the experience of working with two top-notch Think Tanks, namely IPRI and SDPI, she has in her credit Research Papers and a number of articles on various national and International platforms. She tweets @sana_hamid_here