Deal with farmers’ protest carefully

Even as farmers, especially those led by prosperous Sikh farmers of Punjab, are engaged in a large-scale protest against a farm law, supporters of the ruling BJP, including those from the so-called national media, have been trying to give a Khalistan angle to the agitation. This is absolutely dangerous and has the potential to further revive the Khalistan movement which was brought down after a lot of sacrifice, including the death of so many innocent people. The Khalistan movement is a Sikh separatist movement which started with a motive to establish Khalistan, ‘the land of Khalsa’, for the Sikh community, comprising parts of Punjab of India and Pakistan.

In the 1970s and the ’80s a violent secessionist movement to create Khalistan paralyzed Punjab for a decade. It received support from the All India Sikh Students’ Federation and was led most effectively by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Political parties like the Akali Dal also supported it. Bhindranwale soon acquired a cult figure and started to use violence. He targeted Hindus and ‘modernized’ Sikhs, who cut their hair and consumed alcohol. Many innocent citizens were killed by Khalistani terrorists. His killing inside the Golden Temple during Operation Blue Star resulted in the killing of the then PM Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The Khalistani movement failed for a complex set of reasons, but the idea of a state of the Khalsa continues to be invoked by many Sikhs. It has support from the global Sikh community, who are in big numbers in countries like Canada, the US and the UK. Therefore any attempt to hurt the Sikh pride to score political brownie points has the potential to reignite the Khalistan movement. The BJP government and its supporters should be careful in dealing with the ongoing farmers’ protest.