Who are Khalistanis and why they are in news?
Sikh historian Harjot Singh Oberoi although there are a lot of historical linkages between Sikhs and Punjab, the current territory of Indian Punjab has never been a major element of Sikh self-definition
Earlier in Shaheen Bag occupation and now in farmers protests in Punjab and Delhi, Khalistanis have made their presence felt with their posters and some of their supporters talking about their wet dream of establishing Khalistan in Indian Punjab. The new trend is being observed where the Khalistani elements are supporting Muslims who are up against the CAA and NRC. These people have been seen offering food and water to the agitators through langars. Although Shaheen Bag and other associate occupying agitations stopped prematurely due to COVID19 outbreak, the same elements are now active in the garb of farmers agitation in the NCR region. Even if it is called farmers movement, the elements in it make a great suspect as a lot of the constituents are not even farmers and they are not clear on what they want from the government.
Some constituents of the farmers’ agitation are middlemen who have been benefitting a lot in the existing Mandi system of Punjab; however, this is not much as disturbing as much is the fact Khalistanis have started usurping the agitation to flash in their agenda. Posters and banners as well as slogans of Free Khalistan, Long Live Bhindarwale, etc. have been spotted in the crowd.
Sikh extremists have been talking about Khalistan; however, their dreamland is in Indian Punjab. They first need to read their history as Indian Punjab was not really such a bastion of Sikhism. According to Sikh historian Harjot Singh Oberoi although there are a lot of historical linkages between Sikhs and Punjab, the current territory of Indian Punjab has never been a major element of Sikh self-definition.(1) The historian makes it clear that the attachment of Punjab with Sikhism is a recent phenomenon, stemming from the 1940s. Thus, it appears it is a recent phenomenon which has appeared during the troubling days of India’s independence where a lot of Sikh migration took place to Indian Punjab.
Historian Oberoi himself insinuates that since a lot of separatism was taking place during India’s freedom struggle where Muslims under Jinnah were asking for a separate nation, Sikh leaders realized that the dominance of Muslims in Pakistan was imminent. Their fears were justified as living in Muslim Pakistan was extremely dangerous for the existence itself. As the history proves thousands of Sikhs were massacred during partition, millions were left to look for life in India. This migration of Sikhs from Pakistani Punjab to Indian Punjab and Muslims from Indian Punjab to Pakistan helped in the aggregate growth of Sikhs in the Indian Punjab.
According to the historical data(2)available, in 1941, Muslims were in absolute majority in Punjab where they accounted for more than 53% of the total population. Sikhs were nowhere close to even Hindus in terms of population as they were just nearly 15% whereas Hindus were around 30%. One noticeable change that happened over the decades was that whereas Sikhs and Muslim population grew Hindus fell in numbers. The data from 1881 shows that Hindus were around 44% and Sikhs were 8%; thus, with latter they formed the majority in the state. Soon after the independence, Sikh population in Indian Punjab increased significantly where they accounted for more than 60%. Hindus which are though majority in the country are minority in Punjab; however, nobody talks about their rights where they are not just underrepresented but discriminated a lot.
Since 1966 when Haryana was carved from Punjab, there has been no non-Sikh Chief Minister of the state such is the monopoly of Sikhs. The Sikh community has overall control of trades, farming, government jobs, etc. and Hindus are left with paltry residues. Despite all the privileges and control over the resources, extreme freedom and liberty to follow their faith, some Sikhs are still vying for blood and aim to break India. Funded by extremist Sikh Diaspora and ISI of Pakistan, some Sikhs are still up for their dreamland, called Khalistan.
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