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The Khalistan Movement – Explained Simply

Written by Serene Joshua, contributing writer.

The Khalistan movement is a movement by a small number of Punjabi Sikh population living outside India who want to create a separate state for Sikhs in India.

By I Kid You Not , in Explained , at October 8, 2023

Written by Serene Joshua, contributing writer.

For many years, India and Canada have had a great relationship based on the values of freedom and human rights, but recently there have been tensions between Canada and India in the news and this is due to the Khalistan movement.

In this article, we will break down this serious and complex issue fact by fact.

But first, let’s look at the key points.

  • The Khalistan movement is a movement by a small number of Punjabi Sikh population living outside India who want to create a separate state for Sikhs in India
  • In June, 2023, Hardeep Singh Nijjar a pro-Khalistan Canadian Sikh separatist was killed in Canada
  • The Canadian Prime Minister has accused the Indian government of being involved in the death whereas the Indian government has criticized Canada for sheltering separatists and denied the charge
  • This has had many effects especially on India-Canada relations

Very quickly, let’s look at what is the Khalistan issue?

What is the Khalistan Movement? 

The Khalistan movement is a movement by small number of Punjabi Sikh population who want to create a separate state for Sikhs in India. Khalistan is the name they want the name of the Sikh nation to be.

Originally proposed in 1948, this movement gathered steam in the 1970s and early 80s in India. However, it died down later but has recently become popular with a certain section of Sikhs living out of India.

It is important to know that the movement is not supported by India’s Sikh population who do not identify with it, and barring some who are linked to the movement abroad, there are no rebellions related to the Khalistan movement within India itself.

However, the movement still persists among a small section the Sikhs living abroad and many of them are still on the mission for a separate state. And because this armed and extremist movement is taking place in Canada, the India-Canada relationship has been rocky.

On the one hand, Canada is viewed as being too sympathetic to the movement while India has been criticized for scrutinizing Canada’s politics.

What is the History of the Khalistan Movement? 

Let’s quickly look at the history of the Khalistan movement 

1947. A defining year in the history of India, as it marked the partition of India and Pakistan. However, following the partition Punjabi Suba Movement began. This movement wanted to establish its own Sikh state with Punjabi as the official language.

1952– After knowledge of this demand Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister openly declared that any intentions or creation of a separate Sikh state would be suppressed.

1966. However, in 1966 a state was created for Punjabi nationals known as Punjab, and Chandigarh was made its capital.

1970’s. In the 1970s and 1980s the Khalistan movement gained traction in India among a small section of Sikhs. However, even the this was part of a global movement, as many Sikhs abroad especially in the UK and Canada supported the movement. This was led by the Sikh Rebel leader, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. For the next ten years, this rebellion gained momentum and many people involved were killed due to heavy suppression from the Indian government.

1984. 1984, the Indian government raided the Golden Temple in Amritsar to take down the rebels who had taken shelter there. This raid killed about 400 people including Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

On October 4th of that same year, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh Bodyguards as she was the one in charge of ordering the raid.

Why are we talking about it now? 

Throughout its history, the Indian government has been criticizing the government of Canada for sheltering Khalistani extremists, so why talk about it now?

Although the Khalistan movement has been going on for decades, a recent event has triggered much talk and media coverage around it.

On June 18, 2023, Hardeep Singh Nijjar a pro-Khalistan separatist and a terrorist who has been involved in many terror activities, was killed outside a Sikh gurdwara in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb that had a large Sikh population.

Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, recently said that authorities in his nation were looking into a “possible link” between India and the murder of pro-Khalistan separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

This has caused India-Canada relations to take a turn for the worse.

How does this affect India-Canada relations? 

Historically, India- Canada relationships were driven by trade and Canada has always had a huge number of populations of Indian origin living on its land. But in recent years the relationship has been strained as the Indian government criticises the Canadian government for its sympathy towards the Sikh separatist movement. 

On September 18th, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a statement at the Canadian Parliament that Ottawa was looking into “credible allegations” from Canadian intelligence against the Indian Government for its part in the assassination of prominent Sikh Canadian leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil in June. This marked the lowest point in India-Canada relations.

After this, India stopped providing visas to Canadians in the midst of this crisis, claiming “security threats” that were slowing down operations at its missions in Canada.

Additionally, in retaliation for Canada’s decision to deport Pavan Kumar Rai, the top official of India’s foreign intelligence agency stationed in Canada, India this week expelled one of Canada’s top ambassadors.

Well, now you understand how complex this issue really is!

There have been many protests regarding the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in countries like Canada, the US, and the UK.

As of October 3rd 2023, the Indian High Commission in London had many protestors assembled outside the premises. A few days prior to these protests pro- Khalistan protestors had also blocked the visit of Vikram Doraiswami, the Indian high commissioner to London.

The Khalistan movement that has affected India-Canada relations shows the world how difficult and sensitive it is to manage populations of people from different backgrounds who have moved away from their homeland. It will be interesting to see how this crisis unfolds and how the relationship of both countries will proceed.

General knowledge for kids and teens

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