Today, when Khalistan leaders deny the brutal history of persecution of Sikhs at the hands of fanatical Islamist forces and seek Pakistan’s help, they stand rootless, and as opportunistic bigots thriving on blood money. Aligning with the same ideological forces, which killed Sikh gurus, they stand exposed as traitors of the Sikh community.
Khalistan Represents Extremist and Illiberal Values
An exciting way to dissect the value system that Khalistan stands for is to investigate its cohorts, allies, and friends. A report by the Canadian McDonald Laurier Institute categorically states that the Khalistan movement is a Pakistani ISI-sponsored sabotage mission to create social unrest, disturbances, and disintegrate India through terrorist methods. Today, the Khalistan movement is aligned with ISI’s terrorist proxies like Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM).
In 2019, it was revealed that JeM and Khalistani terrorists were operating hands-in-glove, smuggling weapons, narcotics, counterfeit currency, and ammunition into Indian territory (Punjab-Jammu border). JeM, a Jihadi terrorist group, represents those extremist values against which the Sikh gurus launched the militant Khalsa movement. Interestingly, Khalistani leaders prefer not to discuss the less-known history of Balakot (where India bombed JeM camps to avenge Pulwama), a place sacred to JeM for its Jihadi history, where the Sikh armies defeated and killed some of the firebrand Jihadists of early Wahabism in India.
One hardly comes across any statement of Khalistani leaders condemning the persecution and marginalization of Sikhs in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Indian Kashmir, at the hands of terrorist groups and Islamic extremists sponsored by Pakistan. The Pakistan Army desecrated Sikh gurudwaras, or places of worship, in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The list includes numerous historical gurudwaras such as Naluchi Sahab, Santpura Danna (Muzaffarabad), Singh Sabha (Ghari Dupatta), Chakothi gurudwara, and Domail (as told by Amanjit Singh, a Sikh activist from Kashmir).
In Pakistan, the Sikh minority lives in perpetual fear and threat of Jihadist groups and clerics. Maulana Khadim Hussain Rizwi, Pakistan’s extremist Barelvi cleric, openly abused Sikhs and Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh kingdom. In 2019, a minor Sikh girl Jagjit Kaur, from Nankana Sahab, was kidnapped and converted to Islam. Following it, in 2020, came the conversion of Pritam, daughter of the Sikh Granthi of Gurudwara Panja Sahab. In March 2020, Islamic State in the Khorasan Province (IKSP) terrorists attacked a gurudwara in Kabul, killing twenty-seven innocent civilians. The accused, Aslam Farooqi, was of the former Lashkar cadre and was in touch with ISI handlers.
In Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Taliban proxy massacred the thriving Sikh population of Nangarhar, Logan, Herat, Kabul, Kandahar, and Jalalabad, bringing it down from 220,000 in the 1980s to mere 1,350 Sikhs today. In the 1980s, Afghanistan had seventy Sikh shrines, and today not even a dozen are functioning. Such brutal persecution happened at the hands of none other than Taliban terrorists, the ISI’s blue-eyed boys. Unfortunately, Khalistani leaders are always missing when it comes to condemning the above-mentioned atrocities, leave aside calling for any referendum or petition at a global level.
Neither did they condemn the brutal massacre of thirty-six Sikhs in Indian Kashmir by Pakistani-sponsored terrorist groups. Sikhs in Indian Kashmir face everyday threats and marginalization by Pak-supported terrorist groups like Jaish, Hizbul Mujahideen, and Lashkar. Jamaat-e-Islami, a radical and extremist organization that believes in Maududi’s vision of political Islam, dominates Indian Kashmiri state institutions and ensures that Sikhs are kept on the margins in academia, state administration, police, and politics. However, Khalistani leaders living in the comforts of the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada prefer to remain mute spectators to such horrors.
No Regard for Human Rights
The Khalistan movement has no respect for human rights, democracy, freedom of expression, and diversity. Operating from the hallowed precincts of human rights in the Western world, i.e., Canada, Sweden, the UK, Germany, and the United States, they use the freedom offered by liberal societies and state institutions to further their extremist agenda. However, Khalistani leaders never criticized the murder of hundreds of Hindus by Khalistani terrorists in Punjab in the 1980s. Khalistani terrorists committed some of the most horrendous massacres in India, such as shooting dead 102 train passengers in Ludhiyana (1991) in two different attacks, killing thirty-four train passengers in the RDX explosion in Bhatinda (1997) and twenty-seven employees of the Ropar-based Swaraj Tractor Company (1991). They abducted, molested, raped, and forcefully married thousands of young girls in Punjab, which led to the loss of local support and massive resentment against them.
Further, they prefer to raise human rights concerns in a very selective manner, i.e., only in the matters where it suits their political agenda. For example, they did not speak a word when ISI operatives murdered the Baloch activist Karima Baloch in Sweden. Likewise, they are also silent spectators when Kurds are murdered by Turkish forces; Uighurs and Tibetans are persecuted by China; Hindus, Christians, Shias, Sikhs, Pashtuns, and Qadiyani Muslims are killed by religious fanatics in Pakistan under the state’s protective arm; and when locals in Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan are displaced and murdered by Chinese and Pak armies. Interestingly, Khalistanis went a step ahead and also supported China in the recent India-China stand-off.
Khalistani leaders have refrained from speaking a word against the ISI’s drug trafficking in Punjab, a grave human rights violation as it has ruined Punjab’s youth. Moreover, the consumption of drugs is also the highest order of sin in Sikhism. In June 2019 alone, the customs department seized 532 kg of heroin worth 2,700 crores, or 27 billion rupees, which was being smuggled from Punjab via the Attari border. In 2018, with 11,654 cases (19 percent of the total cases registered in the country), Punjab recorded the second-highest cases registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. The other cases of selective application of human rights concerns have already been discussed earlier in this essay.
Imitating Jihadi Terrorist Groups
It all began with the ISI’s help with money and weapons in the Khalistan’s militancy of the 1980s. Notorious Khalistan terrorists like Gurjit Singh Cheema, Ranjit Singh, Wadhwa Singh, Harmeet Singh, Lakhbir Singh Rode, and Gopal Singh Chawla are staying in Pakistan under the ISI’s protection. Gopal Singh Chawla has often been seen with Hafiz Saed, the global UN-designated terrorist and the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai bombings, which claimed the lives of 166 people.
The modus-operandi of Khalistan terrorists is also quite similar to Jihadist groups. When journalist Shujaat Bukhari spoke against militancy in Kashmir, Pakistani-supported terror groups killed him in 2018. Likewise, Khalistanis killed the journalist Tarsem Singh Purewal in 1994 for exposing Khalistan’s terror financing modules, and in 1998 the anti-Khalistan editor of Indo-Canadian Times was assassinated. Years before JeM hijacked Indian airliner IC-814 in 1999, Khalistani terrorists exploded Indian airliner Kanishka in 1985, killing all 329 passengers and twenty-two crew members. Khalistan’s siege of the Golden Temple in 1984 has its parallels in the Islamists’ siege of Lal mosque in 2007 in Pakistan.
Italian journalist Francesca Marino found that Khalistanis were using Pakistani jihadist networks for money transfers. More evidence of their links with the ISI comes from the support expressed by Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ameer Siraj ul Haq, who expressed his support for a “free Kashmir and free Khalistan.” It may be recalled that Jamaat-e-Islami is a furnace of jihadi terrorist groups like Hizbul Mujahideen in Jammu and Kashmir. More recently, the SFJ has merged Kashmir and Khalistan’s campaigns as “Kashmir2Khalistan.” In the SFJ’s events, ISI-lobbyists like British Lord Nazir Ahmad and Pakistani embassy officials in Canada are frequently seen expressing support for their cause.
Borrowing from the Islamist Charities
The Khalistan movement has also borrowed tremendously in its modus operandi from the Islamist charities. Like Turkey and Pakistan projecting the Kashmir jihadist insurgency as a civil rights and a secular separatist movement, Khalistan leaders, through the SFJ, are also projecting themselves as a civil rights movement with liberal values fighting for the right to Sikh self-determination. The SFJ claims to be a civil rights movement and human rights advocacy group on the lines of Islamist groups like the Muslim American Society, the Kashmir American Council, and the Islamic Circle of North America, which maintain covert ties with Transnational Terrorist Groups like Al Qaeda, Hamas, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Hizbul Mujahideen.
However, when it comes to the SFJ, the linkages are murkier. The intelligence sources reveal that Lt. Colonel Shahid Mehmood Malhi, better known as “Chaudhary Sahib” in the Pakistani military, is the brain behind Referendum 2020. Indian security services have recovered documents about Referendum 2020 from his computer. Moreover, the SFJ has also built robust ties with Erdogan’s jihadist regime having deep-rooted ties with ISIS and jihadist elements in Syria and Libya.
Recently, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), India’s premier counter-terrorism agency, summoned a functionary of Khalsa Aid, the charity organization which has been helping the ongoing farmers’ protests in India, investigating his links with the banned SFJ. In its recent investigation, the NIA found irrefutable evidence suggesting that a large number of funds are collected by Khalistan coordinators in the Western world and routed to India through NGOs to create disruption and disturbances. Earlier, in 2012, the NIA unearthed the KhalsaAid’s links with a banned Khalistan terrorist organization, Babbar Khalsa International (BKI). Other Khalistan charities like Sikh Organisation for Prisoner Welfare, Akhand Kirtanee Jattha also received funding from the UK and Pakistan-based BKI operatives to orchestrate terror attacks in India.