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As Justin Trudeau visits India, Sikh groups in Canada are demanding a separate nation

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Sikh groups in Canada, the US and UK openly support a separate Sikh nation, and Indian security agencies believe they are trying to revive militancy in Punjab.

Chandigarh: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on his first visit to India this weekend, is expected to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on 21 February. The Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which manages this holiest of Sikh shrines, is all set to lay the red carpet for him, for in Sikhism, the house of the Guru is open to all.

But the irony of his visit to the Golden Temple will hardly be lost on anyone, least of all on the Indian government and consular officials accompanying Trudeau, considering that last month they were banned from entering gurudwaras in Canada. Some local gurudwara committees decided they needed to “protect” their followers from the “interference” of Indian government officials.

The ban was infectious. A fortnight later, a host of gurudwara bodies echoed the ban in the US, and now the Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) is trying its best to invoke a similar embargo in Britain and Europe.

On 16 February, a gurdwara reportedly dedicated to the ‘martyrdom’ of Sikh militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was opened to the public at his ancestral village in Moga district.

Propping up a dead cause

What the immediate trigger for this mass ban was is not clear, but it is obvious that a section of the Sikh diaspora is at war with the Indian nation. They openly support the creation of a separate Sikh nation – Khalistan – and are wary of Indian security agencies. These, in turn, believe the diaspora is trying to destabilise Punjab, fanning emotions and propping up a dead cause in a bid to revive militancy in the state.

In the past decade, there have been several attempts to subvert peace in the state, and investigative agencies have found direct links to former Sikh militants living abroad, who find it easy to recruit sympathisers from the local community to carry out their operations on the ground.

The Khalistani movement abroad has, however, seen a recent surge with the vote-rich and vocal Sikh community becoming politically significant. Sikh news channels, websites and social media ventures being run by sympathisers of the Khalistani cause have fuelled the fire.

In April last year, Trudeau addressed a parade for ‘Khalsa Day’ in Toronto, an occasion where Sikh militants were glorified by the organisers. The move invited an immediate disapproval from the Indian side.

“Espousing the Sikh cause is a big money spinner in these countries. It is an issue which tugs at the heart strings and also purse strings of Sikhs settled there,” said a top intelligence officer in Punjab.

“Many gurudwaras are controlled by hardliners and the income is in millions. Also most of the Sikh migration to these countries happened in the 1970s and 1980s and those who left Punjab at the peak of militancy continue to believe that the situation here is the same.”

Trudeau’s cabinet to blame?

Trudeau’s Sikh minister Amarjeet Sohi was arrested in 1988 under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (known as TADA) and remained in jail for over 21 months in India before being released for lack of evidence.

Canadian defence minister Harjit Sajjan’s parents are believed to be closely associated with the World Sikh Organisation, a Sikh advocacy group which supports the Khalistani movement.

In a statement issued later, both ministers denied that they neither “sympathise with nor espouse the Sikh nationalist movement, which is bent on creating a separate country called Khalistan in India’s Punjab region”.

Last year, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh refused to meet Sajjan when he visited Punjab in April, and has been exhorting the Canadian government to come clean on the issue of supporting Khalistanis.

“Captain Amarinder has sought a one-to-one meeting with Trudeau during his visit to Punjab to underline his concerns,” said Raveen Thukral, the CM’s media adviser.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi too is said to have taken up the matter of Khalistani movements playing out on Canadian soil with Trudeau, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meet in Davos last month.

Expanding to the UK

The SFUK, which claims to be “the first ever Sikh political party in UK”, spearheaded a viral social media campaign to save 30-year-old British Sikh national Jagtar Singh Johal alias Jaggi, arrested by the Punjab police in November.

Jaggi was arrested for allegedly furthering the cause of Sikh militants that is suspected to have led to seven murders, including those of Hindu Right-wing leaders in Punjab in the past two years. According to the police, he was a crucial link between Sikh militants living in Britain, Germany, Canada and Pakistan, and their men in Punjab.

Created in 2003, the SFUK is suspected to be the successor to the separatist outfit Indian Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) created in 1984. It was proscribed as a terrorist organisation in 2001 by London. In March 2016, Britain lifted the ban on ISYF following intense pressure from the SFUK. Sikh MPs Preet Gill and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, who were supported by the federation during their elections in June, were among the first to ask the British High Commission to intervene in the Jaggi issue. New Delhi has recently asked London to consider banning SFUK.

The situation in the US

Last week, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a rights group based in the US, “invited” gangsters operating in Punjab to fight for the Sikh cause. The SFJ’s legal adviser Gurpatwant Singh Pannun put out a video message, saying gangsters should not waste their lives. “Instead, work for the Khalsa panth and your name will be written in golden letters and remembered for centuries,” he said.

The SFJ is known for litigating and protesting against Indian political leaders while they are visiting the US, including Sonia Gandhi, Dr Manmohan Singh, and Parkash Singh Badal. The SFJ website is blocked in the Indian subcontinent. Pannun faces a sedition case in Punjab for launching ‘Referendum 2020’ to generate consensus in favour of Khalistan, and move the case to the United Nations.

The SFJ recently even claimed credit for forcing Amarinder to cancel his trip to Harvard University, following its announcement that it would protest against him.

No one contests these groups

Ajay Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi, said the reason that these groups continued with their propaganda and mobilisation was because no one was contesting their ideology.

“We do not expose them. We allow them to incite and spread falsehoods, and intervene only when it takes the shape of a physical criminal activity,” Sahni said.

“A sustained information campaign of perception management generated from a relatively safer environment like India needs to begin. The moderate Sikhs abroad who counter them are silenced through violence or intimidation.”

This article was originally published on 7 February. 

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  1. LIKE Indians, Indian govt is to lazy any passive. They wait for the last moment.
    When Kashmiri pandits were being killed and expelled from Kashmir, govt did not take any action. I am a punjabi and let me warn you this khalistan militancy is being revived. Again there will be bloodshed.
    Best way to curb is to change the demographic. The way china did in Tibet.
    Any separatist movement must be considered as war against the nation. Should be tackled sternly.
    Jagtar singh hawara and Rajsonaa must be hanged to exemplify the writ of the government.
    This cowardly passiveness has been the reason of the several defeats at the hands of mughal to british.

    • You hang the Jagtar singh hawara and Rajsona, and see riots break out first in Punjab where majority who will die will be Hindus and then in Delhi and other parts of India where Sikhs will be the victims.
      This cowardly passive Ness is in the genes of Hindus who have always been ruled by others, First Mughals then Afghans then Sikhs ruled a significant landmass where they were only 5% of the total population and then by British. Slavery and cowardness is now in your genes, you can’t even control Pakistan which is just 1/4th of the size of India. Hindus just bark – 1 sir ke badle 10 pakistani sir lainge, agar ik terrorist attack aur hua to Jang shuru kar denge but nothing happens because you lack what it takes to start a war.

      • Ohho so india was ruled by sikhs ?? It seems you never read history..sikh rules punjab and the pakistani punjab thats it..majority of india at that time was ruled by marathas who were hindus..go and read history..

  2. Sikhs worldwide are chanting for Khalistan and therefore was right to exclude them the Sikhs that want Khalistan should remember if they want Khalistan then all Sikhs in all other states enjoying the hospitality of Markathi Bengali Tamils Kerala etc will no longer enjoy that hospitality those Sikhs will have to wrap up their business sell their homes that they have occupied for generation and go to Khalistan you cannot have a seperate nation where no one but Khalsa are allowed and expect all other states will allow you to reside there without reciprocity if a Marathi Bengali Tamil Telugu cannot live in Khalistan why should they allow Sikhs to live in their states

  3. Hindus are jealous because Trudeau did not attend worship of one of their pipal tree gods.

  4. Is there a valid reason to ask for separation from the country. I think this will just make another terrorist nation like pakistan.

  5. To all the mentally challenged Sikh people commenting above, INDIA is the world’s 4th most powerful military and RSS is the biggest paramilitary force on the planet. We will do another 1984, but five times as worse, if you try to divide India again.
    Carve out Khalistan out of Canada if you want you tribal cavemen..

    • Paaji, you can’t fool people by disguising yourself as a Hindu and Indian. We Hindus are timid people and abhor violence. RSS is a private army commanded by Thakurs and their equivalent in South. They are paid and do what is instructed by their masters. Thakurs is a ruling dynasty but slowly disappearing in India

  6. The articles misses the root causes and how they have been addressed (not addressed). The revered cobbler saint Ravidass (of Varanasi) whose lot of writings are enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib thought of a place/region/nation and named it be-ghampura (a land which has no ‘gham’ – sorrows or grief). Khalsa means pure or without any adulteration. Every one (Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims or person belonging to any other faith or an atheist) deserves a ruler (a representative in democratic set up) who is pure, justice and peace loving, looks after his country folks well. Can’t we make India the be-ghampura ? A division on the basis of religion brings back the memories of 1947 (as narrated by people who went through it).

  7. 1. How quickly we’ve forgotten that a Sikh led India in its most promising 10 years? Show some respect to Manmohan Singh, both sides. Behave.

    2. I ve realised left to them, Men will start wars on just about any division. Don’t leave everything to men, they are addicted to war.

    3. Why does the Gujarati diaspora never demand a separate Gujjuland? Imagine an India where people can once again behave normal, and eat meet and be diverse! But then I think of how Gujju extreme lunacy in food habits is also a part of diversity and deserves its own corner. Then I realise that the India till 2014 already had these corners carved out within one happy nation till they tried to impose uniformity on whole of India. So no need for Gujju diaspora for a separate nation. We love khakra, but we love butter chicken and hilsa too. Then I finally tell myself – don’t go paranoid about the thought of Khalistan. Stay calm and civil when listening to why the Sikh diaspora feels this way. Violence as a solution was explored and expectedly yielded nothing, and Sikhs are not stupid to start a blood war again. Also, Punjab is as proudly Indian as any other part. So stop jumping on vibes of insecurity and making a mess of the situation. For God sake, don’t start a fight like jobless men.

    • but we cant close our eyes..need to pe proactive ..we did in late 1970s..and punjab insuregnecy and in early 1980s and kashmir ..still boiling…believe ..these people are testing the nerve..RAW has strong arms..and we did in 1980s even trace and kill them inside pak ..we dont want to repeat such events in canada , US or europe ..we dont want to follow mossad way ..but if forced ..we have the capabilities and we will execute ..

      • Lol!!!!! RAW!!!!!!!!!! These guys are cunning and corrupt. If they are sent abroad to Europe/America/Australia on a mission, their first priority would be to get permanent residency there and take their kith and kin to settle in that country. To get a foreign mission, they have to shell out money in lakhs as bribes. Their first priority abroad would be to recover the money spent.

        • My RAW is useless outfit which performs poorly against enemy Pakistan, but RAW is fantastic against Indians.

      • Raw is a joke. They can’t even control Hafiz Saeed who is roaming around Pakistan streets. Syed Sallauddin, Dawood Ibrahim, Massod Azhar issue threats everyday but RAW can’t even get hold of them. They sent one Khulbhushan jhadav and he was cought. What a joke this stupid agency is.

  8. As per CSIS/RCMP Indian government spending lot of money through various means to give sikhs bad name and this poor journalism might have some connection with evil doing of Indian agencies.
    Standing for your rights, is not terrorism according to UN, western democracies and Indian democracy as well so why sikhs always become a soft target for that?
    We have witnessed genocides, attack on our place of worships many times, rape of our women folk by Indian paramilitary, so what else we should wait for to demand our own homeland??

    • live and let live us peacefully….history teaches that only united india survive..why u did not demand separate land inside pakistan from zinnah..when million killed and lakhs raped and kidnapped…try it ..

  9. I feel Sikhs can have their own country. I am being a Hindu don’t understand why other Indians have problem with Sikhs having their own country. It’s hypocrisy from Indian side when they fear Khalistan after all Sikhs protected India. Why to fear the country led by such people?

    We Hindus should support Khalistan and we shouldn’t give a chance to foreign agencies to interfere in our Sikh-Hindu Brotherhood. If USA and Canada can be good neighbors, so can we.

    • Then Kashmiris will want a seperate state, Southern states will again begin their demand for seperate state, NorthEast will want seperate state… this will lead to nowhere, any kind of armed rebellion what the Bhindrawale and other sikh militants did accounts for sedition…Constitution will never approve this.

      • There was no united “India” before 1947, nor any Constitution. Why you scared to have disunited India now?

  10. The use of Sikh diaspora is inappropriate, it is only the small fringe Khalistani elements involved in anti-India stance. These elements find support within the liberal party political system. Most Sikhs are hard working Canadians and do not support Khalistan. Unfortunately, the fringe Khalistani elements are exploiting the Gurudwaras by using their financial resources and spreading their extremist ideology. This is despite the Kanishka Air India tragedy, the first terrorist act that originated from the Canadian soil involving Sikhs.
    Let Canadians be Canadians free of such fringe extremist elements so that we can focus on our nation.

  11. The article by author Chitleen is quite analytical though bias-Human right abuses in India have not been referred at all. I wish the author to rewrite a balanced view as it is well written in lucid flow. Good luck!!!

  12. Canadain Sikhs are terrorist and Khalistani but what about killers of innocent people on the base of cast, Gau mata and frauds cheating with all Indians wow they are satyavadi, desh premi.

  13. This article an example of poor journalism with prejudices and biased opinion against the Sikhs. The facts have been distorted deliberately to malign a particular community and create a wedge between Sikhs in Canada and India. Here are list of false propaganda in this article:
    1) Canadian Minister Amarjeet Sohi was arrested falsely in India in 1988 when he had gone there to support poor farmers advocating land reform in Bihar, one of India’s poorest states and dominated by large landowners. Indian authorities falsely imprisoned him under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (known as TADA).
    2) Canadian defence minister Harjit Sajjan’s father is the president of World Sikh Organisation, a Sikh advocacy group which has voiced concerns over human rights violations in India, fake encounters of Sikh youths, and continuing imprisonment of Sikh activists even after their terms are completed. This does not make WSO a Khalistani organization.
    3) Amarinder Singh was thrown out of Gurdwaras in Canada when he went there to get their support for elections in Punjab in 2017. Note that Amarinder Singh is member of Congress Party which was responsible for 1984 Genocide of Sikhs.
    4) Sikh Foundation UK initiated the ban on Indian officials interfering in Sikh Gurdwara affairs in UK after false charges were put against Jagtar Jaggi who had gone to Punjab to get married. His only fault was that he managed a web site that highlighted human rights violations in Punjab and genocide of Sikhs in India in 1984.
    5) Sikhs for Justice is leading crusade against the perpetrators of human rights violation against Sikhs and genocide of 1984. They have successfully blocked entry of several Congress leaders and guilty police officers to USA.
    6) This article quotes Ajay Sahni of an unknown Institute for Conflict Management, who claims, ” .. We allow them to incite and spread falsehoods” In fact, it is the author of this article who is guilty of spreading falsehood and creating hatred and division between the Sikhs abroad and India. The question is, why?

    • so when after 9/11 ..shikh were attacked in various parts ..u were silent ..when complete population forced to leave pak and 1947 u are silent ….its ur regiment who kills 200,000 lakh in hyderbad amalgation …ur allies enter in gilgit and did havoc to yusufjai women and sell in heermandi of lahore ..which is root cause of muslim in kashmir hates hindu …even insurgency starts when ISI sponsored babbar kahlasha starts attacking hindu in punjab get seprate homeland ..just like pakistan achieved by removing sikh and hindu from west punjab ..hey ur pashtton brothers when attacked POK ..u know what they did with sikh women and men ….still u fovurs them…juts after normaly arrived..tell me any such events by indian authority …in any counter insurregcny human rights are violated …balochistan , KPK , JAFNA , BOSNIA , CHCHENYA , MANLO IN PHILLIPINES AND LIST CONTINUES did kashmir pandit in 1989-90..but they did not make and terror organistaion …

  14. When britishers ruled India and Indians asked for freedom, they were called as patriots. When Sikhs ask thr same from India, and that too in a democratic and peaceful way they are always called militants and terrorists. Why cant the author look at both sides of the coin instead of repeating the same old propaganda from Indian Govt.

    • Dear Sir, when we sought freedom from the Britishers, we sought it as a nation under foreign rule.
      Asking for a separate nation as Sikhs or under any other cultural/regional/religious identity is a different case. On this basis, India being a nation of diverse identities, there could be a similar demand of many other small statehoods. Would it be good for India as a nation?

      • Mr Kailash,

        “Would it be good for India as a nation?”

        That’s a wrong Question. it might not be good to have different countries in this world. I might like unite whole Asia at my gun point. The point here is that Britisher annexed Sikh Kingdom, and technically that should have been handed over back to Sikhs.

        India was nourished by Britishers and unity was enforced with gun point and handed over to the people who are skeptical and insecure to see others sovereignty.

        For the sake of Self Determination and Sovereignty, Khalistan is all valid. What kind of good you when you kill 1000 of people who wants to gain their freedom. Or do you seek good of just one majority community of India. Democracy is big failure in case of India where pride and glory are roots of one community and meek or insecurity of others.

        • F*ck off .. The sikhs like bhindra wala are pakistan’s ISI created terrorists. Pakistan wanted revenge for 1971 war from India in which Bangladesh was formed. Do you even know how many innocent hindus and sikhs this terrorist bhindra wala had killed prior to 1984 ? I don’t think you know. Check this then You and sikhs just like you are ignorant fools and turning into jihadi muslims day by day. Your so called saint played into the hands of Pakistanis. He is the reason operation bluestar happened, what kind of coward hides in a holy place with machine guns placed all over the place. Indian army soliders first entered without any guns into the guruwara but they were butchered ehe nihate te waar krn vaale kaayr sikh ta ni ho skde saale pakistan de dalle. Thode vargeya nu ta MS bitta vrge hi sidda rkhde ne.

          • You cowards Brahmins needs Sikhs to control Sikhs because you lack the courage and cowardness has got into your genes. First you Hindus were ruled by Mughals for 7 centuries, then Sikhs ruled a significant land mass and then British rule, you have always been slaves.

        • Khalsa paaji,

          Since setting up Khalistan in India seems to be going nowhere, how about setting up one in Canada?

        • yes why u did not ask peacefully such soverignity from mughals and other like jinnah or within US and canada ..a separate district or state or gali ..try it ..

          • Why did you not prevent Jinnah from dividing India to create Pakistan? Why you dismembered India in 1947?

  15. The name of Country is India. hindi name is Bharat. Then what is Hindustan. Why every officer says “jai Hind”. If speaking Hindustan is matter of proud and not illegal then mere mentioning of Khalistan spooks india. Only reason is that India knows that it had done bad with Sikhs and Punjabi….

    • Yes bro,

      Hindus don’t mind Hindustan, why do they mind Khalistan? I completely failed to understand a basic fact. It seems we are some auxiliary unit for their bigger agenda of power.

      They feel good about Sikh rule during Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, why do they fear to have another rule under Sikhs? They are scared of people who protected them!? They are just bag full of insecure energies.

  16. This article is misleading and contains disinformation. No one is safe in any setup that continues to condone gross human rights violations conducted with impunity against what is supposed to their own citizens. Is the constitution of the world’s so-called largest democracy at war with the Sikh nation?

  17. This article is purely biased – it fails to mention the reason as to why the diaspora feel this way and have somehow made the movement for a separate sovereign state appear to be connected with militancy. Sikhs are pursuing democratic ways, times still have no changed, where is the fulfillment of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, where is the justice for 1984-1998 genocide – Jagdish Tytler’s leaked videos have been release, has he been arrested? They legalised rape of Sikh women under operation shudikaran. These are just some of the reasons why they will never associate themselves with the Indian state. Keep in mind the Indian state does not mean Hindus – they are our brothers and sisters just as everyone else, this is a movement against the state.

    • The state is not it’s real estate or it’s trees or rivers. The people are the state. The Government of 84 is not in Power. Most of the people involved would have died or would be awaiting death soon. Whom exactly is the hatred against? Khalistanis conveniently forget the bloodshed they proffessed and did before the buildup of 84. Selective killings of Hindus and nirankaris. Having lost two family members to Sikh bullets, these narratives sound bullshit to me.

      • If Khalistanis killed (a small number) selected Brahmins or Nirankaris, it does not mean Indian government should organise massacre of thousands of innocent Sikhs, does it? Indian government of today should make public the role of the government of 1984 and Congress party and all others involved, and the present Indian government should apologise to Sikhs for what was done, but it will not happen because India is just about the most corrupt country in the world. You have a PM who sat silently when thousands of innocent Muslims were massacred in Gujrat. Have you seen these kind of massacres happening in civilised countries of the world such as USA, UK, Canada, Germany, France etc?

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