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Khalistan Movement

Tensions between India and Canada have escalated in recent times, primarily linked to the Sikh independence movement and concerns surrounding Khalistan supporters. This longstanding issue has historical roots dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, primarily centered in the state of Punjab, where a majority of the population practices Sikhism.

This topic of “Khalistan Movement” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Background

  • Sikh Independence Movement: During the 1970s and 1980s, Punjab witnessed a Sikh independence movement, advocating for a separate Sikh state called Khalistan.
  • Duration: This movement persisted for over a decade, leading to significant unrest.
  • Suppression by Indian Government: The Indian government took strong measures to suppress the movement, resulting in thousands of deaths, including the notable killing of Sikh militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

Key Events

  • 1984 Golden Temple Operation: In 1984, Indian security forces stormed the Golden Temple in Amritsar to remove separatists, resulting in significant damage to the holy Sikh shrine.
  • Indira Gandhi’s Assassination: Following the storming of the Golden Temple, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards. This event triggered anti-Sikh riots across India.

Current Status in Punjab

  • Some Khalistan Supporters Remain: While there is no active insurgency today, some Khalistan movement supporters still exist in Punjab.
  • Indian Government’s Actions: The Indian government has issued warnings of a potential resurgence of Khalistani terrorists and has made arrests of individuals linked to the movement. Additionally, the farmers’ protests in 2020 initially saw claims of Khalistan linkage, though these protests were primarily focused on agricultural laws, which were later retracted.

Recent Events

  • Arrest of Sikh Leader Amritpal Singh: The arrest of Amritpal Singh, a 30-year-old preacher known for fiery speeches and calls for Khalistan, drew national attention.

Khalistan Movement Outside India

  • Indian Requests to Other Countries: India has called upon other countries like Australia, Canada, and the UK to take action against Khalistani terrorists.
  • Protests Outside India: Protests outside India have sometimes taken a confrontational turn, including incidents like the removal of the Indian flag at the high commission in London.
  • Indian Response: In response to these incidents, India’s foreign ministry denounced them, summoned diplomatic representatives, and protested against security breaches at its embassies.
  • Accusations Against Khalistan Supporters in Canada: In Canada, which has a significant Sikh population (nearly 2% of the total), there have been accusations of Khalistan supporters being involved in acts such as vandalizing Hindu temples with “anti-India” graffiti and attacking the Indian High Commission offices in Ottawa during a March protest.

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