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Pakistan and the Khalistan Agenda

Religion, otherwise the repertoire of time-honoured human values, can also denigrate in diverse manifestations as the opium is not only of the masses but of nation states pursuing nefarious agendas. That nearly four decades back, Pakistan’s then dictator-President Gen. Zia-ul Haq had enunciated his sinister “K2” strategy of “bleeding India by a thousand cuts”, employing a perverse interpretation of religion is well known.

Creating religio-political unrest backed by terror-driven violence in India’s border states of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab was formally conceived as Pakistan’s evil strategy to create problems for India. That this devious planning did meet with a modicum of success for some years cannot be denied. Equally, that the patriotic people of Punjab and the violence-weary population of J&K did not succumb to these Pakistani wiles is also worthy of mention.

Terrorism doesn’t flourish independently, but requires, besides a sinister eye-catching mission, myriad forms of support, including ample funding, training, political and logistical support, etc.

Pakistan’s “Deep State” -- the unholy trinity of the Pakistan Army, its intelligence agencies and the many terror “tanzeems” it nurtures -- has perfected the art of exporting terror. It is not surprising that for decades Pakistan has been dubbed the epicentre of global terrorism.

Regrettably, despite Pakistan currently on the verge of total economic collapse and starvation, with its forex reserves down to a mere 10 days of survival, continues to carry on with its nefarious agenda of re-energising its old “Khalistan” mischief in some Western nations and, importantly, in India’s strategic border state of Punjab.

In a recent news agency interview, Lt. Gen. KS Brar, who had led the Army action in June 1984 during Operation Bluestar to oust terrorists holed up in the Golden Temple -- the sacred shrine of Sikhs, has said “there is a resurgence of the ‘Khalistani’ movement in Punjab, and that Pakistan is assisting them. London, Canada, America and Pakistan want a resurgence”. He added: “It is horrible. I go to the UK, I go to Southall and I see Damdami Taksal leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s picture everywhere.” Gen. Brar is on the hit list of certain terrorists and he has survived a terror attack in London to assassinate him. His warnings about the “Khalistani” movement’s resurgence need to be factored in seriously by the Indian security establishment.

The overall political situation currently in Punjab needs to be carefully monitored. Some analysts feel the Aam Aadmi Party government now in power in Punjab is not sufficiently firm in its dealings with extremists in the state, as reportedly the AAP obtained their votes in the 2022 polls. After the Akali Dal severed its traditional ties with pro-Hindu ally BJP, some tensions between the pro-Hindu groups in Punjab and right-wing Sikhs in the Akali Dal are bound to occur. However, what is causing concern now is the emergence of a young fiery extremist leader in Punjab, Amritpal Singh, who derives his inspiration from Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. He has been touring Punjab and dressed like his late mentor, been spewing the “Khalistani” agenda. Amritpal has repeatedly said the “Khalistan” movement cannot be stopped. The other day he and his supporters stormed the Ajnala police station in the Amritsar area and managed to pressure the state government to free his imprisoned aide. It is high time the Centre takes cognisance of such anti-national activities and takes exemplary action against all those preaching secession.

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and its “Khalistani” cohorts, for the last three years particularly, have changed their tactics. To exacerbate the religious divide among Hindus and Sikhs, some extremist elements have taken to defacing Hindu temples in the UK, Canada and Australia, which naturally has led to anguish and anger among Hindus at home and abroad. In the last one month, two Hindu temples in Canada and four in Australia have been vandalised and defaced with anti-Hindu and anti-India slogans. The government has taken up this issue strongly with the Australian and Canadian governments and their local authorities. But a few Sikh extremists have gone on a rampage at some places and there is palpable tension among the two Indian communities, who have otherwise lived in peace with each other for decades.

As the local authorities overseas take action to prevent such incidents, it is advisable that the Indian government send Sikh-led multi-community delegations to go around and address the vast Indian diaspora in some of the affected nations. Respected community leaders should educate the locals, born and settled abroad, about the multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic values of the country of their origin, where intolerance towards any faith is sacrilege and never appreciated.

The nation must take concrete steps to ensure Punjab does not again experience the turmoil and pain it saw in the 1980s. To ensure that Punjab and its valiant, patriotic and industrious people grow towards their glorious destiny, a holistic approach by the Centre and the state government should be adopted, with all political parties giving unstinted support. Secularism as the watchword for strengthening India’s inter-societal harmony should be further given a fillip. The intelligence and security agencies must maintain a tight vigil on the overall situation in Punjab and abroad.

India’s detractors will recall how the loyal and nationalistic Sikhs had determinedly thwarted the machinations engineered from overseas in the 1980s and peace and joy had returned to India’s granary, truly the crown jewel of the nation. Pakistan and its secessionist protégés must know that they will have to pay a heavy price if they ever cross the “red lines” which India has firmly drawn.

*Originally published in The Asian Age.

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