Sikhs – The Ultimate Losers of the Khalistan Madness

Confronting And Overcoming Divisive Elements Within The Sikh Community

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The Khalistan movement, tracing its origins to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale[1], emerged as a political movement in the 1970s, demanding the formation of a sovereign Sikh state, Khalistan, within the state of Punjab. From the very beginning, the movement was marked by violence against India’s political institutions and leaders[2]. Violence peaked in the early1980s, forcing a military operation[3] to eliminate Bhindranwale and his armed followers from their hideout in the Golden Temple, a sacred site for the Sikhs. The cycle of violence culminated in the 1984 assassination[4] of India’s Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, by her Sikh bodyguards, and subsequent anti-Sikh riots[5] believed to have been instigated by Indira Gandhi’s son and successor, Rajiv Gandhi, and his political cronies.

Extremist elements of the Khalistan movement have used a range of violent methods, including assassinations, airplane hijackings and bombing[6], and targeted attacks[7] on civilians, to push for their demands. The movement is known to be funded and militarily supported[8] by India’s arch-enemy, Pakistan.

Several Khalistani organizations like Babbar Khalsa International and the International Sikh Youth Federation have been designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department[9]. Instances of vandalism carried out by pro-Khalistan activists against Hindu temples and Indian government buildings worldwide further underscore the terrorist underpinnings of this movement.

The Khalistan movement has built a large international network as evidenced by protests organized by pro-Khalistan organizations outside the Indian High Commission in London[10] in 2019, among many others. In recent times, the movement has developed technology capabilities[11] to intensify their harassment of Indian assets abroad.

Vast majority of Sikhs reject Khalistan ideology

It is important to recognize that only a small fraction of the Sikh community supports the Khalistan movement. Most Sikhs, both in India and abroad, do not want anything to do with it or its objectives. Indeed, a 2019-20 survey report by Pew Research Center[12] indicated that 95% of the Sikh respondents expressed pride in being Indian, and 70% of them believe that disrespecting India disqualifies one from being considered a Sikh.

Why Sikhs are the ultimate losers

The Khalistan movement has negatively impacted the Sikh community in various ways. For instance, the recent emergence of Amritpal Singh[13], a Sikh preacher linked to an extremist group, imitating Bhindranwale’s style of violence against public institutions,[14]  will only serve to further alienate Sikhs from the mainstream society.

The socio-economic impact on Punjab, where a majority of Sikhs reside, is also a significant concern. Once a leading state of India, Punjab has seen a sharp decline in its small and medium-scale industries due to militancy, pushing the state to a middling 16th position in India’s GDP ranking[15]. This precipitous reduction in Punjab’s economic activity has a major negative impact on the economic well-being of the Sikh community.

Political incompetence and apathy further exacerbate the problem. Traditional political parties as well as the emerging ones, have shown little imagination and initiative in addressing Punjab’s economic challenges, compounding the socio-economic problems facing Sikhs.

Since Punjab is home to more than two-thirds of the 26 million global Sikh population, the state’s problems are inextricably linked to the Sikh community’s well-being. Therefore, the continued festering of the Khalistan movement, combined with the political inertia and socio-economic decline, threatens the future of the Sikh community at large.

The Road Ahead

Unfortunately, the shenanigans of a small number of hotheads continue to distort the reputation of the entire Sikh community, both at home and abroad. It is crucial for moderate Sikhs, those who have little to gain from the Khalistan movement, to take proactive steps.

They must voice their views on the world stage, presenting a more accurate and comprehensive representation of the Sikh community. By publicly disassociating themselves from the Khalistan movement and reasserting their Indian credentials, they can dispel misconceptions and highlight the broad consensus within the Sikh community. Public disapproval of extremism can help isolate the rogue elements within the community and underscore their position as a fringe element of the community as a whole.

Additionally, the formation of anti-Khalistan groups could counterbalance the influence of pro-Khalistan entities. These groups could actively advocate for the rights and interests of Sikhs within the framework of a unified India, thereby offering an alternative to the separatist narrative.

Hindus and Sikhs, as intrinsic parts of the rich tapestry that forms India, are deeply interwoven through shared history, spirituality, neighborhoods, and familial bonds. It is crucial not to let the divisive agenda of a terrorist group, manipulated by external forces, fracture this harmonious coexistence.


[1] Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale – the man who dishonoured the Sikh Faith

[2] Harbans Lal Khanna – Wikipedia

[3] What happened during 1984 Operation Blue Star?

[4] Assassination of Indira Gandhi

[5] 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots

[6] Air India Flight 182

[7] Insurgency in Punjab, India

[8] From Drug Money to Khalistan, an overseas ISI project

[9] Executive Order 13224

[10] Spurned Sikh Separatists Rebuild in the West

[11] Pro-Khalistan supporters use bots to amplify violence

[12] Sikhs proud of Indian identity, says study

[13] Amritpal arrest: Waris Punjab de chief Amritpal arrested

[14] Radical preacher Amritpal Singh’s supporters storm Ajnala police station in Amritsar

[15] Ubalta Punjab: How top state fell to 16, rising to broken & why Punjabis are forever furious

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