Sikhs don’t want to separate from India; what they want is basic respect and acceptance. In this book, I have written about how Sikhs are politically betrayed in India. Some Sikh leaders had a lot of political ambitions, but they were not fit for the party’s political agenda, while some sections of Sikhs wanted to push the agenda of Khalistan, but that could never happen. Some issues are here to stay and will not be solved or resolved, like separate Tamil Nadu, Hindu Rashtra, and Kashmir. These issues are political gasses; they are used to burn political agendas only during elections. With mature voters, such issues have also lost their relevance. Go to Punjab and ask the average Punjabi or Sikh if they really crave Khalistan. Likewise, ask an average Hindu voter about Hindu Rashtra; they don’t even know what Hindu Rashtra is all about. The Indian middle class has routine challenges, and their lives go on dealing with them.
Those minute and rather insignificant numbers of people raising slogans can’t be construed as speaking for the whole community. 1984 was indeed a dark year for Sikhs as well as India. It shouldn’t be forgotten, but one must make sure that there is no repeat of such incidents. In recent times, the idea of Khalistan has been fuelled by some sections of NRI Sikhs, who fled from the country a long time ago, and Pakistani ISI agents who want to disrupt peace and harmony in India. Sikhs demand basic respect from other communities. Sikhs have made selfless sacrifices to shield others from cruelty, torture, and death in the past and even in the present. Their charitable work is enormous; they are known for helping people in India irrespective of caste, religion, or creed. They feel hurt when you make jokes about them and treat them as entertainment entities. They don’t want to be labeled as Khalistanis or extremists. A small vocal section sharing hashtags on social media, raising loud slogans, or wielding kirpans is not representative of the entire Sikh community.
Since 1984, that young generation has grown up, and many old people have departed. Then the younger generations of Sikhs are now entrepreneurs, government employees, farmers, and army cadres. The overall mistrust of the Indian state has been restored to utmost confidence in them. The injustice to the community that still irks and spills out on social media is because of the Indian policy of going into skirmishes against its own people in the name of teaching them a lesson, murdering a bunch of them, and denying justice to them repeatedly. In the case of all other minorities, the riots are well-propagated plans to demoralize and break the minorities.
With time, the memories of this massacre may fade, but it will rank in Sikh history with the likes of the one orchestrated by Ahmad Shah Abdali, who also attacked the Golden Temple and massacred a large number of Sikhs. Punjab is a landlocked state with two nuclear powers on both sides and the destabilized region of Kashmir to the north. There is no chance of being able to do trade without aligning with either Pakistan or India. Punjab has no power sources or mineral resources of its own. The state’s major assets are its rivers and fertile lands, and the drivers are locked by the dams, and water is distributed around. Most Sikhs don’t bother with the idea of Khalistan, but they are bothered by the idea of sharing their water and resources.
The Congress Party was solely accused of the 1984 Sikh riots; there were many Congress leaders who were found participating in passing the orders. But to my surprise, ever since 1984, Punjab has been electing the Congress Party time and again, which means the 1984 allegations against Congress hold no ground. Most of the Chief Ministers of Punjab, where Sikhs live, are Congress loyalists, and most of the Sikh voters are also Sikhs. Why is anger against Congress translated into votes? Why are Sikh politicians supporting Congress? Punjab has endured the dark decade of 1980. The violence took a toll on both the Hindu and Sikh communities. That is the reason the vast majority of Sikhs in Punjab do not want a separate homeland or that war-like situation. The occasional shrill voices for Khalistan separation come from those NRIs in Canada or the UK who have nothing to lose in India. They faced no brunt during 1980 and have nothing to lose if those dark days return to Punjab.
Maybe some misguided youth who were born in the 1990s and who don’t know what it was to live and grow up in Punjab in the 1980s The movement in the 1980s failed because Sikhs never identified themselves with the movement for a separate homeland. Mind you, even after Operation Bluestar, many Sikh generals in the Indian Army only resigned in protest; imagine what would have happened had they revolted. Their protest was against the Indian states and authorities, but not the Indian Nation.