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Hardeep Singh Nijjar: What’s the Khalistan motion – and the way is it linked to India-Canada tensions? | World Information

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Relations between India and Canada are at an all-time low after a Sikh chief was shot {dead} in British Columbia this summer season.

India has expelled a Canadian diplomat after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recommended Narendra Modi’s Indian government was behind the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar on 18 June.

Mr Nijjar was one of many key members of the Khalistan motion – and was within the means of organising an unofficial referendum on its proposed impartial Sikh state when he died.

Sikh requires their very own nation are largely concentrated within the diaspora – however the origins of the motion date again to the top of the British Empire.

Right here Sky Information takes a have a look at the historical past of the Khalistani motion – and the way it matches in with present tensions.

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What’s Khalistan?

Sikhs on the Indian sub-continent started calling for their very own sovereign state amid the autumn of the British Empire.

When India was partitioned alongside spiritual traces in 1947, the previous Punjab province was divided between India and the newly created Pakistan.

This noticed most Sikhs beforehand residing on the Pakistani aspect transfer throughout the border.

At this time, the inhabitants of the Indian state of Punjab is made up of 58% Sikhs and 39% Hindus.

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Varied teams helped type what turned referred to as the Khalistan motion.

The Punjabi Suba motion referred to as for the division of Punjab in accordance with the completely different languages spoken there.

However the Akali motion, initially shaped within the Nineteen Twenties to make sure Sikh management of India’s Sikh locations of worship (gurdwaras), reignited requires a Sikh homeland.

Most who help it consider it could embody a lot of the Indian Punjab – and a few of the Pakistani aspect.

Some suggest the Indian metropolis of Shimla – or the Pakistani capital of Punjab, Lahore – as potential capitals for Khalistan.

The identify comes from the Punjabi phrase Khalsa, which interprets roughly as ‘to be pure’, ‘to be free from’ or ‘to be liberated’ however can also be used usually for the group that considers Sikhism its religion.

Violence of Nineteen Eighties and 90s

As momentum constructed for a separate Sikh state, some components of the motion turned violent.

This armed insurgency was met by a extreme authorities crackdown and hundreds had been killed.

In June 1984, Operation Blue Star noticed Indian forces storm the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh shrine in Amritsar – the place separatists had taken refuge.

Sikhs carry rifles at the Golden Temple complex in May 1984. Pic: AP
Sikhs carry rifles on the Golden Temple advanced in Could 1984. Pic: AP

Indian government troops stationed at the Golden Temple in June 1984. Pic: AP
Indian authorities troops stationed on the Golden Temple in June 1984. Pic: AP

Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale – a Sikh chief, violent revolutionary and key advocate for Khalistan – was among the many tons of killed. Sikh teams argue the true variety of {dead} was within the hundreds.

Months in a while 31 October, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had ordered the raid on the temple, was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards in an act of revenge.

Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale at the Golden Temple in 1983. Pic: AP
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale on the Golden Temple in 1983. Pic: AP

Indira Gandhi in 1980. Pic: AP
Indira Gandhi in 1980. Pic: AP

This led to a collection of anti-Sikh riots throughout northern India, whereby Hindu mobs would go from home to accommodate pulling Sikhs from their houses, earlier than assaulting or killing them.

Varied different violent incidents exterior India had been linked to the Khalistan motion – together with the bombing of an Air India flight from Canada to Mumbai in 1985 that killed 329 individuals – and the tried assassination of the Indian ambassador to Romania in Bucharest in 1991.

However as extra lives had been misplaced and the Punjabi financial system took an growing hit, the insurgency largely petered out by the mid-Nineteen Nineties.

Police disperse Sikh protesters in New Delhi in 1992. Pic: AP
Police disperse Sikh protesters in New Delhi in 1992. Pic: AP

What’s Canada bought to do with it?

With the wave of immigration from India to the UK, Canada and Australia after India’s partition, the Khalistan motion has had constant help among the many Sikh diaspora.

In Canada, Sikhs make up roughly the identical proportion of the inhabitants (2%) as they do in India (1.7%).

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau outside the Golden Temple in 2018. Pic: AP
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau exterior the Golden Temple in 2018. Pic: AP

They first arrived there within the early twentieth century as members of the British Military, who stopped in British Columbia due to the fertile land.

The Indian authorities has develop into more and more involved by the prominence of the Khalistan motion overseas – calling on international locations to take authorized motion towards activists.

Except for the capturing of Mr Nijjar, varied different incidents have infected tensions just lately.

A photograph of late temple president Hardeep Singh Nijjar is seen on a banner outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Surrey, British Columbia
Pic:The Canadian Press/AP
Hardeep Singh Nijjar on a banner in British Columbia. Pic: The Canadian Press/AP

Earlier this 12 months the Indian flag on the Excessive Fee in London was pulled down and a window smashed in protest towards the arrest of radical Khalistani preacher Amritpal Singh.

Comparable protests befell on the Indian consulate in San Francisco and the Indian Excessive Fee in Ottawa.

Individually, when farmers demonstrated towards a set of legal guidelines proposed by Mr Modi in 2020, he accused them of being Khalistanis.

In Canada, police are nonetheless searching for two “heavier-set” suspects they consider fled the scene of Mr Nijjar’s homicide with a getaway driver.

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