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Have Hindutva forces in India reignited the Khalistan movement overseas?

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Indian embassy officials in North America and Europe have been banned by Sikh religious organisations from visiting gurdwaras of late. The move, aimed at "resisting Indian officials' interference in Sikh affairs" first started on the east coast of Canada and has now spread to the US and the UK. Not only Indian government officials, even RSS members have been asked not to enter gurdwaras. This development is an ominous sign for Delhi as it clearly indicates that the Sikh diaspora is coming together on an anti-India platform and is preparing to go back to its open support for an independent state for Sikhs.

Though Sikh militancy, demanding Khalistan, has somewhat disappeared from India in the mid-1990s, it still continues to exist and simmer among the Sikh diaspora. After Hindutva forces came to power in India, militancy got a fertile ground to re-emerge. More than eight million Sikhs, out of a total population of 30 million, live outside India. As the Sikh diaspora constitutes about 25 per cent of the total Sikh population, it has significant influence over the community's politics back home.

Punjab came to be seen as the Sikh homeland in the early 1900s with the rise of Sikh nationalism in British India as a reaction to the Muslim demand for a separate state. However, political mobilisation for this objective started only in the 1960s with the rise of a small group of Sikh separatists in the UK, US and Canada. The demand transformed into a full-scale violent secessionist movement for Khalistan in 1978 and continued until 1993. The Sikh diaspora played an active and crucial role in fomenting this insurgency, providing critical financial and political support, making public speeches and campaigning for the cause.

NRI Sikhs facilitated militants to travel to Pakistan to receive military training as well. After the Indian Army's attack on the Golden Temple in 1984, several groups came together to form the Khalistan government in exile. During that........

© DailyO