Language, Violence & Identity: Unpacking the Word ‘Khalistan’

Language, Violence & Identity: Unpacking the Word ‘Khalistan’

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Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan
Camera:
Sumit Badola
Producer:
Maanvi

What is Khalistan? What are the different histories associated with the word? In his latest book, Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines, journalist and author Amandeep Sandhu explores the conflicts in the state and their contemporary relevance. A major fault line in Punjab’s history is the Khalistan movement and its changing definitions in the Indian political discourse.

In 1929 pre-Independent India, along with Mohammed Ali Jinnah and BR Ambedkar, the Sikhs also demanded a separate homeland under Master Tara Singh. Amandeep Sandhu points to this as the “first articulation of the Sikh need for a homeland.”

“This is the part of the first definition of Khalistan, though at that time, it was called Sikhistan. Even Jinnah had offered the Sikhs a semi-autonomous region in Pakistan, which they had rejected; they had chosen to stay with India. All of this is the first articulation of the Sikh need for a homeland.”
Amandeep Sandhu
(Photo: Westland)

In the 1950s and 60s, Sant Fateh Singh led the ‘Punjabi Suba’ movement for a separate Punjabi state. In 1966, Punjab was divided into Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh which led to this “new little small state which is 1/7th of the original Greater Punjab.” But Punjabi aspirations remained unfulfilled.

In 1973, the Anandpur Sahib resolution was passed, which, apart from being a document focused on the Sikh identity, also focused on diversification of crops in Green Revolution, industry in the state and demanding minority rights.

The 1980s were a bloody time in Punjab, with Jarnail Singh Bhidranwale leading a demand for ‘Khalistan’ or an independent Punjab. Bhidranwale and his armed followers occupied the Golden Temple in 1982. On 6 June 1984, the Golden Temple was stormed in ‘Operation Bluestar’. This set off a series of events, which led to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and a quest for Khalistan. The Sikh militancy, in the name of Khalistan and counter-insurgency operations, saw thousands killed in Punjab in the 1980s and early 90s. Today, in 2019, Khalistan makes headlines with ‘Referendum 2020’ regularly.

Watch the video to know more.

Also Read : Explainer: Khalistan Movement, Bhindranwale & Operation Bluestar

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