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

What is Khalistan? What are the different histories associated with the word? 

Updated26 Nov 2019, 06:50 AM IST
2 min read

Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan
Sumit Badola

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

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Published: 25 Nov 2019, 02:16 PM IST
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