MR Narayan Swamy
In a bombastic announcement, a Khalistani propagandist based in the US has announced that his group will meet the Taliban regime in Kabul “once key Western powers” recognise it. But for the tragic scenes of thousands of Afghans fleeing their country following the Taliban takeover instead of embracing the “liberators”, the Khalistani announcement could have provided something to laugh about.
Give it to their lack of political vision, those running the vocal “Sikhs for Justice” campaign could not have exposed themselves more with their expression of love for a bigoted Islamist regime. Unable to digest the negative publicity caused by the mass exodus from Kabul, the Islamists reacted in the only way they are adept at: suicide bombings against innocent Afghans who want to leave and their facilitators, the US soldiers.
That the Khalistani remnants in the West are the favourites of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is an open secret. Khalistani killers who escaped from Punjab in the 1990s continue to rely on Pakistan’s largesse for survival. How Khalistani terrorists used Canada to bomb an Air India aircraft in 1985 is well documented. At a time when the Taliban’s only international backers – one can cite reasons for their actions — remain Pakistan (Taliban’s birthplace), Qatar (it hosts a Taliban office after Saudi Arabia and the UAE distanced themselves), Iran, Turkey, Russia (avenge the American support to the Afghan mujhaideen) and China (anyone backing its economic world is a friend), it is no coincidence that the Pakistan-backed Khalistanis are eager to shake hands with the Taliban.
One must grant it to the Taliban that when they earlier ruled Afghanistan, they proved that Afghans are no one’s stooges. Pakistan sent its troops to fight with the Taliban as it seized territory, paid the bureaucrats in Kabul when the militia ruled Afghanistan and set up telecommunications in the country. The telephone code for both Quetta in Pakistan and Kandahar in Afghanistan was the same. Yet, the Taliban regime refrained from voicing any opinion on Islamic issues like Palestine, Chechnya or Kashmir. At one point, Pakistan sought the closure of 18 training camps in Afghanistan where Pakistanis were being trained; the Taliban shut just three. Islamabad wanted 15 Pakistanis deported; the Taliban ignored the plea.
In contrast, the Khalistani terrorists, even without a religious link, acted as stooges of Islamabad while waging a brutal terror campaign in Punjab. One must recall some of the horrors the Khalistanis perpetrated on Punjab and its people – Sikhs and Hindus – before the Taliban, prodded by Pakistan, embraces them. The Taliban should also remember that at least some Khalistanis in the West must have links with Western intelligence agencies.
Doctrine of Peace
It is true Sikhs have been embroiled in warfare almost throughout their history. This is not because they wanted war but because Afghan and Mughal rulers wanted to wipe out the community. In fact, Sikhism is a doctrine of peace, one which preaches universal brotherhood. Its founders sought to shun the limitations in both Hinduism and Islam and fought for a casteless order. More important, Sikh leaders not only refused to give up their religion even while facing death but died to protect the faith of others, Hindus in particular.
These doctrines were turned upside down as the Khalistani terrorists, fed on falsehood and political duplicity over decades by the Akalis, took to killings with a vengeance. Earlier, Akali staple of “Hindu tyranny” was bandied as its hit squads targeted both innocent Hindus and Sikhs who refused to bow to them. Most security personnel killed by the terrorists were also Sikhs. Of the 11,694 people the terrorists killed in Punjab from 1981 to 1993, as many as 61% were Sikhs. The Sikh death toll was close to 65% in 1988-92. In rural areas, it was the Sikh community that bore the brunt of terrorist banditry, rapes, abductions and land grab.
Operation Black Thunder
When terrorists were forced out of the Golden Temple in Amritsar in the 1988 “Operation Black Thunder”, security forces discovered that 14 rooms around the ‘parikrama’ had been used as torture chambers. Documents of extortion, torture and links with Pakistani handlers were discovered. The terrorists abused Sikh shrines, gave out sermons that had no religious sanctity, desecrated Hindu temples, slaughtered cows to provoke Hindus and brazenly killed Sikh political and religious leaders who defied them. It is because people saw through their game that Punjab did not see any Hindu-Sikh communal riot during the Khalistan era. Pakistan’s contribution – as in Afghanistan – was to pump in an unprecedented flow of modern weapons into Punjab after “Operation Black Thunder”.
Many Khalistani leaders led a life of debauchery amid luxury while supposedly fighting for the ‘panth’. Babbar Khalsa chief Sukhdev Singh Babbar was found living in a palatial bungalow in Patiala (under the assumed name Jasmer Singh) packed with luxuries and jewellery besides stacks of dirty cassettes. Madha Singh, a “Lt General” of Babbar Khalsa, and an associate raped two sisters in Sirhali village and forcibly married them; it was Madha Singh’s third marriage! Jaspal Singh Bhuri, a “Lt General” of the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF), abducted an 18-year-old girl from Manochahal village, held her for four months and he and his gang members repeatedly raped her; later she was forced to take cyanide. Paramjit Singh Panjwar, who later headed the KCF, acquired a bungalow in Delhi and lived there disguised as Partap Singh. Harminder Singh Sultanwind, another terrorist, kept a married woman as his mistress and owned a fleet of cars.
These are some reasons a majority of the Sikhs turned against the Khalistanis, helping the security forces to crush the movement. Around 200 Khalistanis escaped the dragnet and moved to the West or to Pakistan, hoping to revive the separatist campaign someday.
Those heading the “Sikhs for Justice” campaign are indeed the torchbearers of the erstwhile terrorists. Now, they are turning a new leaf as they try to form, through a referendum, a Khalistan but minus parts of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Punjab which now lie in Pakistan! And they are rearing to hug the Taliban!
Is there a connection between Afghanistan and the Khalistani movement? Yes, there is one. Thanks to the ISI, a large quantity of weapons supplied by the CIA for the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s was diverted to terrorists in Punjab. In a way, every weapon the Khalistanis wielded was stolen Afghan property. It will not be a bad idea if the Taliban asks the modern Khalistanis for an account of the weapons — much of which ended up in the hands of Indian security forces.
(The author is a senior journalist based in New Delhi)