‘Khalistan’ hardliners today believe in democratic means (June 6 is 25th anniversary of Operation Bluestar)

June 6th, 2009 - 11:02 am ICT by IANS  

By Jaideep Sarin
Amritsar, June 6 (IANS) Some are businessmen, some are social activists, and one even a homeopath. Ideologues of ‘Khalistan’, many of whom had taken up arms at the peak of Sikh militancy in Punjab during 1981-1995, are these days using democratic ways in the world’s biggest democracy to get their voices heard.

Twenty-five years after the army’s Operation Bluestar assault on the Golden Temple, Sikh radicals, hardliners and former terrorists claim the Khalistan movement is not dead but has done a kind of “course correction”. ‘Khalistan’ is the notion of a separate Sikh homeland meaning ‘land of the pure’.

“This is peace time now. Every movement has its ups and downs. The issue of Khalistan continues to remain alive. At present, we are using democratic and political means to achieve our targets,” Kanwar Pal Singh, leader of the radical organisation Dal Khalsa, told IANS.

The Dal Khalsa and hardline organisations like the Damdami Taksal - which was once headed by separatist preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale - have been organising protest marches, seminars, talks and conferences to make people aware of the past, present and future of the Sikh movement.

The Dal Khalsa took out a ‘genocide remembrance march’ in Amritsar Wednesday to peacefully protest what it calls “atrocities against Sikhs by the Indian state”.

“After the 1857 revolt, India took 90 years to attain independence. We also need more time for the realisation of our goal of self-rule for Sikhs. India’s freedom struggle saw the fight against the British. Here, we are fighting against our own people,” Singh added.

Former terrorists who once were deeply into the Khalistan movement through an armed struggle are running businesses and are also into social activities in Punjab.

Former Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) chief Wassan Singh Zafarwal, whose name once used to be dreaded in Punjab, now leads a reformed life at his farmhouse on the outskirts of Zafarwal village in Punjab’s border district of Gurdaspur.

Zafarwal practises homeopathy from his clinic at home, tends to his fields and goes to other villages to make people aware of social evils like drugs, dowry and female foeticide.

“We have not left the (Khalistan) movement. We are presently using other means like the democratic one for our fight,” Zafarwal said.

Another terrorist, who fought against the army inside the Golden Temple complex, is now a successful businessman in this city - well-settled with a family.

Punjab witnessed a bloody phase of terrorism between 1981 and 1995 that left nearly 25,000 people dead. The Indian Army had to launch Operation Bluestar to flush out armed militants led by Bhindranwale from inside the holiest of Sikh shrines, the Golden Temple.

Bhindranwale, who is a legend in the minds of a section of Sikhs, almost made many believe in Punjab that the dream of a separate Sikh homeland could be a reality. He was killed during the army operation at the Golden Temple in June 1984. Terrorism continued in Punjab for over a decade after his death.

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