Sometimes the pain and the crime are so terrible that we all find it better to forget. It is best to "move past" without ever looking at the history and the genesis of a larger issue at hand.
What is surfacing today - the Khalistani Terror monster - has been around for a long time. One, who grew up with its impact through one's youth, and believed it had been wiped out, finds it hard to comprehend that it is still making a comeback.
As long as we allow fault lines to exist, there will be some who will use them.
Let us learn a history lesson so we can help save the present and the future.
The Khalistan Monster
April 13th, 1978 in Amritsar. That is where it all started.
It was Baisakhi. The Sikhs had been miffed at the Nirankaris, whom they believed were blasphemous to Sikhism. Specifically, the Sant Nirankari Mission Guru Baba Gurbachan Singh. He has become the Nirankari leader in 1963. Some Sikhs not just believed that the Nirankari spiritual poem Avtar Bani was derogatory to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, but even Baba Gurbachan Singh had impersonated as Guru Gobind Singh.
In the 1950s, there had been clashes between Sikhs and the Nirankaris.
Akalis used to claim that Congress was using Nirankaris to divide the Sikh community.
The one organization that used these tensions to take over the mantle of saving the Sikhs against Nirankaris and their allegedly blasphemous activities was Damdami Taksal. It was an organization that had been created by Guru Gobind Singh himself. In the 1970s, the Damdami Taksal Jathedar Sant Kartar Singh was working to evangelize an aggressive version amongst the Sikh youth so they wouldn’t go the Nirankari way.
On Baisakhi day in 1978, the Nirankaris had a convention. Sikhs belonging to Akhand Kirtani Jatha and Damdami Taksal, at that time led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, marched from the Golden Temple in an aggressive procession and they clashed with Nirankari guards of Baba Gurbachan Singh. The procession was led by Fauja Singh who tried to behead the Nirankari Guru but was shot dead by the Guru's guard.
13 Sikhs and 2 Nirankaris were killed. 64 Nirankari followers were arrested but later on let go.
In September 1978, when Nirankari Guru Baba Gurbachan Singh went to Kanpur, the Punjab government barred him from returning to Punjab. The Supreme Court, however, rescinded that.
A Hukumnama from Akal Takht on October 6th, 1978, asked the Sikhs to socially boycott the Nirankaris.
This action empowered the extremists in Sikh politics. The Akali Dal was taken over by Jagdev Singh Talwandi, backed by Gurcharan Singh Tohra. Prakash Singh Badal was on the other side of Talwandi. Tohra became the middleman.
Bhindrawale announced in August 1978 that he will not allow Nirankaris to hold any Satsang in Punjab any further.
Now, let us go back a bit in history and learn about the other stream of history that brought Akalis to this stage.
In 1966, the Punjab Reorganization Act was passed. It was passed in the Parliament on September 7th and implemented with effect from November 1, 1966. (Source)
Erstwhile Punjab was broken into Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Subsequently, the waters from Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej rivers were also shared with Haryana and Rajasthan via an elaborate canal system.
The Akali Dal, which had lost in the Punjab elections in 1972, brought forth the Anandpur Sahib resolution in 1973 to bolster its own political situation. The resolution was the beginning of breaking the Punjabi community comprising of Hindus and Sikhs as one people into two separate communities. This, therefore, was one of the demands in that resolution – to take steps to recognize Sikhism as a separate religion from Hinduism.
The document was adopted unanimously by the working committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal at a meeting held at Anandpur Sahib, town sacred to Guru Gobind Singh, also reverenced by Sikhs as the birth place of the Khalsa. Since it was adopted at Anandpur Sahib (October 16-17, 1973) the resolution came to be known as the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. It was endorsed in the form of a succession of resolutions at the 18th All India Akali Conference of the Shiromani Akali Dal at Ludhiana on 28-29 October, 1978. (Source: Sikhwiki)
In late October, the Akalis brought up the Anandpur Sahib Resolution (passed in October 1973). The ASR had stated that Akalis were the true representatives of the Sikhs. The Akalis wanted to establish a distinct and sovereign identity of the Khalsa Panth. To get there it meant that “an autonomous region in the north of India” would need to be set up where the Sikh identity would be the basis of state policy.
The ASR still wanted this so-called “autonomous Sikh region” to be an integral part of India.
Congress was playing its own games at this stage.
We will come to that in some time. But first let us learn how the Western powers, led by the CIA, worked overtime to create the Khalistani menace.
From Ghadar Party to Khalistan
Baba Jawala Singh and Baba Wasakha Singh were two Sikh migrants from India in California. They had founded the gurudwara in Stockton. They hosted a “Gadri Conclave” (Conclave of the Revolutionaries) in Sacramento, CA in order to create the Ghadar Party.
In the spring of 1913, East Indians formed the radical nationalist Ghadar Party in Astoria. The meeting was held in the Finnish Socialist Hall, reflecting the important ties and comradery East Indian activists had, in Astoria and elsewhere, with socialists, radical labor organizers, and Irish, Finnish, Mexican, and Chinese nationalists. East Indians were sometimes called “coolie slaves” and targeted by white violence. With time and experience, many East Indians came to believe that the lack of self-rule in their country was the cause of their suffering and disrespect the world over, and they vowed to make change. After years of work and discussion, East Indian laborers, activists, students, and intellectuals organized and attended Ghadar’s founding meeting in Astoria, arriving by rail, boat, and car and on foot from British Columbia, San Francisco, and communities along the Columbia River. (Source: East Indians of Oregon and the Ghadar Party
It was the first main attempt by Indians anywhere at that time to fight and resist the British.
It sent 616 members to India, of whom 527 were Sikhs. The Ghadarites hosted supporters of independence, assisted revolutionary ventures, and printed pro-liberty pamphlets and journals until India gained independence in 1947. (Source: Ground Zero for India’s Independence Struggle
Sardar Kartar Singh Sarabha, who was born in Ludhiana, decided to move to America in 1912. He arrived in San Francisco. On November 1st, 1913, the 17-year-old started a Punjabi newspaper - The Ghadar. It was financed by the Stockton Gurudwara.
The ideas of freedom and democracy in the United States juxtaposed with racial discrimination shaped the Ghadar Party's thought process. The Komagatu Maru incident in 1914, fueled the Ghadarites further.
In 1914, Sardar Kartar Singh Sarabha went back to India to organize a mutiny in India. He was, however, arrested and hanged on November 16, 1915. It was Kartar Singh Sarabha who inspired Bhagat Singh.
Yuba City became the hub of the Sikhs. The Sikhs who formed the core of the Ghadar Party eventually stayed in California and started farming.
Over the years their lives changed. But in the 1970s, their lives were about to be changed.
Sikhs also migrated to Canada and were working in factories there.
They continued to, however, face discrimination. Whether it was to cut their hair and shave their beard or difficulties in acquiring land.
After independence, the Nehru administration did not care for the Sikhs abroad. When the Sikhs in the UK approached the High Commission over racial issues, the Indian consulate declined to intervene and maintained a hands-off policy. The Sikhs were asked to find a solution themselves in their home country.
On the other hand, Israel's policy was starkly different. They would intervene for the Jews.
Abandoned, alone, and hurt, the idea of a separate Sikh state was taking shape.
Khalistan Movement Takes Shape
A group of bus drivers and conductors in the UK formed the Sikh Home Rule. The US Sikhs, on the other hand, formed the United Sikh Appeal (on the lines of the United Jewish Appeal).
Dr. Jagjit Singh Chouhan emerged at this time. He was in Indian politics until 1971.
- Minister of Finance, Punjab (25 November 1967 – 22 August 1968)
- Deputy Speaker of Punjab Legislative Assembly (27 November 1967 – 27 March 1967)
- Member of the Legislative Assembly, Punjab (MLA) (8 March 1967 – 22 August 1968)
In 1969, he lost the Punjab Assembly elections and in two years moved to the United Kingdom.
He took over the leadership of Sikh Home Rule and renamed it to "Khalistan Movement".
He then went to Nankana Sahib to set up a Sikh government. Chouhan also visited the United States where he was feted by the US administration.
In 1971, as part of an effort to set up a Sikh government, he visited Pakistan and the United States, where he placed an advertisement in The New York Times proclaiming the formation of Khalistan and collected millions of dollars for it. In India, he was charged with sedition and other crimes in connection with his activities. He became the self-styled president of the “Republic of Khalistan,” appointed a cabinet, issued symbolic passports and postage stamps, and created “Khalistan dollars.” He opened embassies in Britain and other European countries. He remained in close contact with Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a violent campaigner for a Sikh theocratic homeland. (Source: Jagjit Singh Chauhan, Sikh Militant Leader in India, Dies at 80 / New York Times)
The Richard Nixon administration with the planning of Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State and head of the US National Security Council Secretariat became interested in using Chouhan to contain Indira Gandhi. They were working in consort with Pakistani dictator General Yahya Khan.
The Richard Nixon administration in the US had initiated a "covert action plan" in collusion with Gen Yahya Khan's government in Pakistan in 1971 to encourage a separatist movement in Punjab, a former top officer of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) has said. "This plan envisaged the encouragement of a separatist movement among the Sikhs for an independent state to be called Khalistan. ...In 1971, one saw the beginning of a joint covert operation by the US intelligence community and Pakistan's ISI to create difficulties for India in Punjab," B Raman, who retired as Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, says in his forthcoming book. (Source: Economic Times)
In Pakistan, Yahya Khan gifted Chouhan with some Sikh relics to further establish his leadership position amongst the Sikhs.
The then Pakistani military ruler Yahya Khan invited Chauhan to Pakistan, "lionised" him as a leader of Sikhs and handed over some Sikh holy relics kept in Pakistan, which Chauhan took to the UK to win a following in the Sikh diaspora. (Source: 'CIA, ISI encouraged Sikh terrorism' / rediff)
This was a retaliation against Indira Gandhi's actions in 1971.
Prior to the Indo-Pak war, Indira Gandhi had gone on the offensive about the massive genocide of the Bangladeshis and the migrant influx into India.
The CIA and the ISI sought to counter this by initiating a PSYOPS against India. They weaponized the "human rights violations of the Sikhs in India and the indifferent attitude of the Indian government to the plight of Sikhs.
So, Chouhan met the US media, local and national to drum up the Khalistan movement. These meetings were arranged by Henry Kissinger.
When an advertisement came out in the New York Times on October 13, 1971, talking about Khalistan an independent Sikh State, R&AW found evidence that the Pakistani Embassy in Washington had paid for that.
This operation against India continued until 1977. Then the Janata Party government came in and Morarji Desai
Meanwhile, the Sikh youth in UK, US, and Canada was being radicalized. New organizations were coming up:
- International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF)
- Dal Khalsa
- Babbar Khalsa
They were pushing for a violent campaign and started to push out Chouhan, who was against violence.
In 1980, when Indira Gandhi came back, Chouhan went back again to UK to kick-start his Khalistan movement. He was sidelined and not entertained by authorities in Pakistan and China. The US, however, still felt he could be of some use. So they used him to testify on India's relations with the USSR.
Another leader, Ganga Singh Dhillon was also emerging in the United States. His wife and Pakistani dictator, Zia-ul-Haq's wife (both from Kenya) were friends. Dhillon created Nankana Sahib Foundation in the US. The Dhillons and the Haqs came closer and Dhillon would visit Pakistan often.
1980s - the Season of Khalistani Hijackings
It was at this time on September 29th, 1981, that an Indian Airlines plane (Flight 423) was hijacked by Dal Khalsa terrorists. Gajinder Singh was one of the hijackers. He still lives in Pakistan.
What is even more interesting and shocking is that just a few days prior to the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane, a New York Times correspondent had gone to the Golden Temple in order to "interview" some Dal Khalsa extremists. He had met Gajinder Singh there as well./
The interview was never published!
The passengers were allowed to go back to India from Lahore but the hijackers were not returned. The hijackers continued to live in Nankana Sahib.
After this hijacking, there was a spate of hijackings by Sikh terrorists. And in almost all of them, these hijackers would take the Indian plane to Lahore. They used it to spew venom on India and Indira Gandhi.
- August 4, 1982: Delhi and Amritsar flight to Lahore but diverted back to Amritsar, and Sikh terrorists overpowered
- August 20, 1982: Jodhpur to New Delhi Flight by a Sikh terrorist armed with a pistol and a hand grenade.
- July 5th, 1984: Indian Airlines Flight 405, a domestic flight from Srinagar Airport to the Delhi-Palam Airport with 254 passengers and 10 crew flown to Lahore
- August 24, 1984: Indian Airlines Flight 421 flight from Delhi to Srinagar hijacked by 7 Sikh terrorists. They flew it to the UAE after a stop at Lahore.
In the last hijacking, the terrorists had hijacked the plane using a toy gun. The Pakistani authorities gave them a real revolver in Lahore instead.
In UAE, Ministry of External Affairs Secretary Romesh Bhandari was sent by Indira Gandhi. He was close o the Emirati royal family and he was able to secure the arrest of the hijackers. Interestingly, the Dubai authorities told the hijackers that they were being sent to the US, although they were being loaded on the plane to India (R&AW officials were out of sight inside the plane).
The Indian authorities established that the revolver given to the hijackers in Lahore was from West Germany and was part of the consignment sold to the Pakistani Army.
Even after this clear proof of Pakistani involvement in Khalistani terror, when the Indian authorities sought to declare Pakistan as a state-sponsor of terrorism, the US administration blocked it.
Terrorists from the UK, Canada, and the US would regularly visit Pakistan and
A new division was created within R&AW to monitor the activities of Sikh extremists in Western countries along with their ties to the ISI.
And, the Western intelligence agencies were stoking Khalistani terrorism.
Indira Gandhi started talking openly about the CIA's role in Khalistani terrorism.
Of course, Pakistan's role in the whole terrorist operation had been established. It had become very easy for the Khalistanis to cross over and get help on that side to get trained and come back for terror acts.
The interrogations revealed that in most cases the initial contact with Pakistan was made either in the Golden Temple in Amritsar or in other gurudwaras in Punjab through recruiting agents. Gurvinder stated that he met a man called Balwinder Singh in the Golden Temple in November, 1984. The agent told him he should cross the border for training and also that he could help him get across. Devinder also stated that his initial contact was with a recruiting agent in Huzoor Sahib in Nanded who also told him that Bhindranwale was alive and in Pakistan. Once across the border, matters are well-organised. In Devinder's words: "We went to a Pakistani chowki (police picket) after crossing and when we said we were the Sant's (Bhindranwale's) men they welcomed us and gave us milk and sweets." Other interrogation statements follow the same pattern. Jindal says: "At the Pakistan picket they gave us food and then a jeep arrived with some men in uniform. They took us to a house in a town and the next day we went by army jeep to another house some five hours away." Jindal says that he was in Pakistan for about six months. Sarabjit, Gurvinder and Devinder, however, were all taken to Faisalabad jail where they came across over 200 others, most of whom had arrived there after Operation Bluestar. Devinder says that at least 100 were from Gurdaspur. (Source: Pakistan involvement in Sikh terrorism in Punjab based on solid evidence: India / India Today)
Now let us go into specific links of Western agencies in creating and fomenting Khalistani terrorism.
How Canada, the UK, and the US-backed Khalistani terror
As Air India flight 182 was en route from Montreal to London, it blew up over Ireland. 329 people including 268 Canadian citizens, 27 British citizens, and 24 Indian citizens died in that crash. The bomb was planted by the Khalistani Sikh terrorists.
The plan was elaborate and sophisticated.
As a result of this conspiracy, a bomb was manufactured, placed in a suitcase, and taken to the Vancouver airport, where on June 22, 1985, it was checked through on a flight from Vancouver to Toronto. In Toronto, the lethal suitcase made its way onboard Air India Flight 181, which then stopped at Mirabel and became Air India Flight 182, en route to London and Delhi. At approximately 12:14 a.m., on June 23, 1985, the timer on the bomb detonated a charge and blew open a hole in the left aft fuselage of the plane. The aircraft, which bore the name 'Kanishka', was blown apart, falling approximately 31,000 feet below into the Atlantic Ocean off the south-west coast of Ireland. (Source: "Lessons to be learned" / Government of Canada)
Prior to 9/11, this was the biggest and deadliest incident in global aviation history.
But this was not the only attack that happened that day. Half the globe across, another bomb meant for Air India Flight 301 from Japan's Narita International airport, exploded before it could be loaded onto the plane.
Two baggage handlers were killed.
Reason for failure: the Sikh terrorists forgot that Japan did not observe daylight saving time and had not factored for it!
The Canadian authorities knew of the threat and the details of the plot in detail including the perpetrators. The mastermind behind the Air India bombing was Talwinder Singh Parmar. He along with Inderjit Singh Reyat had orchestrated the whole thing.
Inexplicably, all the accused, specifically the mastermind Parmar, were freed for "lack of evidence"!
Ripudaman Singh Malik and co-accused Ajaib Singh Bagri were acquitted of mass murder and conspiracy charges related to the two bombings. (Source: BBC)
This was despite the statement of Tara Singh Hayer, a newspaper publisher in British Columbia, who gave an affidavit to RCMP that Ajaib Singh Bagri had admitted to a friend of his involvement in the bombings.
Only one person was arrested - Inderjit Singh Reyat. In 2017, after a farcical jail sentence, even he was released!
Despite overwhelming evidence and deaths of Canadians, British, and Indian citizens in such large numbers, the terrorists from Babbar Khalsa were let go by the Canadian authorities.
When R&AW officer B. Raman puzzled over the intransigence of US intelligence and authorities over the obvious evidence of Pakistan's involvement in terrorism - both in India and abroad - he was given a lesson:
It was not about the CIA. But the Reagan State Department. They did not want the terrorists backed by Pakistan to be in the dock!
As the Indian intelligence agency, R&AW's first chief, Rameshwar Nath Kao said:
Having said that, one needs to remember that the Indian government was playing its own games which enabled the plot being planned by the CIA, US State Department, and the ISI.
Congress Party and Indira Gandhi's own role was not above board.
How Congress used Khalistani Terror as an Election Strategy
After Indira Gandhi lost the 1977 elections, it was a big blow to the Congress Party. The 1975 emergency crimes had caused this.
But as has been the wont of the Congress politicians, they think that it is their birthright to rule and plunder India. So, Sanjay Gandhi and Giani Zail Singh, with approval from Indira Gandhi started working on a plan to destabilize the Janata Party government.
They wanted to counter Akali's leadership of Harchand Singh Longowal, SGPC chairman GS Tohra, and Prakash Singh Badal's combination by propping a hardliner like Bhindranwale.
Giani Zail Singh's advice to Indira Gandhi was that they needed to prop up someone who could challenge and beat down the Janata Party-Akali Dal coalition. The aim was to come back in 1980. A daring idea for a party that had unleashed the emergency on India!
They wanted to push Khalistan as a goal to counter the internal political goals of winning the 1985 election.
Listen to the conversation between R&AW officer GBS Sidhu and Major Gaurav Arya regarding how blatantly Indira Gandhi and her party members stoked the Khalistani terror fire for just one purpose - win the 1985 election!
The 1980s was the decade of a perfect storm for India.
The 1980s: A Perfect Storm
Not was the US establishment beholden to the Pakistani ISI and its terrorist and nuclear proliferation activities, but even the Indian intelligence agencies were in complete disarray!
The early 1980s was also the time when R&AW was in a complete mess. There was a major battle going on between Counter-Intelligence Service (CIS) and RAW occurred. In November, R&AW officers went ahead and gheraoed the CIS Deputy Director MD Dittia and shouted slogans, and turned abusive.
R&AW began to become weak while ISI was executing the plan for Khalistan! It was only in 1987 that R&AW finally got someone who could bring some muscle to the organization - Anand Kumar Verma. He would set up the policy of tit-for-tat.
In retaliation, in the mid-1980s, RAW set up two covert groups of its own, Counter Intelligence Team-X (CIT-X) and Counter Intelligence Team-J (CIT-J), the first targeting Pakistan in general and the second directed specifically at the Khalistani groups. The two groups were responsible for carrying out insurgency inside Pakistan! A low-grade but steady campaign of bombings in major Pakistani cities, notably Karachi and Lahore were carried out. (Source)
In 1988, at the height of the insurgency in India, he accompanied Rajiv Gandhi to King Hassan of Jordan’s palace. Verma talked to the Pakistani counterpart Lt Gen Hamid Gul.
To be continued
This is not the full story.
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The only country which was neutral and pragmatic - was India. Now that path is responsible for India's rising stature in the global geopolitical dynamics.
Vantage, by Palki Sharma, tells that story masterfully!
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