Monday 20th of May 2024

London Declaration: Exercise in Futile by Pro-Khalistan Elements
Gaurav Kumar
Region : Europe, Northern Europe,
Issue : Security, Terrorism, Politics,
On 12 August 2018, Sikh for Justice, a US based organisation organised ‘London Declaration’ event at London’s Trafalgar Square, a non-binding referendum in 2020 for an independent Sikh nation. The event was attended by various individuals, groups and organisations promoting the idea of secession of Punjab from India. The organiser adopted three resolutions, including conducting a non-governmental referendum in all the countries of the world, cities of Punjab as well other cities affected by violence during the anti-Sikh riots in 1984. It was also agreed to bring the issue of Sikh nation under the UN consideration after the 2020 referendum- based on the fact that Sikhs have distinct identity, culture and consequently should have distinct territory. In the third resolution it was agreed upon to initiate a mass movement for the establishment of independent state for the Sikhs. The event could easily be termed a failure, considering the fact that it failed to attract even respectable number of Sikhs from across the world. The expected number of attendant was between 2000-3000 individuals. At the event, demonstrators chanted “Khalistan Zindabad” and waved Khalistan flags. Lord Nazir Ahmed, a non-affiliated member of the House of Lords, spoke at the rally. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, and Labour Party legislator Matt Western too voiced their support for independent Sikh state carved out of India.
In the run up to the event, a few foreign-based pro-Khalistan militants and “fringe elements” have issued threat messages and posted video containing threats to political leaders in India, as informed by the Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir. India for long has claimed Pakistan’s intelligence agencies hand in organizing the anti-India event. Indian intelligence agencies have claimed that Pakistan Army’s Lt. Col. Shahid Mehmood Malhi aka “Chaudhary Sahib” is probably behind the pro-Khalistan movement— “Referendum 2020” initiative in Canada and some European nations. The Referendum 2020 was codenamed as “Operation Express.” By ISI. Recent reports suggest Pakistan’s growing re-involvement in the Khalistan affairs, and extended footprints in Punjab. Intelligence agencies have warned an attack on the eve on Independence Day, most likely on the Indian parliament by two pro-Khalistani terrorists, Lakhwinder Singh and Parminder Singh, who had escaped from Nabha Jail in 2016. Pakistan has been behind recruitment, training and providing logistics to the two terrorists.
Separately, in order to counter the malicious propaganda by the pro-Khalistani groups, few Indians organised the “We Stand With India” and “Love My India” events at the same location. Around 200 people attended the counter-rally on the other side of the square to support India, waving placards such as “Sikhs for a United India” and “We stand for one united strong India”. Earlier, the UK Government had rejected India’s demand to ban the event on the ground of an impingement on its ‘territorial integrity.’ According to a an unnamed senior, the [UK] government has no plans to ban a pro-Khalistan campaign—“Referendum 2020” organised by the Sikh separatist groups based in UK as long as it stays within the limits of the law and remains non-violent.
It is not the first time that such an event is organised by anti-India elements; however the intensity and the magnitude of the event were greater than the earlier events. Even the scale of propaganda and public outreach were higher in this case. In 2015, Sikh extremists had organised a gathering which they proclaimed as a "Sarbat Khalsa," a community assembly in Punjab. The gathering was organised by prominent Khalistani advocates and sympathisers, including a significant number of non-resident Indian Sikhs. The event had both political and religious overtones as Punjab was heading towards an assembly election in 2017 amidst reports of acts of sacrilege against the Guru Granth Sahib.
The extremist element within Sikh diaspora has been able to mobilise a section of Sikh population living in various countries across the globe. The extremists have substantial presence in major cities of North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya, the Middle East, and Indian state of Punjab. The aim of the diaspora is to nourish the real and perceived grievances of the Sikhs living abroad against India in order to achieve an ethno-religious state of Khalistan, which would be primarily for the Sikh population.
After a decade of violent turmoil in Punjab during the 1980s and early 1990s, the natives in Punjab has shown little interests to take the path of religious extremism aided and supported by Pakistan. However, the diaspora which has hardly suffered the menace of violence during the period is reluctant to give up the ‘dream of separate state.’ The ground reality in Punjab and ambitious propaganda abroad has distinctive contrary in nature. There is a strong disconnect between groups who are staying abroad and the people of Punjab on the issue of independent state of Punjab. However, this is not say that the Khalistan movement is dead in India. The morally bankrupt Indian politicians have tried to kindle the fire of separate state during elections. 2017 Punjab assembly election saw a flurry of political messaging by few political parties, who tried to accommodate the radical form of the Khalistan ideology with the electoral politics. However, the dangerous gamble failed, as the people of Punjab rejected the separatist tendencies and elements during the election.
Therefore, with dwindling support from India, the latest efforts by the Khalistani elements that lack conciliatory approach appear to be an exercise in futile- with little or no productive outcome.

End Notes
"Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) Adopts 3 Resolution During London Declaration." Sikh Siyasat News. August 12, 2018. Accessed August 13, 2018.
Staff, Scroll. "UK: Indian Diaspora Groups Hold Rally to Counter Pro-Khalistan Public Meeting in London." August 06, 2018. Accessed August 13, 2018.
Terrorism Update on South Asia Terrorism Portal
Ram, Vidya. "Trafalgar Square Sees Rally, Counter-rally." The Hindu. August 12, 2018. Accessed August 13, 2018.

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