A force capable of breaking India into a civil war and driving a second
partition is simmering in Punjab. After losing popularity in one of the
most brutal times in Indian history, the Khalistan movement is rising once
again. With a new face but the same old demands, a separate Sikh nation.
Under Amritpal Singh Sandhu, the self-styled Chief of Khalistanis, the
movement is un-stabilizing the political landscape. And with a comparatively
weak government head of state, the future seems more brim.
But what is the Khalistan movement? Who is Amritpal Singh Sandhu? Why
should the central government be worried about the uprising? And what does it
mean for Punjab and India?
Here’s a detailed explainer:
Understanding the Khalistan
The Khalistan movement is a separatist movement that aims to establish a sovereign state for the Sikhs named Khalistan. This nation should include Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and a few districts of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
The movement first emerged ten years into independent India in 1960. Jagjit
Singh Chohan, the former Finance Minister of Punjab, demanded a separate Khalistan, which gave rise to the movement in the 1970s and reached its peak in the 1980s under Indira Gandhi’s government.
While Jagjit Singh created a Sikh extremist government in Pakistan and
collected millions of dollars from the US to form Khalistan; in India, the
reins of the movement were in Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale‘s hands.
Financed by Jagjit and supported by Pak ISI, Bhindranwale’s popularity
skyrocketed in Punjab. Under his leadership, the Khalistan movement grew, with
thousands of extremist Sikhs joining. He urged his followers to restore the Khalsa
(Orthodox Sikh religion) in Sikh society. His protests targeted Hindus and the ‘modernized
“He (Bhindranwale) used offensive language against Hindus. He exhorted every Sikh to kill 32 Hindus to solve the Hindu-Sikh problem”
These were very violent times in Punjab, but all this was coming to an end with Operation Blue Star in 1984. While in a hideout in the Golden Temple, Bhindranwale’s followers continued bombing across Punjab. However, in operation, the Khalistan
the leader was assassinated and took control of the temple.
According to official statements, about 500 militants and civilians died in
the attack, but independent organizations estimate over 3000 deaths. Four months
later, on 31st October 1984, Prime Minister Indra Gandhi was
murdered by her two Sikh bodyguards, which gave rise to anti-Sikh riots. This resulted in the deaths of 8000 Sikhs.
Resurfacing Khalistan Movement
The anti-Sikh riot rooted a hatred amongst Sikhs for the Indian government
and made Bhindranwale a freedom fighter. Post the attack, numerous incidents, including the attack on an Air India Plan that left over 300 dead, followed.
While the Indian government stabilized the situation in the country’s popular
Kahlistani militants started operating from the US, UK, and Canada. The group
even used the latest farmer’s protest to increase militancy in Punjab.
So Bhindranwale died, but the Khalistan movement survived, and now they have a new leader – Amritpal Singh Sandhu.
Who is Amritpal & How He Became the Leader of the Khalistan Movement?
Born in 1933, Amritpal Singh Sandhu was a normal man living in Dubai. But the
name, unfamiliar just a few months back, has now become a popular leader in
Named Bhindranwale 2.0, Deep Sidhu became a controversial figure during the
2020 farmer’s protest after starting the ‘Waris Punjab De’, a social
organization. After his death, Amritpal took the leading position in the
Before joining the organization two years back, Sandhu didn’t even wear a
turban. But soon after joining, he underwent a remarkable transformation,
rising to a position of influence and power in the Kahlistani movement.
Amritpal took his anointment in the native village of Bhindranwale, who
serves as Sandhu’s inspiration. Since September 2022, he started dressing like
his inspiration and even began carrying a steel arrow, precisely like
Bhindranwale has done in the past.
Amirtpal claims his agenda is to bring in the religious and social transformation
to Punjab. But his group has also attacked and vandalized Gurudwaras (Sikh
temples). Similar to Bhindranwale, Sandhu delivers ferocious speeches in an
effort to pique the interest of Punjab’s youth.
He urges them to give up narcotics and get involved in the effort to
resurrect the “panth” and rid it of its “slavery” mentality. He openly criticises other religions and supports “sampuran raj” in place of “Waziri,” or slavery, in a manner
reminiscent of Bhindranwale.
For his controversial remarks, most recently directed at Union Home Minister
Amit Shah, he said, “his fate will be similar to that of former prime minister
All this soon bubbled up to the Anjala police station attack.
The Anjala Police Station Attack
“If the fire lodged against me isn’t scrapped within one hour, the administration
of Punjab should be held responsible for the consequences”
Six months back, the Punjab police arrested Lavpreet Singh, a leading member
of the Waris Punjab De organization. Protesting against the arrest and the FIR on Amripal, the supporter of Sandhu surrounded the police station in massive numbers on 23rd February.
To impede the aggressive demonstrators – armed with swords – police
barricaded the area with additional forces brought in from five districts. In
now-viral videos of the violent protests, a huge number of Khalistanis were
seen breaking barricades and attacking the police with swords.
Some reports claim that the mob even took control of the police as the
forces were left overwhelmed by the crowd.
Where is India Going Wrong?
Much like during the Bhindranwale uprising, there’s a pungent political
complicity and opportunism in Punjab. In 1980, the ruling Congress Party and Akali Dal supported the movement in its early stages. That’s why Bhindranwale was not arrested based on myopic political reasoning, which led to violent protests and thousands, including Indra Gandhi’s dead.
History is repeating itself again.
The current AAP government won the state election with the support of
Kahlistani sympathizers. Unfortunately, despite seeing the spiking unrest
caused by the movement, the government is reluctant to intervene firmly, as
seen in the Anjala police station attack.
An annual police meeting held of January 2023 claimed that after 2015, the
attempt to revive militancy in Punjab in on the rise. Just like in 1980s and
90s, the Khalistanis are re-engaging with local criminals group to promote
Numerous reporters are proving that the current Khalistan uprising is fueled
by foreign and local actors. Targeting mostly youth, vulnerable Sikh into their
devious plans the organization is actively running misinformation campaigns on
social media against Indian establishments to dispel any disconnect between the
larger Sikh diaspora and the Indian government.
The Threat to India’s Unity
Instances of politics powered by religion are not uncommon in India. And
while some issues must be addressed within the bounds of the law and democratic
politics, but accepting it and legitimizing Hindu majority politics, as
represented by the demand for Hindu Rashtra is a whole other story.
The most obvious risk of religious politics, as seen in the Khalistan
movement, can also provoke other religious extremist communities to protest.
Once, Amritpal questioned why no legal action was taken against communities
calling for a Hindu Rashtra.
India’s civilizational unity is based on the diversity of different
religions and ethnicities. That’s why attempts to forcefully homogenize are
extremely dangerous for the nation.
Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Meghalaya are Christian-majority
states. Jammu & Kashmir is a Muslim-majority state. Similarly, Punjab is a
Figures like Amritpal try to ignite religious nationalism by infusing
competitive religious supremacism amongst the extremists. Sikhs have long lived
happily with different religions in India, but now harmony is under threat. And
nobody – the government, Punjab, and India – want to relive even a section of
the nightmare of the 1980s.
Crime Against Humanity Under BJP Regime – Manipur Violence Explained
On May 3, 2023, the northeastern state of Manipur in India experienced severe ethnic violence involving the Meitei community living in the Imphal Valley and the Kuki tribal population residing in the nearby hills.
The horrific incident led to 181 fatalities, with over 300 people injured. The ongoing violence has forced over 55,000 residents displaced from their homes. And even after months, the situation remains critical, with communities in distress and an urgent need for help.
But what lead to the Manipur violence? How are the authorities dealing with the situation? And is there an end in sight?
Manipur Violence: A Brief Overview
In early May, tensions flared between the two major residential groups of Manipur – the Meitei and Kuki tribal communities, after a court ruling favoring the Meitei group was passed. Students from the Kuki community began protesting.
The ruling allowed Meiti population the right to buy land in the hills and secure reserved government jobs. These privileges escalated tensions.
To ease the initial tension, New Delhi sent thousands of paramilitary and army personnel to the region (with a population of 3.2 million). But, even with this action, sporadic violence and killings started again shortly after. Thus fueling further unease in the northeastern state.
But while the protests have been going on since May, the world’s attention turned to Manipur when a video showed the distressing molestation of two women surfaced on the internet.
The blood-curdling incident prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address the ongoing violence – marking his first public remarks on the matter that had persisted for months.
On May 3, 2023, ethnic violence shook the northeastern state of Manipur in India. The conflict pitted the Meitei community of the Imphal Valley. It is against the Kuki tribal population residing in the nearby hills.
The toll was immense, with 181 lives lost, over 300 injured, and a staggering 54,488 people displaced from their homes by July 29th. Today, the situation remains more dire than ever – leaving communities in distress and in urgent need of help.
Manipur Violence: The Video That Shook the World
On July 19, a disturbing video spread online. It showed two Kuki women, one in her forties and the other in her twenties, facing terrible mistreatment by a mob of men from the Meitei community.
These men stripped, paraded the women naked on the streets, and even assaulted them. The women were taken from a police station while trying to escape from a violent mob attack.
And while the violence in unfolding in Manipur, the state government was busy lauding trips to destinations. They are traveling to places like the USA, Dubai, and Egypt, then tackling Manipur’s problems.
Their attention also extends to many international matters. It includes the Ukraine-Russian conflict, commendations for world leaders, and managing controversies like Mahagathbandhan and Adani scam. It’s shocking to know that, despite the complaint being filed, the police didn’t take any action for over two months until the video came out.
Government’s Internet Limitation
On July 20, Manipur’s Chief Minister Biren Singh explained why they limited internet access in the state. The Union government also asked social media platforms to take down posts with the upsetting video. The Supreme Court responded to the video, saying they’d step in if the government doesn’t handle things immediately.
Media reports revealed that the National Commission of Women (NCW) was aware of the incident, having received a complaint in June. However, Manipur authorities did not respond despite forwarding the complaints many times – disclosed the chairperson of NCW.
It was only after the video went viral and the pressure from international media surmounted the authorities they acted on the complaint by arresting event culprits.
Why does the BJP Government have Nothing to Say?
To put it, the BJP government’s efforts to bring peace to Manipur seem to be ineffective. While the BJP government says they’ve controlled the police and Rapid Action Police forces, Manipur still deals with ongoing unrest.
A solution doesn’t seem to be in sight. It appears that the government is ignorant of this matter. If the video of those two women had not gone viral, the government would have brushed it under the rug and suppressed the issue. It seems like the government is more interested in hiding the truth behind this turmoil. It raises suspicions that there might be some hidden conspiracy at play behind the government’s silence.
The BJP government is currently in power in Manipur, and so far, there have been no significant changes in the Chief Minister’s approach. Even though Manipur is home to Olympic champion Mary Kom, who is also associated with the BJP government, she made an appeal to the state and the central government, led by Prime Minister Modi, through a video that has fallen on deaf ears.
The government puts more emphasis on lauding trips to destinations such as the USA, Dubai, and Egypt. Also their attention also extends to international matters like the Ukraine-Russian conflict, commendations for world leaders, and managing controversies like Mahagathbandhan and Adani scam. This suggests they’re more invested in these matters and less attentive to pressing concerns in Manipur.
What is the Current Situation in Manipur, and What Will Happen Next?
The current situation in Manipur is horrifying. People are living in fear, facing violence, and being looted. The fresh violence on 5th, August claimed 5 lives in Manipur. The districts of Bishnupur and Churachandpur, located nearby, witnessed intense gunfire and incidents of arson throughout the day, despite the presence of a significant number of central security forces, including the army.
Among the casualties were three Meitei men who were brutally beaten to death in their homes while they were sleeping. Moreover, a clash occurred between tribal hills and Meitei valleys, resulting in the tragic loss of two Kuki village guards. The region continues to be extremely unstable, presenting major difficulties in upholding peace.
Yet, Manipur seems cut off from the rest of the world as internet services have been shut down, and curfews are enforced, making it a dire situation.
Prime Minister Modi’s recent trip to France sparked criticism from the European Parliament. They voiced concerns about the government’s policies promoting Hindu nationalism. But, the Indian government, including PM Modi, brushed aside these criticisms. They considered them meddling in the nation’s internal affairs.
The situation in Manipur is extremely dire, with incidents of armed looting by both the police and military personnel. They have seized automatic guns, pistols, grenades, and even bulletproof jackets. It appears that the BJP government has no genuine intention of restoring peace in Manipur.
To improve Manipur’s situation now and in the future, India’s Supreme Court must step in, and global voices should highlight the issues. Urgent measures are necessary to avoid the situation worsening and spreading across the country, akin to incidents in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
India: Rise in Police Encounters in UP Under Yogi Adityanath’s Leadership
Since Yogi Adityanath assumed office as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 2017, the state has witnessed a significant rise in the number of police encounters, sparking intense debate and concerns over human rights violations and extrajudicial killings. While the government argues that these encounters are a necessary tool to combat crime, critics and human rights organizations contend that they raise serious questions about due process, transparency, and the rule of law.
Under the leadership of Chief Minister Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh has experienced a surge in reported encounters between the police and alleged criminals. These encounters often involve suspects in cases ranging from organized crime to petty offenses. The encounters typically result in the death of the alleged criminals, with the police claiming self-defence or retaliatory action.
An investigation of police records by The Indian Express reveals that since March 2017, when Yogi Adityanath took charge, and till date, the state has witnessed 186 encounters. This works out to more than one alleged criminal being killed by the police every 15 days.
Supporters of Police Encounters
Supporters of these encounters argue that they have contributed to a decrease in crime rates and instilled a sense of safety among the public. The government points to statistics showing a decline in major crimes as evidence of the effectiveness of this approach. However, critics remain skeptical about the veracity of these claims and emphasize the need for a thorough and impartial investigation into each encounter.
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Human Rights Organizations on Police Encounters
Human rights organizations and activists have raised serious concerns regarding the legality and propriety of these encounters. They argue that extrajudicial killings erode the foundations of a democratic society and undermine the principles of justice and fairness. These encounters bypass the judicial process and deny individuals their right to a fair trial, potentially leading to the abuse of power and the violation of human rights.
Self-defence Claims on Police Encounters
There have been allegations of encounters being staged or manipulated to fabricate self-defense claims. Concerns have also been raised about the lack of transparency surrounding the circumstances of these encounters, with limited independent oversight or mechanisms to ensure accountability. Such issues further erode public trust in law enforcement agencies and the justice system.
The Uttar Pradesh Government on Police Encounters
In response to mounting criticism, the Uttar Pradesh government has defended the encounters as necessary in the fight against crime and asserts that all encounters are conducted within the framework of the law. They emphasize that these operations are carried out to protect the safety and security of the citizens. However, the lack of independent investigations and public scrutiny has fuelled scepticism and calls for greater transparency.
The Rise in Police Encounters
The rise in police encounters in Uttar Pradesh under Chief Minister Adityanath’s tenure has drawn attention not only within India but also internationally. Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have expressed concerns about the pattern of extrajudicial killings and the potential violation of human rights. They have called for independent investigations into these encounters to ensure that the principles of justice and human rights are upheld.
Critics argue that a comprehensive approach to law enforcement should prioritize measures such as professional training, intelligence-led operations, and an efficient and impartial judicial system. Strengthening these areas would provide a more sustainable and accountable framework for crime control while preserving the fundamental rights of all individuals.
Balancing the need for effective law enforcement with the protection of human rights and the rule of law remains a significant challenge. It is essential for the Uttar Pradesh government to undertake measures that address these concerns, ensure transparent and independent investigations into encounters, and establish mechanisms for accountability.
The police encounters in Uttar Pradesh since Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath assumed office have ignited a contentious debate over the methods employed in combating crime. Striking the right balance between security and the protection of individual rights is crucial for the state to foster a safe and just society. Upholding the principles of due process, transparency, and accountability will be key to restoring public trust and upholding the rule of law in Uttar Pradesh.
In recent developments, the controversial rise of police encounters in Uttar Pradesh has gained further attention and sparked renewed discussions about the need for accountability and transparency.
Civil Society and Human Rights Advocacy
Civil society organizations and human rights activists have been vocal in their condemnation of extrajudicial killings and the lack of accountability in encounters. They have continued to raise awareness about the issue through campaigns, public awareness programs, and legal advocacy. These efforts have played a significant role in keeping the issue in the public spotlight and demanding justice for the victims.
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The issue of encounters in Uttar Pradesh has drawn international attention. Human rights organizations and foreign governments have expressed their concerns over extrajudicial killings and violations of human rights. The international community has called for independent investigations and accountability, urging the Indian government to uphold its international obligations and protect the rights of all individuals.
While the recent developments indicate a growing recognition of the need for accountability and transparency in encounters, there is still much work to be done. It is crucial for the Uttar Pradesh government to take concrete steps to ensure independent and impartial investigations into encounters, establish mechanisms for accountability, and provide support to victims’ families.
Addressing the root causes of crime, improving the professionalism and training of law enforcement agencies, and strengthening the judicial system are essential components of a comprehensive approach to law enforcement that respects human rights and upholds the rule of law.
The ongoing discussions, judicial interventions, and advocacy efforts are crucial in holding authorities accountable and bringing about systemic reforms. Only through a collective commitment to justice, transparency, and the protection of human rights can Uttar Pradesh strive towards a society where the rule of law prevails and the rights and dignity of all individuals are safeguarded.
Lack of Accountability
Critics argue that the government has failed to hold law enforcement officials accountable for their actions in encounters. The absence of independent and impartial investigations into these incidents has created an environment where impunity prevails. Without proper scrutiny and consequences for wrongdoing, there is little deterrent to prevent potential abuses of power.
While the government has established commissions or committees to examine select encounters, critics contend that these efforts are piecemeal and lack comprehensive reforms. There is a need for systemic changes that address the root causes and structural issues surrounding encounters, such as inadequate training, biased policing, and the absence of transparent protocols.
Lack of Transparency
Transparency is a crucial aspect of any democratic society. However, critics argue that the government has been reluctant to provide clear and detailed information about encounters, making it difficult to assess their legitimacy. The absence of publicly available data, including information about the number of encounters, the identities of the victims, and the circumstances leading to their deaths, hampers efforts to ensure accountability and justice.
Scepticism of Official Narratives
There is widespread scepticism among critics regarding the official narratives presented by law enforcement agencies in encounters. The claims of self-defence or retaliatory action are often met with doubts, given the lack of independent verification and the pattern of encounters being used as a means to eliminate alleged criminals without due process.
Failure to Address Root Causes
Critics argue that encounters, as a response to crime, are a superficial approach that fails to address the underlying causes of criminality. They believe that the government should focus on comprehensive measures such as strengthening community policing, improving socio-economic conditions, and reforming the judicial system to ensure a more effective and sustainable approach to crime prevention.
The absence of robust action on the part of the current government has led to a growing sense of frustration and disillusionment among human rights activists, civil society organizations, and concerned citizens. They argue that addressing the issue of encounters requires proactive measures, including impartial investigations, reforms in law enforcement practices, and transparency to ensure justice for victims and uphold the rights of all individuals.
Manipur Violence Sparks Debate in Indian Parliament
For the past few days, India’s Parliament is unable to function properly. The opposition has been pushing for a debate on the violence in Manipur under relevant rules of the parliament proceedings. However, the ruling BJP party has been refusing the opposition’s request. As a result, the Indian lawmakers have not been able to carry out much business in the parliament. People have raised questions about the losing credibility of the parliament.
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Since May this year, Manipur has been engulfed in ethno-religious violence. The violence erupted on May 3 after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. More than 160 people have been killed in the violence so far. The government has imposed curfew in the state.
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GOI avoiding accountability on Manipur violence
While the law-and-order machinery in the state has broken, the state government has largely avoided accountability for the Manipur violence. Further, people at the helm of affairs in Manipur, including police have played partisan role in the violence. There are reports of police officers of one ethnic community inflicting violence against members of the other community. Reports and videos of sexual violence coming from Manipur this week shocked India except for the ruling party. There had been efforts to suppress the reports and videos of Manipur sexual violence. Despite attempting to delete the video clips from phones and internet ban in the state, the videos somehow went viral on social media.
Opposition parties on Manipur violence
Given the gravity of the situation, various opposition parties in India had called for the resignation of the state government. The state government however continues to ignore these calls. Similarly, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has not spoken a word on the issue. During these three months, Modi has attended various rallies and functions and spoken a lot about the achievements of his government, but Manipur does not seem to exist for him.
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Modi not attending parliament on Manipur violence
Modi has also not attended the parliament to talk about Manipur violence. He has been absent from the parliament. The opposition demanded his presence in the parliament to debate and discuss on Manipur. However, the ruling government has rejected the opposition demands. Even though the government agreed to have a short discussion on Manipur, it wanted to do it without the presence of Modi.
GOI’s whataboutery on Manipur violence
One of the horrible things that was witnessed in parliament recently was the ruling government resorting to whataboutery. When the opposition demanded a discussion on Manipur sexual violence, the members of ruling party, including Minister for Women and Child Development, Smriti Zubin Irani resorted to whataboutery. If the opposition wants to discuss Manipur sexual violence, the ruling government wants to discuss sexual violence in opposition-ruled states. However, opposition members argued that while sexual violence against women was happening in other states, the sexual violence in Manipur had a genocidal intent.
Meanwhile, opposition leaders asked the Upper House to suspend all other business and take up the discussion on Manipur. Rajya Sabha chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar did not allow the discussion and rejected the demands for PM’s presence in the House.
Opposition parties demand discussion on Manipur violence
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Raghav Chadha cited an example from Congress days when the chairman had suspended all other businesses to take up the issue of attacks on migrants from Northeast. Manipur is one of the states located in the Northeast. The people from Northeast are discriminated and attacked in the mainland India. During the Covid-19 pandemic, there were various reports of violence on migrants from Northeast states.
“The images of brutality and monstrosity coming from Manipur have shaken the soul of India to its core. Is this India of 21st century? Is this the New India of which the prime minister sings paens across the world? Did the people of Manipur vote for this?” Chadha said.
“The ministers of BJP tweet if there is a small earthquake anywhere from Pakistan to Kazakhstan. And now when Manipur is burning, these people are not even bothered. The cries of Manipur have reached every corner of the world, but not the corridors of power in Delhi,” he added.
Indian parliament over Manipur violence
The way the current regime has handled parliament proceedings has made parliament a joke. The opposition is not being heard in the parliament. The only function of parliament for Modi’s party is to pass bills and make laws conveniently with the help of its brute majority. The government does not want any inconvenience. It does not want discussion on anything inconvenient. The opposition can either toe the line or they can shout and stage a walk-out. However, the government will not concede, and it will do what it wants to do. One wonders what the function of the opposition in India’s parliament is today. Currently, it seems it has none.
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