25 years on, few takers for Khalistan in Canada

25 years on, few takers for Khalistan in Canada

Outside India, Canada was the worst affected by the Khalistan movement, for a separate Sikh state, at its peak in the 1980s.

Sikh radicals openly indulged in violence to further their goal of Khalistan.

Though nobody was found guilty by a trial court here, Sikh radicals plotted the bombing of the Air India Kanishka flight that killed all 329 passengers aboard in June 1985.

The radicals also plotted to kill then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and ruthlessly suppressed moderate voices in the community.

Over the years, former hardliners have realised the futility of their efforts. The new generation has little interest in far away India.

The current Canadian government of the Conservative Party has also banned radical organisations like Babbar Khalsa.

To stay relevant, a handful of Khalistan supporters try to raise anti-India slogans at every possible opportunity - be it India's independence day or some function attended by Indian diplomats or some Sikh parade in the Punjabi-dominated city of Surrey on the outskirts of Vancouver.

Among those who opposed the hardliners was top Indo-Canadian leader Ujjal Dosanjh, who had to pay a heavy price for it. He went on to become the first coloured premier (equal to a chief minister in India) of British Columbia province and Canada's health minister.   

Dosanjh, who was badly beaten by the separatists in the 1980s for his opposition to Khalistan, calls them "the Taliban of Sikhs".
These people would do every thing to attract attention to stay relevant, Dosanjh said.

He also took a dig at Canadian politicians for harbouring these elements for the sake of votes.
"There is no doubt that leaders of a political party have always tried to curry favour with these elements for votes. These leaders are responsible for encouraging Khalistanis," Toronto-based Sikh leader Nachhttar Singh Chohan said.

Chohan, related to Jagjit Singh Chohan who first floated the idea of Khalistan, said the Sikhs felt betrayed by Indian leaders and left with choice but to fight for their rights.

Without committing himself to a separate state for Sikhs, the Toronto-based transporter said: "Leaders in India and Punjab have been dishonest with Sikhs. They should have shown respect for what we did for India. They should have respected the rights of the minorities.

"How can India heal the wounds of the Sikhs when those responsible for the 1984 riots are still roaming free?"     
His views are shared by most moderate Sikhs in Canada.

Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards to avenge the army action in the Golden Temple to flush out Sikh separatist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale and his armed supporters 25 years ago.