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The Second Coming


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004

Jihad: (noun) a holy war undertaken as a sacred duty by Muslims; any vigorous, emotional crusade for an idea or principle — Online dictionary

Long before jihad became part of the world's vocabulary, India had suffered one and come out on the other side. For nearly two decades, till the mid-1990s, the Punjab militants' crusade for Khalistan ran its bloody course. Never again, prayed a weary nation, should Punjab — and the rest of India — have to suffer like this. But does any — or do all — of the following suggest we might be heading back to the future?

l In late July, five suspected Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) militants were arrested. The BKI is one of the oldest and best organized Khalistani groups and is infamous for masterminding the Kanishka bombing of 1985 and the 1995 assassination of Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.

l Pal Singh, a French national, was one of those arrested. Singh, whose age has been variously described as "54" and "in his seventies", was picked up from Dhandowal village in Jalandhar district. Police say Singh was in the area with the ostensible aim of teaching Gurbani, but it was a cover to recruit young people for a terrorist sleeper cell.

l There are many Pal Singhs moving around Punjab's villages, according to intelligence sources. They have foreign connections and operate under the garb of "religious or social services". Sources allege that their real agenda is to "brainwash the jobless into taking up arms".

l On the eve of the May 2009 Lok Sabha elections, posters of the dead separatist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale mysteriously came up around polling booths in the state. Since then, Bhindranwale posters are increasingly being seen on cars and buses and pamphlets with extremist propaganda are being circulated.

l Harcharanjit Singh Dhami, president of Dal Khalsa in Amritsar, which aims to "establish a sovereign Sikh state, Khalistan, through peaceful means", says it is important to note that arms are increasingly being seized in the last year from scores of young men. "The guns may have fallen silent since 1995 but the Punjab problem will continue to resurface till it is not properly addressed," rages Dhami, adding that the Sikhs need to see justice done for the 1984 Sikh riots.

l Punjab DGP P S Gill informed the home ministry on Tuesday that terrorists wanted in Punjab had set up base in Malaysia and were sending arms and explosives to Punjab, as well as men to carry out attacks. This comes soon after reports that the Khalistan Liberation Force has set up a base there. The police believes the illegal immigrants in Malaysia, particularly from Punjab, are KLF's target recruits.

It's a frightening thought, if you believe any or all of this. Intelligence reports say Sikh hardliners settled abroad are colluding with the ISI and Babbar Khalsa militants based in Pakistan and have now taken it upon themselves to provoke rural youths into committing themselves to the "cause of Sikhism". The brainwashed young men are encouraged to aim to achieve separatist goals through violent means, if necessary. In return, says a senior intelligence official, these young men are promised solid and sustained care for their families. They are also assured of support — financial as well as logistical — if they finish the tasks they are set and want to settle abroad. "The strategy is clear — with funds from hardline groups in the US and Europe and weapons and training from Pakistan, the Babbar Khalsa is planning to convert normal young Punjabis into extremists," says an official.

The plan, sources claim, is for many Pal Singhs to fan out across Punjab. But the Sikh Organization for Prisoner Welfare (SOPW), a registered charity operated by UK-based Sikhs, has denounced Pal Singh's "illegal abduction and detention" and describe him as a civil rights campaigner. SOPW has been lobbying with the French and Indian governments to secure Pal Singh's release. But police insist he provided a valuable tip-off within the week of his arrest, enabling them to recover a cache of explosives and ammunition from Jalandhar district. They say he has admitted to "close links" with dreaded Babbar Khalsa terrorists.

Sociologist Nirmal Sharma says: "Although the movement for Khalistan was comprehensively defeated in 1993, a handful of terrorist outfits chiefly supported by Pakistan and some non-resident Indian Sikh groups, such as the Babbar Khalsa International, continue to propagate the ideology of Khalistan."

But exactly how vulnerable is the young Punjabi? And why is he vulnerable at all, 15 years after the militancy ended and Punjab was seen to turn the corner?

Parmar Singh may be a good place to start on the story of why India's breadbasket may be about to repeat its tragic history. He is 24 and belongs to Ramdas village in Amritsar district, near the Indo-Pakistan border. He says his father, a farmer, "came under heavy debt in the last decade. We had to sell off our land to pay it off and sustain ourselves with what was left over. Today, I have no land to till, nor do I have a job. There are many boys in our village who have nothing much to do. Ours is a border village and there is a huge influx of drugs; many of my friends have become addicts."

Sharma says Parmar is describing a displacement that can be statistically tracked. "As per the state's last Economic Census, there are 14.72 lakh unemployed youth in the age group of 18-35. There are hardly any opportunities or social security schemes for the unemployed. The young Sikhs of Punjab may not relate to Bhindranwale and his ideology, but they are definitely feeling alienated in the aftermath of the 1984 riots and are put off with both the Central and the state governments for neither giving them justice nor jobs."

Many seem willing to allow their frustration to push them to desperate acts and often enough, these are meant to be their ticket to a glittering future overseas. Rattandeep Singh was arrested for planting a bomb in a car in Amritsar in May this year. His family was in Canada and he was keen to save money to immigrate. Harmohinder Singh, accused in the 2007 Ludhiana Shingar Cinema blast, had fled to Pakistan after the blasts, but returned recently to make "arrangements" for his family to immigrate to Canada.

Pal Singh. Parmar Singh. Rattandeep Singh. A lengthening roll-call but not everyone is willing to sound the alarm bells just yet. Pramod Kumar, director of Chandigarh's Institute for Development and Communication, prefers to call it "footloose terrorism" rather than a "revival" of Sikh separatism. "There is evidently increased terrorist activity in the state, but it would be better if we don't call it terrorism," Kumar cautions.

He may have a point. At present, the dominant discourse in the state is not terrorism but its very real problems — the plight of farmers, joblessness and water disputes. Kumar adds that insurgency cannot really take wing unless it has an academic blueprint and students and intellectuals are discussing it.

Interestingly, Kumar is one of the few to point up a key fear — that the police is happy to stoke rumours of a revivalist insurgency in a bid to get extra powers. "It's better for them to nip such a movement in the bud and control this footloose terrorism here and now than to term it as a revival," he says.

Former Punjab police chief K P S Gill, who played a key role in stamping out terrorism from Punjab, says that although there is "no significant pro-terrorist constituency" within the state, there is no reason to be complacent. "It's an open secret that efforts to fuel a revival have been constant on the part of ISI, exploiting the surviving rump of Khalistani groups in Pakistan as well as diaspora elements, principally in Europe, Canada and the US."

Sociologist Sharma says the problem is that Punjabi youth are ripe to be misled. "Most youth in the state are desperate to settle abroad and there is an acute problem of drugs and unemployment at home...(so) one fears such people could be converted by jihadis."

Read more: The second coming? - Special Report - Sunday TOI - Home - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/...-coming/articleshow/6389524.cms#ixzz0xHFJtOuF


Nov 8, 2008


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
ranghi ji

The article is not only shocking but it is disgraceful. Notice that the author is not known... go to the link and see if you can find who wrote it?

So we can not evaluate it properly. Though its biases are very much in the foreground. One does not have to revere Jarnail Singh nor does one have to support Khalistan to see how inflamatory this article is.

Wrong to consider this news reporting. So what is it?


May 3, 2010
Narayanjot Kaur ji,
I know I am not knowledgeable about this matter, yet I do see, in my own circle, cause for concern. I have a friend, whose eyes turn red with rage and tears of frustration, when telling me about the 1984 Sikh genocide and Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. I see that within his group of friends there is one who has redesigned the Khanda to feature machine guns and rounds of amunition in place of the kirpans and chakkar. Throughout the group there is a subtle vengeful sentiment about the past and ongoing injustices relating to the agenda to suppress, if not exterminate Sikhs in the Punjab, as well as fixation with the warrior component of Sikhi. Here’s an example:


I can talk to my friend about Sikh principles and about refraining from violence when other options for dealing with conflict still remain, but it won’t change the fact that the people of Punjab have suffered tremendously due to politics.

I often wonder if Punjabi ex-pats, removed from the zone of conflict, see themselves as the relatively impartial, sympathetic agents needed to pursue justice for 1984 Sikh genocide at the international level. What are members of the Diaspora doing to aid resolution? Can you point me to better understanding of this?

There must be some good news to help Punjabis retain hope for resolution and justice. It is the frustration and the continued suppression and killings that cause the vulnerability of these young men. These fear mongering stories really are best countered with news of progress toward restoration, don’t you think? Even if hope is the only positive thing we can offer today, it is still better than indifference or reinforcing indignation. Don't you agree?

Chardi Kala!


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
ik-jivan ji

I cannot add anything to your analysis of the situation. One of the most perplexing aspects is that among activist groups there are some who are as fanatical as jihadists and some who are political opportunists looking for a window of opportunity to fill a power vacuum, or create the illusion that they fill the shoes of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. There are also legitimate groups who are taking great risks in organizing against the convoluted politics of the state of Punjab.

It is next to impossible from the distance of the diaspora to know where those who can speak out effectively without hidden agendas and with integrity are found. Who are they? It takes months of study and networking to discover the intricacies of this issue.

So far the diaspora has been most effective through large organizations like World Sikh Council Canada that can make organized, articulate, factual presentations to governments worldwide. The American courts have already entered a judgment against Kamal Nath because of the savvy of Sikh advocacy in the US that took the case of Sikh genocide victims to face the law, with their Indian counterparts.

Having said this, World Sikh Council continues to be characterized as a fanatical, separatist organization, and there is no end to the efforts to undermine its successes toward human rights in sight.

People just have to be very brave without taking stupid risks. This requires doing one's homework, studying the history of Punjab in the 1980's and '90's, understanding the organizations that make up the opposition, understanding the political organization of Punjab, being prepared rather than hysterical, not believing everything you are told, and above all being very patient and ready for unpleasant surprises.