Outside of India

Operation Blue Star and its violent aftermaths popularized the demand for Khalistan among many Sikhs dispersed globally. Involvement of sections of Sikh diaspora turned out to be important for the movement as it provided the diplomatic and financial support. It also enabled Pakistan to become involved in the fueling of the movement. Sikhs in UK, Canada and USA arranged for cadres to travel to Pakistan for military and financial assistance. Some Sikh groups abroad even declared themselves as the Khalistani government in exile.

The Sikh place of worship, gurdwaras provided the geographic and institutional coordination for the Sikh community. Sikh political factions have used the gurdwaras as a forum for political organization. The gurdwaras sometimes served as the site for mobilization of diaspora for Khalistan movement directly by raising funds. Indirect mobilization was sometimes provided by promoting a stylized version of conflict and Sikh history. The rooms in some gurdwara exhibit pictures of Khalistani leaders along with paintings of martyrs from Sikh history. Gurdwaras also host speakers and musical groups that promote and encourage the movement. Among the diasporas, Khalistan issue has been a divisive issue within gurdwaras.

Assassination of Indira Gandhi and anti-Sikh riots

On the morning of 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated in New Delhi by her two personal security guards Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, both Sikhs, in retaliation for Operation Blue Star.[28] The assassination would trigger the 1984 anti-Sikh riots across North India. While the ruling party, Indian National Congress (INC), maintained that the violence was due to spontaneous riots, its critics have alleged that INC members themselves had planned a pogrom against the Sikhs.[64]

The Nanavati Commission, a special commission created to investigate the riots, concluded that INC leaders (including Jagdish TytlerH. K. L. Bhagat, and Sajjan Kumar) had directly or indirectly taken a role in the rioting incidents.[65][66] Union Minister Kamal Nath was accused of leading riots near Rakab Ganj, but was cleared due to lack of evidence.[66] Other political parties strongly condemned the riots.[67] Two major civil-liberties organisations issued a joint report on the anti-Sikh riots, naming 16 significant politicians, 13 police officers, and 198 others, accused by survivors and eyewitnesses.

1985 to present day

Sikh historian Harjot Singh Oberoi argues that, despite the historical li

Many Sikh and Hindu groups, as well as organisations not affiliated to any religion, have attempted to establish peace between the Khalistan proponents and the Government of India. Akalis continued to witness radicalization of Sikh politics, fearing disastrous consequences. In response, President Harchand Singh Longowal reinstated the head of the Akali Dal and pushed for a peace initiative that reiterated the importance of Hindu-Sikh amity, condemning Sikh extremist violence, therefore declaring that the Akali Dal was not in favor of Khalistan.

In 1985, The Government of India attempted to seek a political solution to the grievances of the Sikhs through the Rajiv-Longowal Accord, which took place between Longowal and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The Accord – recognizing the religious, territorial, and economic demands of the Sikhs that were thought to be non-negotiable under Indira Gandhi’s tenure – agreed to establish commissions and independent tribunals in order to resolve the Chandigarh issue and the river dispute, laying the basis for Akali Dal’s victory in the coming elections.

Though providing a basis for a return to normality, Chandigarh evidently remained an issue and the agreement was denounced by Sikh militants who refused to give up the demand for an independent Khalistan. These extremists, who were left unappeased, would react by assassinating Longowal. Such behavior would lead to the dismissal of negotiations, whereby both Congress and the Akali parties accused each other of aiding terrorism.

The Indian Government pointed to the involvement of a “foreign hand,” referring to Pakistan’s abetting of the movement. Punjab noted to the Indian Government that militants were able to obtain sophisticated arms through sources outside the country and by developing links with sources within the country. As such, the Government believed that large illegal flows of arms were flowing through the borders of India, with Pakistan being responsible for trafficking arms. India claimed that Pakistan provided sanctuary, arms, money, and moral support to the militants, though most of the accusations were based on circumstantial evidence.

nkages between Sikhs and Punjab, territory has never been a major element of Sikh self-definition. He makes the case that the attachment of Punjab with Sikhism is a recent phenomenon, stemming from the 1940s. Historically, Sikhism has been pan-Indian, with the Guru Granth Sahib (the main scripture of Sikhism) drawing from works of saints in both North and South India, while several major seats in Sikhism (e.g. Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, Takht Sri Patna Sahib in Bihar, and Hazur Sahib in Maharashtra) are located outside of Punjab.

Oberoi makes the case that Sikh leaders in the late 1930s and 1940s realized that the dominance of Muslims in Pakistan and of Hindus in India was imminent. To justify a separate Sikh state within the Punjab, Sikh leaders started to mobilize meta-commentaries and signs to argue that Punjab belonged to Sikhs and Sikhs belong to Punjab. This began the territorialization of the Sikh community.

This territorialization of the Sikh community would be formalized in March 1946, when the Sikh political party of Akali Dal passed a resolution proclaiming the natural association of Punjab and the Sikh religious community. Oberoi argues that despite having its beginnings in the early 20th century, Khalistan as a separatist movement was never a major issue until the late 1970s and 1980s when it began to militarize.

Late 1980s

In 1986, when the insurgency was at its peak, the Golden Temple was again occupied by militants belonging to the All India Sikh Students Federation and Damdami Taksal. The militants called an assembly (Sarbat Khalsa) and, on 26 January, they would pass a resolution (gurmattā) in favour of the creation of Khalistan. However, only the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) had the authority to appoint the jathedar, the supreme religio-temporal seat of the Sikhs. The militants thus dissolved the SGPC and appointed their own jathedar, who turned out to refuse their bidding as well. Militant leader Gurbachan Singh Manochahal thereby appointed himself by force.

On 29 April 1986, an assembly of separatist Sikhs at the Akal Takht made a declaration of an independent state of Khalistan, and a number of rebel militant groups in favour of Khalistan subsequently waged a major insurgency against the Government of India. A decade of violence and conflict in Punjab would follow before a return to normality in the region. This period of insurgency saw clashes of Sikh militants with the police, as well as with the Nirankaris, a mystical Sikh sect who are less conservative in their aims to reform Sikhism.