Elephants in Modi’s Room: Kashmir, Khalistan, Babri Masjid

“We have the Makkah and Madinah of Sikhs”: PM Khan while opening Kartarpur corridor

DESPARDES News Monitor — India’s Punjab– where majority of Sikhs live, has over several decades been the ground zero of dissent against the State’s highhandedness, as much as Kashmir and the northeastern region has been .

That undercurrent this week in the largest democracy’s food basket took a new significance as nationalist Narendra Modi won a second stint as Prime Minister by a landslide– he raised national security as the numero uno priority during campaign trails. Therefore, while many believe Modi will attempt to resolve these issues, others don’t. “Modi’s main agenda is to unwrap secularism and paint the landscape with saffron (symbolic of Hindutva),” says Suresh Cayyur, an Indian American.

Amritsar march: June 6, 2019

The first week of June 1984 in Amritsar saw one of the first jolts in the country’s religious and cast-driven faultline– having begun in 1947 with the creation of Pakistan as an independent state for Indian Muslims.

Related Article: Sikh Genocide 1984: Memorial Day Observed in US, UK, Canada

The partition created an addition to the faultline: the Himalayan region of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority hot spot waiting for plebiscite. Their decades’ old wait has been at the cost of massive collateral damages both human and economic notwithstanding instability in the region. Kashmiris are to decide between joining Pakistan or become independent– their groupthink has morphed into a huge movement.

The former cricketer known for a long winding open-chested runup to the wicket to deliver swingers to the batsman did a similar, line and length-wise, said one observer.

India insists Kashmir is an integral part– a position that has upended its stance on the 1948 UN Security Council Resolution and made its ongoing resistance controversial.

“India procrastinates– with guns and bullets and demographic engineering,” say independent Kashmir observers.

Golden Temple, Amritsar: June 6, 2019

In Punjab, the State remains culpable of thousand deaths at the Golden Temple– the wounds still remain.

FLASH BACK: In the first week of June 1984, news of the death of Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale spread in Amritsar, at the peak of Operation Bluestar, a massive military campaign launched under then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s watch, to dent Sikh’s movement for an independent state called “Khalistan.”

Some 10,000 Sikhs lost their lives as a result of the bloody campaign. Hundreds of soldiers left their Army units and reached the Golden Temple after the attack on Darbar Sahib. The Army had dismissed the deserters from service.

Years later, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. And a backlash on Delhi streets saw thousands of Sikhs killed.

Protest in UK

FAST FORWARD: June 6th is the 35th anniversary of the bloody campaign. Gandhi’s order to the Army to enter the Golden Temple in Amrtisar where Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala spearheading the movement for Khalistan was present along with his followers was considered a sacrilege. It was not well taken world over either, and it ended up shaking the country’s fabric– a lasting wound remains to-date dovetailing Muslim wounds post Babri Mosque demolition subsequently.

Amritsar on Thursday observed lock-down followed by street marches and demonstrations. A huge population of Sikh Diaspora also held Bluestar rememberance in UK, Canada, USA and some EU countries.

How Modi’s cutting-edge nationalistic strategy will gel with Mahathma Gandhi’s (cotton wheel and khadar famed) nonviolence, civil rights awareness, etc. mantra pan out is yet to be seen. If Modi’s past (2014-2019) is an indicator, that remains at risk.

Lately, cow vigilantism has seen an uptick in not-so-secular-anymore India. Mostly Muslims and Dalits have been the victim with many lynched in broad daylight. In the majestic Himalayan valley– a mostly Muslim majority region, the youth and the women are now spearheading the self-determination movement underpinned by calls for UN Resolution’s call for plebiscite.

Modi’s government calls Kashmir uprising an “internal matter” despite having “internationalized” it with human rights violations– notwithstanding Kashmir’s internationalization in 1948 by the UN as a territorial dispute between Pakistan and India and plebiscite as the only solution.

According to several independent observers and analysts, the K-words (Khalistan, Kashmir) and the Babri Masjid issue give goosebumps to Delhi’s South Block inhabitants.

Pakistani premier Imran Khan lays foundation stone for the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims on both sides of India-Pakistan border (Nov 2018)

All three issues on Nationalist Modi’s plate draw their inherent strength from a “secular India” which stands politically challenged and religio-socially marginalized.

Another K-word (PM Khan) west of India stands for PM Khan albeit Khan Sahib. Khan has offered an olive branch to Modi with resolution of Kashmir. Both Modi and Khan are dubbed ‘chowkidar’ (watchman) by their supporters.

In November, PM Khan laid the foundation stone for the corridor linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur – the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev – to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district to facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims.

Kartarpur Sahib was established by the Sikh Guru in 1522.

“We have the Makkah and Madinah of Sikhs,” said Imran Khan in February referring to Kartarpur, while opening up the historical site for the community living on both sides of the post-tensioned border.

The former cricketer known for a long winding open-chested runup to the wicket to deliver swingers to the batsman did a similar, line and length-wise, said one observer.