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OGC Statement on Ongoing Attempts to Malign the Sikh Sangarsh for Khalistan

September 17, 2020 | By

Ontario, Canada: On September 9, 2020 Canada based Macdonald-Laurier Institute released a paper titled “Khalistan: A Project of Pakistan” by Terry Milewski. BC Gurdwaras Council and Ontario Gurdwaras Committee has issued a statement in response to this paper, terming it as part of Indian state’s propaganda against the Sikh Sangarsh. Full text of statement reads as follows:

31 Bhadon, 552 Nanakshahi
September 15, 2020 CE

Re: Ongoing Attempts to Malign the Sikh Sangarsh for Khalistan

As another example of the ongoing Indian interference in foreign countries to malign the Sikh sangarsh for Khalistan, an Ottawa-based think-tank, MacDonald-Laurier Institute, recently released a report (“Khalistan: A Project of Pakistan”) written by Terry Milewski. The report presents itself as a factual account of the Khalistan movement but amounts to little more than a rehashing of Indian state talking points aimed at obscuring the political realities of the struggle for Khalistan today.

The report claims that there is no grassroots support for Khalistan in Punjab, and that Pakistan intelligence agencies are the real driving force behind the Sikh sangarsh. This rhetoric is not only completely divorced from the facts on the ground, but it also makes the report effectively useless for any public policy purposes. Terry presents his credentials as a ‘veteran journalist’, however his retirement has emboldened him to shed all journalistic standards of impartiality, with his bias clearly on display. The manner in which he has failed to cite any references for several heinous allegations, his failure to engage with any credible sources, and reliance solely on commentary from Indian state officials and media reports highlight the lack of credibility in the publication. His arguments mirror Indian propaganda so closely it is difficult to distinguish any original thought.

This biased narrative fails to recognize the centrality of sovereignty to the Khalsa panth and the political realities of grassroots advocacy for Khalistan. Since the annexation of the Sikh confederacy by the British in 1849, the Khalsa panth has been resiliently resisting foreign occupation and mobilizing to re-establish sovereign rule in accordance with the Sikh values of Patshahi and Miri-Piri. Sikhs all over the world recognize Khalistan as the indigenous Sikh expression of this continuing struggle.

The Indian state’s vicious military operations have been well documented in the way they eliminated Sikh political activists, guerrillas, and their families from the political arena in the early 1990s. This repression has continued since then through the ongoing omnipresence of state violence in Punjab and impunity for those guilty of mass human rights violations. Since 2017 alone, at least 150 activists have been arrested by Indian security forces for explicitly rejecting the Indian electoral system and engaging in Khalistani activism through a variety of means. This includes advocacy over social media, supporting calls for a referendum in Punjab, and distributing Sikh literature–all activities which India has criminalized and forcibly shut down using its arbitrary anti-terror legislation. It is crucial that these recent waves of repression are understood in this context of an ongoing political conflict between two political entities rather than misrepresented by the likes of Terry as a problem of extremism or conspiracies around Pakistan’s supposed involvement.

Further, there is clear evidence of Indian political interference and espionage in foreign countries available in the public domain. This has particularly impacted journalism and media coverage in Canada. In a recent judgement, the Federal Court of Canada denied citizenship to a newspaper editor who worked closely with Indian intelligence for several years and was explicitly tasked by Indian intelligence to convince Canadian policy makers that Pakistan is the driving force behind Khalistani activism. This recent report is another blip in this pattern driven by such covert initiatives to push a narrative that will undoubtedly lead to poor policy choices devoid of an objective assessment of the facts. It is incumbent upon the leadership of the MacDonald-Laurier Institute to immediately retract this report and conduct an internal review of how such erratic content was published under its banner as serious policy analysis.

Countless members of the Sikh sangat all over the world unequivocally support Khalistan (including some of the largest Gurdwaras throughout the diaspora) and no amount of racist rhetoric will change this reality, nor will we resort to diluted responses based on fear. There have been many individuals like Terry that have come and gone, whose work represents one of the many tactics used by the Indian state to malign and divert the resources of the Sikh sangarsh. Regardless, Panthic organizations throughout the world will continue to resolutely strive towards the liberation of Khalistan.

The Panth is heavily invested in ensuring discourse and activism around Khalistan thrives. There is a variety of credible literature readily available and more to come. The Khalistan Centre, a recently started grassroots initiative that we support, will be releasing a report in the coming weeks that contextualizes work, such as Milewski’s, within the larger framework of Indian interference.

We will continue to engage the Sikh sangat all over the world by building solidarity and amplifying voices of Sikh resistance while countering unfounded and illegitimate labels placed on Sikh resistance by those who have malicious intentions and no understanding of the concept of Patshahi conferred upon the Khalsa by the Guru.

Moninder Singh (Spokesperson of BC Gurdwaras Council) & Amarjit Singh Mann (Spokesperson of Ontario Gurdwaras Committee).

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