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Sikhs, Panjab, India & the Diaspora: Locating Current Crisis

December 16, 2023 | By

New York: The Sikh Research Institute has recently released a report titled ‘Sikh, Panjab, India & the Diaspora: Locating Current Crisis’. 

As per the ‘Executive Summary’, ‘[t]he report provides a comprehensive overview of the current crisis involving Sikhs, Panjab, India and the diaspora. with a focus on the historical context primarily from 1984 to 2023’.

The death of Canadian Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June 2023 and subsequent accusations by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau against the Indian government have brought attention to the Khalistan issue. The report emphasizes historical grievances and injustices against Sikhs since 1947, the roots of the Khalistan movement, and varying degrees of support for Sikh separatism. It highlights the tactics used by the Indian state to oversimplify Sikh identity, portraying Sikhs as either extensions of Hindus or as terrorists and separatists.

The report underscores the unaddressed issues of human rights violations, state-led violence, and mass disappearances against Sikhs, particularly during the June 1984 Indian Army attack on Darbar Sahib and other Sikh Gurduaras and the Sikh Genocide of November 1984. It discusses the Khalistan movement’s evolution, the involvement of Sikh leaders, and the use of terms like terrorism and extremism in legal contexts. The report also mentions recent incidents, including the deaths of Sikh activists Avtar Singh Khanda and Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the Khalistan Referendum, the assassination attempt of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, and international reactions, including diplomatic tensions between Canada and India.

The policy implications section suggests recommendations specifically for the world, especially Canada, the US, the UK, qAustralia, and New Zealand; the recommendations. also apply to countries with Sikh populations. These include assurances of Sikh rights and safety, appointing a Special Representative to combat anti-Sikh hate, and contextualizing the Khalistan movement’s origin. 


The report makes following global policy recommendations calling for pursuing justice for Nijjar’s assassination, coordinating with other nations with Sikh populations, and addressing Sikh issues independently:-

  • Assure the Sikhs in the diaspora and India that their rights are protected and their safety is guaranteed. Create open channels of communication with the leadership of Sikh Gurdwaras, not-for-profit and charity organizations across the country, and the Department of Public Safety, along with all other security agencies, to ensure the safety of Canadian Sikhs.
  • Stop the amplification of manufactured and/or rare events as a pattern of violence by the Sikhs, as the data and trends do not support this narrative. Conduct intentional and genuine dialogue sessions with Sikh representatives, not just political party loyalists, in the coming weeks. Remain steadfast in the pursuit of justice regarding a foreign government’s assassination and assassination plots against Sikh citizens of Canada, the US, and the UK.
  • Address the Sikhs as an independent entity, not as Hindus; do not treat them as terrorists or as a security threat. Understand that the Sikh and Indian Panjab issues remain unaddressed; end their demonization as violent Khalistanis every time they protest. Treat Indian Panjab grievances as part of the national and international political solution.
  • Include India in the list of countries for public inquiry into foreign interference in the electoral process. Moreover, broaden the scope of Indian interference beyond the rhetoric during general national elections.
  • Sign the Declaration of Principles to Combat Transnational Repression.
  • Contextualize the origin of the Khalistan movement for elected officials and public servants as a response to the memory of human rights violations encompassing rapes, tortures, thousands of enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings, revived ever so often by ongoing intimidation of Sikhs; breakdown of the structures of democracy in Indian Panjab, and the region’s falling development indices. Essentially, a failure of the Indian state to provide legal, economic, and social justice.
  • Appoint Special Representatives in their respective countries to combat anti-Sikh hate and narrative.

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