Accused in a kidnapping and assault case, Lovepreet Singh alias Toofan Singh was released from jail in Punjab’s Ajnala.
Lovepreet Singh is a close aide of self-styled Sikh preacher and Khalistani sympathiser Amritpal Singh. He was released a day after hundreds of protesters stormed a police station demanding his release.
What is the Khalistan movement?
- The Khalistan movement is a fight for a separate, sovereign Sikh state in present day Punjab (both India and Pakistan).
- The movement was crushed in India following Operation Blue Star (1984) and Operation Black Thunder (1986 and 1988).
- Operation Blue Star began on June 1, 1984 to flush out militants from the Golden Temple and neutralise Bhindranwale.
- However, it continues to evoke sympathy and support among sections of the Sikh population, especially in the Sikh diaspora in countries such as Canada, UK, and Australia.
When did the movement start and why?
- Origin lies in India’s independence and subsequent Partition along religious lines —
- The Punjab province, which was divided between India and Pakistan, saw some of the worst communal violence and generated millions of refugees.
- Lahore, the capital of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s great Sikh Empire, went to Pakistan, as did holy Sikh sites including Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.
- While most Sikhs found themselves in India, they were a small minority in the country, making up around 2 per cent of the population.
- Struggle for greater autonomy & States Reorganisation Commission —
- The political struggle for greater autonomy began around the time of Independence, with the Punjabi Suba Movement for the creation of a Punjabi-speaking state.
- The States Reorganisation Commission, in its 1955 report, rejected this demand, but in 1966, after years of protest, the state of Punjab was reorganised to reflect the Punjabi Suba demand.
- The erstwhile Punjab state was trifurcated into the Hindi-speaking, Hindu-majority states of Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, and the Punjabi-speaking, Sikh-majority Punjab.
- Anandpur Sahib Resolution —
- In 1973, leaders of the Akali Dal met at the sacred town of Anandpur Sahib, the birthplace of the Khalsa.
- They released a list of demands that would guide the political path of the Akali Dal.
- Among other things, the Anandpur Sahib Resolution demanded autonomy for the state of Punjab, identified regions that would be part of a separate state, and sought the right to frame its own internal constitution.
- The Akali Dal was trying to cash in on the growing demand for an autonomous state which had emerged alongside the Punjabi Suba movement.
- This demand had gone global by 1971 — when an advertisement appeared on The New York Times proclaiming the birth of Khalistan.
- Rise of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale —
- Many in Punjab sought to go beyond just a demand for greater autonomy. One such man was Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
- Bhindranwale was a charismatic preacher who soon positioned himself as the authentic voice of the Sikhs.
- He found a captive audience in the state’s youth, especially those in the lower rungs of the social ladder, and massed a massive following.
- By 1982, he took up residence inside the Golden Temple, directing demonstrations and clashes with the police.
- The movement was geared towards the demands first articulated in the Anandpur Sahib Resolution.
- However, amidst growing religious polarisation, sectarian violence, and Bhindranwale’s own harsh rhetoric against Hindus, the then government declared the movement tantamount to secession.
- The aftermath of Operation Blue Star —
- This operation gravely wounded the Sikh community around the world. It also galvanised the demand for Khalistan.
- Punjab saw the worst violence, becoming the hub of a long drawn-out insurgency that lasted till 1995.