The Idea of Nationhood and Separatism
It may be a matter of mystery for sceptics to comprehend the reason behind the unity and the undisturbed sovereignty of a country like India that has around 121 languages spoken by 10,000 or more people, 700+ tribal groups and 1000+ communities. Despite all this, there is an underlying sense of belonging that enables these communities to come together and celebrate the achievements of this nation. Significant national symbols such as the national flag, national song, national anthem and the national emblem awaken in us a feeling of unity and patriotism towards Bharat, home to over a billion. However, it is unfortunate to see such national symbols being destroyed by secessionist groups within and outside India.
Recently pro-Khalistani supporters in the UK and the USA were seen disrespecting the Indian Flag in the Indian High Commission in London and the Indian Consulate in San Francisco respectively. It is reported that the trigger behind these incidents was the crackdown on the Khalistani group Waris Punjab De and its leader, Amritpal Singh and his supporters, by the police authorities in India. Amritpal Singh is known for propagating the secessionist Khalistani ideology by inciting Sikhs against India. He even has been styling himself like the terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was known for extensively propagating the Khalistani ideology in 1970s-80s. However, this is not the first time India has witnessed such separatist elements.
At the cusp of Independence, prominent Dravidian ideologue E. V. Ramaswamy Naicker, who is known for actively demanding a separate ‘Dravida Nadu’, had even approached Muhammad Ali Jinnah to vouch for this cause. Towards the North East, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) in Assam, is another separatist organisation that has engaged in violent activities. The rise of ULFA is linked with the AGP (Asom Gana Parishad) government coming to power. Since then, it has constantly engaged in anti-social and sometimes anti-national activities. ULFA is known for calling Pakistani soldiers ‘freedom fighters’ during the Kargil War and for killing 200 non-Assamese people between October and December 2000. However, after due deliberation and discussion with the Government of India, the ULFA movement has become dormant. This can be attributed to the conscious cultural integration of the North East with the rest of India over the past decade.
The calls for secession from India have often been the direct consequence of foreign syndicates with sinister motives to divide and rule. This was further driven and abetted by power-hungry and corrupt leaders. A case in point is when Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale raised the issues of Sikhs and turned them against India, thereby actively propagating a baseless demand for ‘Khalistan’.
Bhindranwale soon began to use the front of gurudwaras to plan and launch terrorist ideas; including the holiest Golden Temple in Amritsar. The government was forced to impose a crackdown when intelligence reported that Bhindranwale was devising a tunnel from Amritsar to Pakistan. What Bhindranwale made of the Golden Temple was a far greater sacrilege and desecration than the Government of India sending the Army into the Golden Temple, and killing Bhindranwale there. It would not have been an easy decision given the number of Sikhs in the Indian Army and surely, the then Prime Minister Indra Gandhi was assassinated as an aftermath to the Operation Blue Star. The Operation angered the Sikh community, some of whom wrongfully hoisted Bhindranwale to the status of a martyr.
The Khalistani movement has suspiciously picked up intensity again, albeit with a clear hand of foreign vested interests. The pro-Khalistani organisations abroad manipulated the Sikhs in Punjab to protest against the recent farm laws. Considering the risk of militancy by the pro-Khalistani organisations, the Government of India had to unfortunately repeal the newly enacted laws.
However, it would be wise to remember the courageous sacrifices made by various Sikh gurus who always fought for Bharat, not just Punjab. From Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh and his four sons, all the saints turned their devotion towards the motherland, Bharat Mata, not just Punjab. Similarly, the Sikh Gurus are beacons to the whole nation and not only for the Sikh community in Punjab.
Several strategic defence and foreign affairs experts have advised that the Government of India take stringent actions against those who have insulted the National Flag in London and San Francisco which should act as a deterrent for such incidents in the future. The security and the integrity of the nation cannot be compromised by a rebellious few who dare to take law in their hands. Irrespective of language, religion or ethnicity, this has always been an inclusive civilisation. For every community to thrive, the only possible way is to put India First.