This week marks a sad one in India’s history. In June 1984, Operation Blue Star, one of the darkest parts of the Punjab Insurgency, occurred.
The wounds of these events are still healing in India, but nefarious forces are politicising them in the UK. It saddens me to see people from my community use the deaths of innocent Hindus and Sikhs as an opportunity to push Khalistani propaganda.
My Twitter and Instagram feeds have been crammed with messages of solidarity for the murdered African-American, George Floyd. They are rightfully calling out the systemic oppression of black people in America.
However, I was shocked to find that later some of these accounts were promoting the religious extremist, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The man who is partly responsible for Operation Blue Star, hid within the compound in order to lure in the Indian Army.The same person is linked to the cold-blooded murders of many Hindus and Sikhs. The very person that says on camera, ‘I will kill slay 5000 Hindus in one hour’.
Pictures of Bhindranwale have long-been placed in Gurudwaras across the UK as a stark reminder to Hindus and Sanatan Sikhs that they are not welcome. However, these violations of spaces, both physical and virtual, have proliferated as Khalistanis coax Sikh social media influencers to push their agenda.
For example, prominent ‘British Indian’ and former face of Burberry, Neelam Gill, posted a picture of the religious extremist, accompanied by some Khalistani propaganda. It is propaganda because it is the epitome of spinning the truth to push a certain political agenda, and in this case, the Khalistani one.
Such posts wrongly pit the Punjab Insurgency as Sikhs vs Indians (and for some influencers and neo-Sikhs, even Sikh vs Hindus). This framing is wrong as obviously Sikhs and Indians are not mutually exclusive.
The majority of Sikhs during the Insurgency sided with India and many were even a part of the Indian government at the time. Secondly, such posts play into the ‘Sikh victim narrative’ and erase the fact that many Sikhs and Hindus were killed by Khalistanis. Thirdly, such narratives are a-historical and never discuss factors such as the role of Pakistan or attempts to resolve the situation before Blue Star. I can go on but do not wish to state the obvious.
This brings me back to the central point. Do people like Neelam support the views of religious extremists or are they perversely virtue-signalling to gain relevance? Ignorance is not an excuse. Moreover, people should be held to account for their actions. I do not wish to dwell on Neelam Gill as dozens of influencers are guilty of this.
In the West, a new identity is being concocted. One which is distant from the message of the Guru Nanak Dev Ji and distant from India, a ‘neo-Sikh’. Yet, this begs the questions; what insidious forces are pushing this narrative, pulling these strings and why?
We, unfortunately, live in an age of ‘non-linear warfare’; propaganda is an effective tool to polarise people and further a belligerent nation-state military policy. It is no secret that Pakistan was behind the Khalistanis during the Punjab Insurgency and is still supporting them today.
In the UK, the Khalistan lobby facilitated the election of Preet Gill in my hometown of Birmingham. The Sikh Federation was behind her win and now controls the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs.
The Sikh Federation and Khalistani allies, such as the National Sikh Youth Federation, are dominating UK-Sikh spaces and using their fledgling legitimacy to usurp the discourse; thereby colonising the minds of the ordinary Western Sikh.
Khalistanis prey on the legitimate upset and injustice faced by people on all sides during the tragic Punjab Insurgency. In India, more needs to be done to hold those responsible for the anti-Sikh pogroms to account, including robust public inquiries and lengthy jail sentences.
Not only is this the moral thing to do but it will also stop Khalistanis from hijacking their grievances. And my advice to the social media ‘influencers’: don’t be a political pawn and push dog-whistle racism.
- Disclaimer: The Author is a British Sikh who wishes to remain anonymous. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are that of the author and not of the website owner or publisher.