Gurpreet Singh: Reports of Sikh terror camp in Fraser Valley reveal true colours of Narendra Modi government
The recent claims of Sikh separatists running armed training camp in BC and conniving with Pakistani spy agency ISI in Canada to create disturbances in India are nothing more than fear-mongering by agents of the right-wing Modi government in New Delhi.
Some prominent Indian dailies recently reported that an armed training camp is being run in Mission by Sikh extremists. Quoting unnamed sources in Indian intelligence, these media outlets not only identified one Surrey-based Sikh man as the organizer of the camp, but also suggested that there is an attempt to revive terrorism and violence in Punjab.
Some of these stories went on to indicate that supporters of Khalistan, an imaginary Sikh homeland to be carved out of northern India, have joined hands with officials of Inter-Services Intelligence (a.k.a. the ISI, Pakistan's spy agency) in Canada.
Roots of story go back to 1980s
The movement for Khalistan started in Punjab following a deadlock between the government and the Sikh leaders, who were seeking religious concessions and extra rights for their state. Not only were these demands ignored, but a parallel militant movement was propped up to weaken the moderate Sikh leadership.
In 1984, the situation completely deteriorated after the Golden Temple Complex, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs in Amritsar, became a nerve centre for political extremists. They stockpiled weapons inside this place of worship and carried out violence.
The Indian army invaded the shrine to flush out the militants, leaving many people dead and heavily damaging buildings inside the complex. This enraged Sikhs across the world.
In the wake of this, the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Her murder was followed by a well-organized massacre of Sikhs orchestrated by some leaders of the then ruling Congress party.
These ugly political events strengthened the movement for and independent Khalistan, which was not popular until 1984. Only a fringe element within the Sikh community had advocated for a separate homeland until 1984, the year that witnessed large-scale repression of Sikhs.
The bloody fight for Khalistan that followed left thousands of people dead as an armed insurgency continued until the mid 1990s. After that, it lost popular support partly due to atrocities committed by pro-Khalistan militants, who frequently targeted Hindus and their critics, and partly because of police atrocities.
However, support for Khalistan has continued to prevail in Canada, which has no dearth of political refugees from Punjab. Also, because of the control of Sikh temples in Canada, Khalistanis wield influence over local politicians.
But it would be wrong to assume that Khalistan movement is still very strong and poses any real danger to India at this time. After all, when people in Punjab are not really interested in Khalistan, what difference does it make if some Khalistanis continue to carry on their propaganda in Canada?
A movement needs a popular appeal to survive. And that appeal is clearly missing here. One indicator is that Khalistani leaders in Punjab continue to face humiliating electoral defeats.
With media leaks, timing is everything
So what do recent media reports of a pro-Khalistan camp in the Fraser Valley really mean under current circumstances? Going by the content, these reports only show an underlying bias and a hidden intent of the Indian state.
There is no doubt that Khalistanis have been involved in violent activities and that they have been carrying out bombings and mass killings with the support of Pakistan, which borders the Indian state of Punjab. But is that sufficient to presume that Khalistanis still pose a threat to peace?
The media reports failed to establish anything substantial. Rather, they have created doubts over the purpose of these stories. All of reports reproduced by the Canadian media lack attribution. For instance, which agencies are making these claims? They have not been properly identified. Officers who are making these claims have not been named either.
Ironically, Canadian media outlets that avoid stories without attribution have also reproduced some of these reports.
The most important aspect of these reports of a terrorist camp is the timing. These days, Hindu extremists who've been involved in terrorist activities are getting reprieves through courts and with the help of investigators. These radicals desire to convert India into a Hindu theocracy and have been involved in bombings against Muslim targets.
Ever since Indian prime minister Narendra Modi came to power with a brute majority in 2014, there were indications that terror charges against Hindu extremists would gradually be revoked. Modi is the leader of Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party, which is known for its anti-minorities stance.
Under the Modi government, there has been increasing pressure on investigators to go slowly in the handling terror cases involving Hindu extremists. Going by the simple fact that Hindus make 80 percent of the Indian population, it should not surprise anyone that a Hindu nationalist government would never want to annoy its constituents. Hence, the process of giving back-door amnesty to Hindu extremists has begun.
It's reached the point that the list of banned terror groups of India's National Investigation Agency, which has been handling these cases, does not include a single Hindu extremist organization. Only Sikh, Muslim, or Maoist groups are named along with extremist movements associated with marginalized nationalities.
In the light of criticism for going soft on Hindu extremism, it suits the interest of Indian intelligence officials to find enemies elsewhere. As of today, when extremists from the majority community pose a much bigger challenge to the internal security of India, why divert attention to a dead movement?
Looming elections offer a clue
The reports of a terrorist camp in the Fraser Valley also came when Punjab is heading for assembly elections early next year. Modi's BJP holds power in the state in partnership with Akali Dal, a regional party that claims to represent Sikh landlords and farmers. The two parties have lost considerable support and there are indications of a possible change of government.
Critics believe that by creating fear of terrorism in Punjab, intelligence agencies are trying to help the BJP and Akali Dal as part of a grand design. That these media reports are outrightly biased can also be judged from a very simple fact: one of them unnecessarily tried to drag in the Sikh defence minister of Canada, Harjit Sajjan, into the narrative. It stated that Indian authorities had written to the Trudeau government, which has a baptized Sikh defence minister, to look into these reports.
Where was the need to bring in the defence minister and mention his religious beliefs? Whatever may be the reason, the reports are flawed, lack credibility, and clearly indicate that these are planted stories based on a script written by Indian agents.
Instead of going after terrorists from the majority community, they are trying to instill fear of the ISI and Khalistani terrorism in the minds of Indian public. Under a government run by supporters of Hindu nationalism, what else can be expected?
Lastly, it's a shame that certain journalists dancing to the tune of Indian agents have sold their soul and instead of candidly reporting on the threat of Hindu extremism, they have chosen to spread lies. Let the Indian people know that there are genuine secularist Indians abroad who care for their home country and have always stood against Sikh separatists.
If need be, these non-resident Indians will stand up again if there is a real threat from pro-Khalistan extremists. But right now the real danger to India is not from Canada. It is actually from the people there in power who are terrorizing minority communities and are determined to convert a pluralist Indian society into Hindu theocracy, not to mention the hate mongers in Indian intelligence.
So do not trust what you are being told by their apologists in the media. Rather, be vigilant about the agenda of the ruling classes, which are addicted to dividing people to retain power.