Chandigarh, June 29: In the run up to the February 2017 Assembly elections in Punjab, all-out war seems to have already started among the unscrupulous and power hungry stakeholders who can go to any extent and even damage the interests of the Sikh in general and the diaspora in particular as the developments during the last couple of days indicate. There could be no objection to their no-holds-bar attack in each other irrespective of the fact that some of the not so Aam leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party were all praise for state Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh before changing loyalties.
Those who have brought the non-issue of Khalistan to the electoral political discourse are the Congress and the AAP with the Akali Dal enjoying the attack and counter-attack. However, in the process, it is the Sikhs overseas who might feel the pinch as they have carved out their own space in the countries where they have settled.
Four Sikhs being part of the Justin Trudeau cabinet is the measure of the progress the Sikh and Punjabi Diaspora have achieved on foreign lands. One should compare the situation with the Narendra Modi cabinet in India. The four Sikh Canadians inducted into Trudeau’s Cabinet include Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, a combat veteran who did three tours in Afghanistan as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Apart from Sajjan, the other three Sikh ministers are –Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, Small Business Minister Bardish Chagger and Innovation Minister Navdeep Singh Bains. There were also 17 Sikh MPs elected in the election in Canada in October last year — 16 from the Liberal Party of Canada and one Conservative — the highest number of Sikhs ever elected.
It is these people whose interests the Khalistan narrative not only in Indian Punjab but also overseas is harming. It was during militancy in Punjab that a number of radicals escaped to other countries, especially Canada and Germany, some on fake papers of being the victims of state repression that they procured from some so-called human rights organisations for a consideration. They continue to have their small but vocal constituency of support there.
Sikhs for Justice is one organisation that has been giving trouble to the leaders visiting USA and Canada by filing complaints in the courts under the laws of those countries. Gurpatwant Singh Pannu alias Pannun refuses to answer queries relating to such activities of the organisation. The latest victim happened to be Capt Amarinder Singh who could not enter Canada following a complaint against him. It was perhaps this because of this provocation that he made comments against the political affiliations of some Canadian Sikh leaders including ministers. This amounts to going too far.
Many of the Congress leaders in Punjab had arrived at some sort of tacit understanding with the local militant leaders to seek protection during militancy and this is too well known a fact. They could not be termed as Khalistanis. The local situation might have dictated the politics of the Sikh politicians in Canada in the same way. There are more fights in gurdwaras in USA and Canada than in India and that too is damaging for the community itself.
The slogan of Khalistan was sort of protest against army attack on the Golden Temple complex. However, Khalistan is no more part of the political discourse in Punjab and in a way, it never was. It is Capt Amarinder Singh and AAP leaders who are giving importance to an issue that is not there. It is not the Punjabis in Canada who would dictate the outcome of elections in Punjab. These Punjabi NRIs are frozen in a time warp. They now have the illusion that they can impact the poll outcome in Punjab. It started more when Manpreet Singh Badal revolted and resigned as the finance minister to constitute People’s Party of Punjab. The initial response was massive but that got dissipated over time. That space has now been occupied by AAP. Capt Amarinder Singh has his personal following but not the Congress. That is the case in Punjab too.
The basic issue is that of raising non-issues, especially those that have the potential to damage the Sikh interests overseas. The organisations like the Sikhs for Justice should be confronted at other levels. Khalistan continues to be business for some people who can be conveniently ignored or confronted.