Experts discuss Khalistan and Pakistan link during webinar
New Delhi: A recent report on Khalistan by a Canadian institute has triggered an intense debate on the issue as it exposed a Pakistani connection to the terror nexus.
Recently, policymakers and scholars of strategic studies came together to discuss this report titled "Khalistan: A Project of Pakistan", published by MacDonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) at a webinar "Khalistani Terrorism & Canada”.
The event was organised by a New Delhi based think tank, Law and Society Alliance.
The speakers at the event were: Author of MLI Report on Khalistan and retired senior journalist, Terry Milewski; Member of House of Lords, Lord Rami Ranger; Chairman of Punjab Foundation, California, Sukhi Chahal; and defence analyst Major Gaurav Arya.
Terry Milewski began by sharing his experiences of authoring the report.
“When I began writing the report, I was told that what is the use of writing a report on Khalistan even after 35 years of Air India bombings.
"However, there is a continuous atrocity being caused by this ideology," he said.
"The trigger for writing this work was a poster of supposedly a referendum - ‘Referendum-2020’ put up at Surrey Gurdwara in Canada as recently I came across the poster on a voter registration drive organised by Sikhs For Justice (SFJ). These posters annoy me," he said.
"Similarly, on 15th August, I saw pro-Khalistani and pro-Pakistani groups coming together to protest against the 15th August events in Canada," he said.
The expert said all these were a joint drive partied by the Pakistani mission.
"All of them came in front of the Indian mission and protested," he said.
The Pakistani group posted pictures of protest on social media and cropped the Sikhs and Sikhs posted those pictures on social media and cut out the Pakistanis.
"Indeed, the idea was to cover up the alliance," he said.
“I wanted to expose those extremists who have pledged their allegiance with Pakistan, who in turn has pledged allegiance to China. Real Sikhs in real Pakistan still suffer from conversion, attack on Gurudwaras, and abductions. It is like the partition era has yet not over.
"This is why their population is rapidly declining in Pakistan. I saw a map by a splinter group that shows a very ambitious Khalistani map including many parts of India besides Punjab and extending up to New Delhi," he said.
"But this map does not claim a single inch of Pakistani territory. It should have included Lahore, from where Ranjit Singh ran an empire, and Nakanana Sahib, where Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born. Why is that being missed out? The answer is that people who are organising the movement for Khalistan must realise that they can not afford the movement without Pakistani support," he added.
On gaining immense popularity and receiving massive feedback on the report, he said, “Initially, I thought that eight to ten people would read the report, all my family members! However, the report got a vigorous reaction and almost a million readers."
"As soon as the report was out, these forces began to call me an Indian stooge and a racist," he said.
"Above all, besides blatantly attacking me or my MLI institute, there is to date no dispute by the critics about what the report actually says," the expert said.
"There is no critical rebuttal. I don't know whether it's an insult or appreciation. I let you judge,” he said.
Terry argued two reasons why India has not been able to prosecute Khalistanis based out of Canada.
"First, they are Canadian citizens who can't be deported or prosecuted by India. Second, we don't have evidence of terrorism in Canada, we only have evidence of people glorifying terrorists," he said.
"This is not illegal. But of course, we said that in 1985 as well. But we were wrong. I think that the local people and politicians should rise up. In the disinformation age, we need to fight with a different model. We need to master the models of information wars. Sharing his experiences of covering the Khalistan issue and Air India bombings," he said.
He said, “I remember an incident from the 1980s when a dangerous Indian terrorist was hiding in Canada and India was asking for its extradition from Canada, which it did not agree to. Canada gave the ridiculous reason that since both the nations were part of the commonwealth and India didn’t recognise the authority of the Queen, Canada was not able to extradite the terrorists."
"The secret services of Canada knew Talwinder Singh Parmar was planning to do something and had a telephone tapping. Still, they did nothing," he said.
"Even after the Air India bombings, they still failed to prosecute and allowed death threats and assassinations of witnesses. For example, a witness who actually over-heard a confession that how Khalistanis managed to put a bomb in the Air India plane later wrote about this and was consequently assassinated," he said.
They were only able to prosecute Inderjit Singh Reyat - who made the bomb.
"The intelligence officers had also seen them making a bomb and testing it three weeks before the bombing. This is the problem with liberal countries.
"They first let them act and then realise the mistake,” he said.
Lord Rami Ranger thanked Terry Milewski for exposing the truth and argued that because the report comes from a non-Indian, it adds to the legitimacy of the report.
He further said, “We will remain indebted to you for exposing the truth. Khalistanis are an insult to their gurus as they are a totally misguided lot and work at the behest of a country that wants to use religion andhighlights that they have no merit. By removing Article 370, PM Modi has made Kashmir equal to all India."
"These are all steps in the right direction and only possible in secular India. Let us all remember Guru Gobind Singh Ji who said, 'diversity must be accepted, respected and if need be, defended',” he said.
Reflecting lessons from history, he argued, “It is very important to educate these Khalistanis that their gurus made the supreme sacrifice to protect the religious diversity of India. The Khalsa was not established for a specific religion, but to save the religious diversity of India. Gurus saw entire India as their motherland. Guru Gobind Singh was born in Patna, not in Punjab."
Further, he worked and spent most of his life in Maharashtra.
Banda Singh Bahadur was also from Maharashtra. ‘Panj Pyare’ - five warriors came from different parts of India to fight together for this nation.
"Whereas, the Khalistanis are working to break us, unlike their gurus. This also has dire consequences for themselves. They have nothing to do with our faith," he said.
"If they are working with enemies of India, they are also working against their gurus who made the supreme sacrifice for India.
"They have done enough damage to the legacy of their gurus," he said.
“Why don't they control India on merit, and by violence? My appeal to all those countries that are helping Khalistanis is to realise that they are doing utmost damage to the country that gave them shelter. They are dangerous citizens for Canada, so they should be deported. Terrorists always generate violence, wherever they go," he said.
"It is a global issue and the world needs to counter these hate-mongering people. If they want to work on Khalistan, they must start liberating the birthplace of their first guru at Nankana Sahib in Pakistan," he said.
"How can they have a Khalistan which does not have the birthplace of their guru in it? It will be doing wrong to history. They should then come to liberate Lahore - the centre of Ranjit Singhs’s empire. The government of India should help them if they begin from the right angle and help them in liberating their 350 gurudwaras of historic importance in Pakistan," he said.
"We should understand that he who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount”, he argued while questioning the intent of Khalistanis on excluding Pakistani parts in Khalistan’s map,
Lord Ranger also highlighted that India needs to open its door and have intelligent communicators placed in the embassies to counter the information warfare and effectively deal with the Khalistani issue.
“Our Sikhs paid unparalleled sacrifice where one leader of the faith happily readies to be beheaded for another religion. The steps of the Indian government for the celebration of the 350th birthday of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and the 550th birthday of Guru Nanak dev Ji must be commended," he said.
The government is also establishing centres at universities to propagate the message of Sikh gurus. We all must realise this. Khalistanis shall apologise for the embarrassment to their gurus and their people.
"We are there to fight logic and justice. One can have differences with the government, but not the motherland. Mother India would still be the same. Let's start working on them. We will get them back on their mother's lap," he said.
"They will have to come back to the land of their gurus and their people. Let's not alienate them, let's bring them to the border and show Chinese what kind of brave people we have,” he concluded.
Sukhi Chahal argued that similar to the Surrey Gurudwara, there is a similar one in Dixie in Ontario.
"Similarly, a California Gurudwara has also been occupied by these forces," Chahal said.
"They put the posters of ‘Referendum-2020’ beside Guru Granth Sahib and put the pictures of these terrorists beside Sikh gurus. How can they do this?" he said.
They are the biggest enemy of Sikh gurus, Sikhi, and Sikh religion, he said.
He further argued, “Punjab was the number one state and Pakistan has destroyed it. The same Pakistan used to deny that they had nothing to do with 9/11 in America. But the whole world knows that American forces found Osama Bin Laden hiding in Pakistan."
"They are surviving on the financial aid by Western countries and propagating terror within them. Their silence on Sikh atrocities in Pakistan is a blot on Sikhism. Recently, one Granthi’s daughter was kidnapped in Pakistan, forcibly converted, and forcefully married. None of the Kahlistanis spoke against it. I support the idea of Terry that they should first occupy the Pakistani Punjab and all those areas in Pakistan ruled by Maharaja Ranjit Singh," he said.
"They should also occupy some parts of Afghanistan and some parts of China too," he said.
"One the Khalistan map excluding Pakistani parts, they came in the media and said that it is not the final map but a proposed one. Why are they so scared of Pakistan? That's where the support is coming from. Perpetrators of all the hijacks happening in India used to land in Pakistan," he said.
"All those culprits are enjoying refuge there," he said.
By alleging me or Terry about being associated with Indian agencies, they are raising questions on the credibility of the domestic intelligence agencies of Canada and the USA, he said.
"They are enemies of Sikhi and Sikhism and they even go beyond. Whenever you ask them questions, they indulge in character assassination and name-calling and call people questioning them as ‘Gaddar’. It is the inactivity of the gentle Sikhs and Punjabi people that is doing the biggest damage to Sikhi," he said.
They should instead ensure that the philosophy of Guru Gobind Singh Ji should go to every house in India. All the sacrifices that we have done for this country should be known to every Indian, he said.
"There were some real sentiments like the damage done to the Sikhs in the Delhi riot of 1984. They capitalised and exploited that,” he said.
Sukhi argued that the moderate Sikh community in the West will have to rise up against these Khalistanis.
"Their inactivity is inflicting the biggest damage to Sikhism," he said.
He further said, “Whatever the Indian government has done for the Sikh community has not been efficiently communicated to the Sikh community. Look at this irony - the majority of the Sikhs from Western countries land at New Delhi airport."
"The first thing that they see is that the airport is named after Indira Gandhi, which disgruntles them. The name of the airport should be on the name of Guru Tegh Bahadur - who sacrificed his life in Delhi," he said.
"We also need to ensure closure of the 1984 Delhi riots case and prosecution of the culprits. We also need to discuss the wrong done by attacking the Golden Temple," he said.
Gaurav Arya said, “If I am a proud Hindu today, it is because of the Sikhs. Had Sikh Gurus not died for our safety, the situation certainly would have been different. I want to thank all the Sikhs all over the world. Had you not been there, history would have been very very different.”
He underlined, “We become very happy to look at Indian CEOs in the West. You know what Pakistanis say, look at the counsellor, look at the MP - they are Pakistanis. They don't have the education or qualification for becoming CEOs, but they live in the ghettos and influence the electoral process in the Western countries. The fact of the matter is that politicians make policies, not corporates or CEOs. We need to put in more money and more focus on this.”
“Why is American mainland safe today, ever since America was created? It is because America fights war outside America. So there is a need to have an aggressive posture. We need to be offensive. There would be pain and blood would flow but this had to happen. It's your choice whether you want to see the blood flowing inside India, or out of it. You can't fight Mahabharata with the ethics and morality of Ramayana," he said.
"Extremely aggressive should be the only mode that the Indian government should resort to. We have been surrounded by two non-democratic systems, which are nuclear powers. You must have a very, very aggressive posture. Two things are necessary for all the tasks you do - one is intent and number two is capability. India already has the capability but we need intent,” he concluded.
Bipindra NC of Law and Society Alliance convened the event and K Vijay P was the moderator. While Tejinder Singh summarised the discussion of the webinar and the event was concluded by the vote of thanks by Abhishek Ranjan.
It is also pertinent to note that the pro-Khalistani elements had launched a disinformation campaign against Terry Milewski’s report as it began to gain popularity.
"It is believed that till date, it has attracted over a million readers. Observers argue about the involvement of Pakistani ISI in supporting the disinformation campaign against this report. A number of Twitter handles appreciating the report were mass reported and an online letter was floated by the por-Khalistani elements to attack the report," he said.