Punjabi Daily Rozana Pehredaar published a front-page op-ed on February 28, where it tried to whitewash the atrocities of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and compared him to revered Sikhs like Baba Deep Singh (17th century) and Amar Shaheed baba Naudh Singh (19th century).
The author blamed the Indian Government of fear-mongering in the name of Khalistan
At the very beginning of the op-ed, the author tried to portray India’s Government in a bad light by saying that it indulges in unnecessary fear-mongering in the name of Khalistan. He said that the Indian Government keeps on trying to divert attention from the real issues. To support his theory, he gave several examples, including the India visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
He tried to picture the situation as if the support Sikhs get from the Canadian Government is not in favour of the Indian Government. While giving an example of PM Trudeau’s last visit to India in 2018, he said that his three-hour visit to Harmandir Sahib was connected to his support for the Khalistani movement and every Sikh who tried to communicate with him was haunted by the Indian Government.
The issue was with a designated Khalistani terrorist, and not every Sikh
In reality, the Government of India did not haunt any Sikh who wanted to meet Prime Minister Trudeau during his visit to India. The problem was the presence of Jaspal Atwal, a convicted Khalistani terrorist, who was among the invited guests for dinner with PM Trudeau. When the list made it to the media, it revealed a major security lapse that led to the removal of his name from the list of invited guests. MEA had issued a statement that they would investigate how he managed to get a visa to India.
The author claims there is no difference between Khalsa Raj and Khalistan
The author claimed that Bhindranwale was fighting with the Indian Government to establish Khalsa Raj, just like Sikh warriors and kings had done in the past. He said that there is no difference between Khalsa Raj and Khalistan. He further added that refusal to remain a part of India is similar to the refusal to accept Sanatan Dharma by Guru Nanak Dev Ji at the age of 7.
He further said that the environment and soil of Punjab are not suitable for sunflower. Some crops can grow in very specific regions. If this is the case with plants, how can Sikhs flourish while being with people with different ideologies. He also blamed modernization for allegedly ‘polluting’ the mindset of new generation Sikhs as male Sikhs are getting their hair trimmed, and Sikh girls are leaning towards modern dressed like skirts.
In reality, Khalsa Raj is a broader concept that talks about the roots of Sikhism. It is based on the purified and reconstituted Sikh Community based on the principles and codes of conduct introduced by Guri Gobind Singh Ji in 1699. On the other hand, Khalistan is a political term coined in 1940 that talks about a separa te state for Sikhs. While Khalsa Raj involved everyone in the community, Khalistan talks about a land only for Sikhs.
The author tried to paint Bhindranwale as an ideal Sikh
The author claimed that Bhindranwale was someone who followed the teachings of Sikhism. Before becoming a leader and head of Akal Takht, he was a Sikh who was born in a religious family. He was a farmer, and when he became head of Akal Takht at the age of 30, he taught the young generation of his time to be strong and fearless.
He tried to convey that no one actually understands his ideology in today’s time, and Sikh leaders often stay away from supporting him. He further added that the movement that Bhindranwale started never came to an end, and it is still going strong. Towards the end, he recited the words of Bhindranwale, “Don’t cry on my death, keep my ideology alive.”
Whitewashing atrocities has become a norm
During the insurgency in Punjab, tens of thousands of Hindus were killed by the Khalistani militants. It was all done under the leadership of Bhindranwale. Nowadays, it has become a norm to whitewash the atrocities of militants and extremists by the media, and this op-ed was a fine example of such attempts. Keeping his ideology alive will mean bringing back the blood-shedding days in Punjab when no one felt safe while going out.
It was a time when people were not sure if they will be able to come back home alive in the evening. Khalistan movement was a black spot on the face of Punjab, and all communities in Punjab have faced the aftermath of the movement. Now, when the Khalistani movement is trying to make a comeback in Punjab under the pretext of farmer protests, talking about Bhindranwale’s ideology will only increase friction between communities living in Punjab.