The general view which majority of Hindus holds regarding Khalistani terrorism is that Khalistani terrorism was a creation of Congress which had little to do with Sikh religion or history. This particular view is more prominent amongst the Hindus who see RSS and BJP in favourable light but unfortunately, it’s incorrect view. The role of Congress in this particular context can be considered as that of a catalyst which requires careful scrutiny, but considering Congress as the prime factor is misleading. But I don’t blame Hindus for it as Hindu psyche has acquired the terrible habit of never understanding how their adversaries see themselves. Hindu mind is too happy to repeat the comfortable myths or half-truths. I’ll try to summarize the key ideological positions and the sources of those of the Khalistan movement.
Let’s discuss the key ideological tenets of Khalistani terrorism before we come to their sources. The most important element of Khalistani terrorism is that Sikhs constitute a nation in themselves who need separate nationhood to preserve their distinct identity. The second one is that the free nation of Sikhs will be achieved by the application of force as bravery and valour is inherent in the conduct of Sikhs. Apparently, these ideological positions can’t be sustained in the vacuum and a narrative based on facts and imagination need to be constructed to gather support for the movement amongst the masses. These ideological positions are sustained by carefully constructing narrative on the basis of Sikh history and Sikhism.
Their reading of Sikh history to justify the rights of Sikhs to have a separate nation is based on the formation of Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699 and the Sikh empire of Ranjit Singh in the 19th century. The formation of Khalsa which Hindus consider as the genesis of a military order to protect Hindus from Mughals is considered as the beginning of separate Sikh nation by the Khalistani terrorism. They argued that since there were five visible marks associated with Khalsa which didn’t accept the conception of caste within the order, it marked the beginning of Sikhs’ quest to separate nationhood. I’m not addressing the factual validity of their position, but merely illustrating what they believed.
The example of Ranjit Singh’s empire was given to demonstrate two elements – that Sikhs are capable of carving out a separate nation of themselves and Ranjit Singh’s rule was a period of peace, prosperity and communal harmony. The examples of Sikh history highlighted by them to justify their demands, and the other aspect of their movement was based on identifying the enemies who were preventing them from obtaining freedom. Here, Hindus enter into the equation as the enemies of Sikhs, which was justified on the basis of Sikh theology and denigration of Hindus based on certain historical incidents.
They postulated that Hindus and especially Brahmins were determined to wipe out Sikhism because it opposed idol worshipping and didn’t accept the conception of caste. The examples given were the placing of murti-s in Gurudwara by Udasi Mahants before the Akali movement, reconversion movement of Mazhabi Sikhs by Arya Samaj and other such minor incidents. Dal Khalsa even went to the extent of considering Brahminism as the biggest enemy of Sikhism. They emphasized that unlike the superstitious caste-ridden polytheistic Hindus, Nanak conceptualized Sikhism as universal faith based on single god and equality of believers. It was also done to show that Sikhism is closer to Islam than Hinduism.
The second aspect of Hindu hatred was propagating the narrative of Hindu treachery or ungratefulness. They argued that though Sikhs have been defending Hindus from Mughals, the Hindus have turned extremely ungrateful by not showing enough gratitude for the protection offered by Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh’s campaigns against the Hindu kings of hills were portrayed as a reaction to Hindu treachery. As, a mainstream Sikh Tavleen Singh takes pride in Guru Teg Bahadur allegedly protecting Kashmiri Pandits, Khalistani-s also used such sacrifice of Sikh Gurus to show that Hindus didn’t appreciate their sacrifice enough. This should be a lesson for Hindus who never get tired of repeating that Sikhism is the sword of Hindus. Implicit to this narrative was the assertion that a Hindu is coward while a Sikh is martial. Rajputs were denigrated by them by asserting that they gave their daughters to Mughals in order to showcase that even the supposedly brave ones amongst the Hindus were no match for Sikhs.
Since they were convinced of Hindu cowardice, they told their followers that if Sikhs follow the tenets of Khalsa faithfully, Hindus who control the Indian state will simply wither away. They even calculated the figure of the number of Sikhs required to conquer Hindus by equating one Sikh with 1.25 Lakhs Hindus. They argued that the Brahmin-Baniya state of India which has denied freedom to Sikhs will not be even able to respond. But they also faced a difficulty in reconciling the historical hostilities between Sikhs and Muslims as support of Pakistan was crucial in achieving their aim. For this, they suppressed the persecution of Sikhs by Muslims in the history and emphasized on the rare occurrence of harmony amongst them. One such highlighted incident was the alleged case of a Sufi Pir participating in the foundation laying ceremony of Harminder Sahib.
As you can see in the above paragraphs, the enmity against the Hindus was the central element of Khalistani terrorism. Also, there is considerable overlap between the Khalistani conception of the Sikh history with the mainstream Sikhs as far as the hypothesis of Hindu ungratefulness and Hindu cowardice is concerned. Many Sikhs were convinced that placing murti-s in Gurudwara was the attempt of Hindus to destroy Sikhism. It’s also obvious that not everyone believing in these things will also ask for separate nationhood but it’s important to be aware about the ideological position of your adversaries.