As this article was being written, Khalistan (20.9 k tweets) and Canada (145 k tweets) were trending on Number 1 and 2 on Twitter in India. A Twitter user writes that it is clear that Khalistani terrorists and Congress are planning a riot in India.
These are not farmers but terrorists, he adds. Thousands like his tweet and hundreds of others expressed their support to the twitterati’s opinion. Roughly speaking, what “Khalistani” is to Sikhs is what “Jihadi” is to Muslims. Both the terms refer to radicalised members of Sikhs and Muslims and are used as a slur/abuse to dehumanize their moderate followers by people of right wing. What happened today on Twitter could be used as an example.
In my humble opinion, the “Delhi Chalo” march is more about the Sikhs’ (Punjabis in particular) disenchantment for the government and its “Pro-Hindu” stance, more than their disapproval of the three farm laws passed by the Central government. While often demonizing other religions (especially Muslims), “Kattar Hindus” have always considered Sikhs as a part of their religion.
A major reason behind this particular belief could be attributed to the fact that not long ago, Sikhism originated out of Hinduism and the Sikhs fought Mughals too. Since they both shared a common ancestry and an “enemy”, right wing organisations have always had a sweet spot for Sikhs. This affection of Sikhs did not deteriorate much even after radicalized environment in Punjab in the last quarter or half of the 20th Century.
But the main problem remained that the Sikhs did not reciprocate the feelings of Hindu organisations. On 13 July, 2004, the Akal Takht (Britannica: the chief centre of religious authority of Sikhism) even cautioned Sikhs about the activities of the RSS and its Sikh affiliate, Rashtriya Sikh Sangat. Even though the caution was directed as a response to a particular matter but it serves the general theme that the Sikhs do not trust Hindu organisations.
The problem arises when the Hindu organisations start to preach to their followers that Sikhs are just another form of Hindus which a majority of the Sikhs decline to accept. In a statement, the Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Harpreet Singh said that they have no problem with the RSS preaching Hinduism but they should give up on defining Sikhism. He said that there are many institutions within Sikhism to define who they are and they don’t want ‘outsiders’ to do it for them. He added that they are not a part of the Hindu nation of the RSS.
So, when the Sikhs started to pour in the national capital for registering their lack of faith in the new farm bills and the Central government at a more fundamental level, BJP IT cell and a section of media which act as a PR agency for the government were hit by the responsibility to manage this crisis. So, they all decided to antagonize the protestors like they have done in the past in the case of Shaheen Bagh.
They want the public to believe that any nationalist person can’t criticize the BJP government and reversal of this theory makes anybody who criticizes the government can’t be a nationalist. Hence, they used their age-old technique of calling the critics of BJP anti-national and this time, they called the protesting farmers Khalistani.
This very act of calling farmers Khalistani had a subliminal message for the people of the nation that these protesters are not farmers who were revered in the slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” by former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri but rather dangerous separatists who want to break India and were protesting under the garb of farmers.
This theory of antagonizing the farmers circulated highly in the past few days on the social media platforms. This theory that all the protesting farmers are Khalistanis and hate the nationalist government is tried to be established by PR agencies in the form of news media outlets. Some of the media organisations have tried to prove it by showing that a random protestor in the crowd is somehow affiliated with Khalistan movement, so, it implies that all the other thousands of protestors are Khalistanis.
In my opinion, it would not be an exaggeration to say that this is one of the most idiotic arguments made in the 21st Century so far.
Many others argue that the Khalistanis in Canada have somehow arranged this massive march. I don’t think that many will disagree with the fact that Canadian or British Khalistanis do not hold any significant influence over the majority of the Sikhs in India. So, it will not be a wise argument to say that the protesting farmers have received orders from foreign Khalistanis.
If radical elements had so much away on Sikhs in Punjab, why would have they waited for such a long time to organize these protests?
Rather than painting them as some sort of villain, the Centre should talk to them. Trying to muzzle their voices by putting various restrictions on their agitation is not a sign of a healthy democracy even if the protestors are misled, as the BJP supporters claim.