26th January indeed took a new turn of events in the proceedings of the farmers’ protests. The farmers carried out a tractor march and entered the Red fort at New Delhi. Suddenly, when the protests took a violent turn, it just gave an opportunity for several false narratives to be spun around Sikhs. It was also toppled with the propagandistic agendas of the ruling party, media, and its followers.
It is a known fact that the farmer’s dissent for their rights is often linked to a pro- Khalistani movement. Hence, when Nishan Sahib (Khalsa flag) was hoisted at Delhi's Red Fort, false rumors and assumptions were made according to the vested interests of those against the Farmer’s movement. Some assumed it to be the Khalistani flag. Others went on to say it was added in place of the National flag.
Thus, amidst this uproar, it is fundamentally important to understand the conceptual and political differences between Khalsa and Khalistan.
It is also important to note that back in December, Dal Khalsa’s president Harpal Singh Cheema said “As far as decision making is concerned, it solely rests on joint leadership of farmers organizations. Khalistan and farmers agitation are two separate causes, and people in power and part of media was unnecessarily clubbing both.”
So What is Khalsa for the Sikhs?
Khalsa, literally in Punjabi means “the pure.” Hence it connotes the purified and reconstituted Sikh Community introduced by Shri Guru Gobind Singh. Khalsa’s declaration on March 30, 1699, has three dimensions. It gave a new meaning to the concept of Sikh authority. Khalsa also initiated a code of conduct and an initiation ceremony for the Sikhs. It also provided the community with a renewed political and religious vision.
The establishment of Khalsa eliminated the Masand (“Guru’s deputies”) authority in the Sikhs. They were either expected either to join the community at par with others or leave. In the initiation phase, Gobind Singh Ji introduced a code of conduct. This rigorous code of conduct was symbolized by the carrying of five items. They were- Kes (long hair), Kangha (a comb), Kachha (a pair of shorts), Karha (a steel bracelet), and Kirpan (a sword). Khalsa in its final aspect established a strong political agenda. It called for the constant realization of the Sikh community / Khalsa Raj in Punjab.
Thus Khalsa is an age-old establishment of the Sikhs. It is deeply associated with their cultures and values.
Now, what does Khalistan mean?
The Khalistan is a Sikh secessionist movement that follows principles of fundamentalism and sectarianism. It aims to divide India and turn the Indian state of Punjab into a land exclusively for the Sikhs. To date, however, there has been no determination of the boundaries of Khalistan. This is due to several disagreements amidst various political forces.
Since the 1980s, the forces of separatist movements have gotten stronger. Hence, the territorial ambitions of Khalistan have at times, included Chandigarh. They also have sections of the Indian Punjab, including the whole of North India. These ambitions also extend up to some parts of the western states of India.
Khalistan traces its terminology back to 1940. According to Giorgio Shani, the scholar of comparative religion, it was said to be coined by Dr. Vir Singh Bhatti in a pamphlet titled “Khalistan.” It was made as a response to the Muslim league’s Lahore Resolution. Khalistan was an appeal for a separate Sikh state. This was because Sikhs were not represented either by the Indian National Congress or the Akali Dal.
Khalistan also has a legal history. The 1995 verdict of the Supreme Court the denied charges of sedition on two government employees. They were previously arrested for chanting slogans of Khalistan Zindabad and Raj Karega Khalsa.
Therefore, Khalistan has had different connotations at different times, and not all of them denote a separatist movement. Some also consider it to be as redemption, or as a probe into the human rights violations of the Sikhs during the militancy phase.
On dwelling deep into the meanings and historical background of Khalsa and Khalistan, we realize the grave differences between the two. Thus, it is important to understand and educate others about the same. This will ensure that the real cause of the farmer protests is upheld and is not labeled with unnecessary banners.