Khalistan: The product of a wrong narrative
of PunjabKhalistan is not being discussed for the first time in the political environment, but it has been debated in the last century as well. At present, this ideology has again come to the surface due to the increased activities of Amritpal Singh, the leader of the separatist organization ‘Waris Punjab De’. In interviews given to various agencies, Amritpal Singh, on the lines of the leaders of the separatist organization Hurriyat Conference of Jammu and Kashmir, is trying to give an impression that Khalistan is a movement fighting for independence. This is being argued in the historical background of senior Akali leader Master Tara Singh’s ‘Azad Punjab’ plan which he put before the CRIFS mission. Before this, the Lahore session of Congress on December 31, 1929 is also talked about, in which Master Tara Singh put forth the demand for ‘Azad Punjab’.
It has been seen that on the basis of this ‘Azad Punjab Yojana’, a false narrative of Khalistan has been created in the country for the last several decades, that on the same lines as the Muslim League demanded a separate nation of Pakistan, the Akali leaders presented the demand for a separate Sikh nation. Which is being called Khalistan today.
‘Actually the facts show that Master Tara Singh used the word ‘Azad’ for the re-determination of Punjab. The ‘Azad Punjab Plan’ called for the separation of Muslim-majority districts from Punjab to create a new province with a majority Sikh population. This plan did not envisage giving sovereignty to Punjab in any way. It was a counteraction to the plan to partition the country (Pakistan).
– Sube Singh
(Research published in the Indian Journal of Research by Asc. Prof. Dept. of History, Government PG College-Bhiwani)
Azad Punjab was the name given to the province envisaged in the memorandum of the Sikh All-Party Committee to Stafford Cripps. After the end of World War II, Sir Stafford Cripps arrived in India in March 1942 with constitutional proposals aimed at creating a new Indian Union. The Muslim League, at its annual conference in Lahore in March 1940, declared that the Muslims of British India were a separate nation and demanded that a sovereign Muslim state should be formed in those areas in which Muslims were in majority. The possibility of creation of Pakistan greatly troubled the Sikh leaders as the partition of Punjab on Muslim-Hindu lines would have split the Sikh population into two parts. That is why the Akalis condemned the partition of the country. Master Tara Singh and Giani Kartar Singh even declared that ‘Pakistan can be built only on their dead bodies’. Baba Khadak Singh of Central Akali Dal declared that ‘Pakistan cannot be formed in Punjab as long as there is even a single Sikh.’ Pal Singh Majithia also opposed Pakistan.
‘Master Tara Singh said that Sikhs are one community, yet the resolution demanding an independent Sikh sovereign state was dismissed as an impossible demand. Akali leaders Ujjal Singh and Giani Kartar Singh clearly stated that the ‘Azad Punjab’ scheme was only a reaction to the partition of Pakistan. The ‘Azad Punjab Plan’ did not envisage providing sovereignty to Punjab in any way. The term Azad was used to indicate that the territories of the Punjab should be redrawn in such a way as to free the new province from the domination of any communal section of the population.’
1- Azad Punjab (Urdu), author Sadhu Singh Hamdard, Ajit Book Agency, Amritsar.
2- The Indian Year Book : 1942-45
3- Ox. Uni. Press, no. Delhi-1977
The Akali Dal published a pamphlet explaining the details of its ‘Azad Punjab Plan’ proposal, which stated that the boundaries of Azad Punjab would be demarcated to form a province with only 40 per cent Muslim population, 40 per cent Hindu population. And Sikhs being 20 percent would work to maintain political balance between the two communities. Moreover, over time the Sikh princely states would be merged into the new province thus increasing the Sikh population to 24 per cent and more. Interestingly, many Sikh leaders also opposed the Azad Punjab scheme. He believed that this would create division in the country. The Sikhs of Rawalpindi Division called this plan suicidal. That is why anti-Azad Punjab conferences were organized at various places in Rawalpindi in which Congress leaders Baba Khadak Singh and Sant Singh were at the forefront. Seven members of the Shiromani Akali Dal from Rawalpindi district were expelled from the party for opposing the Azad Punjab scheme. In many conferences in 1943, Baba Khadak Singh criticized the demand for independent Punjab. He realized that there was no difference between Pakistan and Azad Punjab and that both the plans had hidden the division of the country and the destruction of Indian unity and integrity. Clarifying this, the Akali Dal passed a resolution in 1943. The Akalis declared that they primarily stood for a united India and wanted an independent Punjab, if Pakistan was to be formed.
‘No Sikh leader has ever demanded a sovereign Sikh state. The demand for independent Punjab was only to counter Jinnah’s demand for Pakistan on the basis of religion. The Azad Punjab Plan proposed separating Muslim-majority districts from Punjab to form a new state in which no single community had a majority. The plan intended to create a new province between the Yamuna and Chenab rivers under the authority of the central government to strengthen Sikh influence. Both the Sikh Hindus and the Muslims wanted to escape from perpetual slavery and they wanted a share in political power.’
– Krishnagopal Lamba,
(Dynamics of Punjabi Suba Movement, Deep Prakashan, New Delhi-1999, and others)
History is witness that later after the independence of the country, Punjab was divided in the name of Punjabi Suba. With this the state of Haryana came into existence and the Hindi speaking hill districts of Punjab were merged with Himachal Pradesh. After this, today’s Punjab has become a Sikh majority province. Punjab has played an important role in running every type of system including political, commercial, administrative, social, strategic in the country. It is unfortunate that the Akali leader Master Tara Singh and others who are being accused of separatism were extremely patriotic Panthak leaders whose mind was filled with the concept of a united and undivided India.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad was established in 1964 and its founders included Swami Chinmayanand, SS Apte as well as Master Tara Singh and the then Sarsanghchalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Shri Guruji was also present in the first meeting. If the work done by such a true leader Master Tara Singh is seen as the origin of Khalistan, then it will be a great injustice to him.