Sikh mutineers will be hanged, general says

Globe and Mail
June 13, 1984

From Reuter and Associated Press

BOMBAY — Any of the Sikh troops who mutinied because of the army’s storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar will be hanged if found guilty, a top Indian general told a news conference yesterday.

Lt.-Gen. T. S. Oberoi, chief of southern command, said the army took a dim view of the mutiny.

“The mutineers will be tried and, if found guilty, will be hanged. No one dares revolt in the Indian Army,” he said.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the mutiny has been quelled, and that there were no new desertions yesterday.

The United News of India news agency said about 1,200 Sikh deserters from Bihar state have surrendered in neighboring Uttar Pradesh state and given up their efforts to reach Punjab. UNI said all major groups of deserters have been accounted for, although a few smaller groups are still at large.

Military sources said at least 2,000 Sikh soldiers deserted their army bases in eastern, northern and western India last weekend and headed for Punjab state and New Delhi to protest against the army attack on the seventeenth century shrine.

At least 46 deserters were killed in gun battles with military and police pursuers, 600 were arrested and most of the others surrendered, said the sources, who spoke on condition they not be identified.

Thirteen rebel Sikh soldiers were reported killed and 33 seriously wounded in a pitched battle yesterday with loyal troops in Agartala, in the northeastern state of Tripura.

Rebel soldiers captured near Bombay disclosed they had planned to take over the airport in the western port city, prompting Indian Airlines to alert all stations against possible hijack attempts.

In Amritsar, soldiers were reported still removing bodies from the temple grounds and cremating them in mass funeral pyres. Sources said the death toll from last week’s battle at the Golden Temple compound has risen to 1,220 and is likely to reach 1,300.

Sikhs in Toronto said they had talked to relatives in the Punjab who told them true toll is closer to 3,600. The Canadian Sikhs, who spoke on condition they not be identified, said they were told that hundreds of Sikh troops were mowed down when they were forced at gunpoint to lead the assault on the Golden Temple.

Military sources in India said the desertion of 2,000 troops should not be regarded as a widespread insurrection. Sikh soldiers represent about 10 per cent of the 1.2 million man Indian Army, the world’s fourth largest.

The army was reported intensifying efforts to capture suspected Sikh terrorists throughout Punjab. Soldiers have arrested more than 6,500 suspected extremists in raids on villages since Monday, the sources said.

The Government also arrested, two moderate leaders of the Sikh Akali Dal party yesterday. The two Sikhs, Prakash Singh Badal and Surjit Singh Barnala, had previously advocated unity between Sikhs and Hindus but refused to call for communal harmony after the army assault on the Golden Temple. Sikhs are the majority in Punjab, but most Indians are Hindus.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, addressing troops at Srinagar in Kashmir state, said unidentified foreign countries were trying to destabilize India and soldiers should be ready to defend the country’s borders.

“The country today is faced with its greatest threat ever,” she said. “Whatever has happened in Punjab should not be celebrated as a victory.

Back to news reports

Sikhs Outside Punjab

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 December 1992
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Sikhs Outside Punjab, 1 December 1992, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a83214.html %5Baccessed 11 June 2015]
Disclaimer This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


According to the most commonly cited estimates, about four million Sikhs live in India outside Punjab. Punjab itself is home to a concentration of nine million Sikhs (AP 28 Apr. 1988; Delahoutre 1989, 149). Sikh communities of various sizes are found in most Indian cities and in virtually all states. Sikhs are by no means a homogeneous group. Caste divisions, degrees of orthodoxy and divergent political opinions have eroded the cohesiveness of the community as a whole (AP 28 Apr. 1988).

Although life is calmer outside Punjab for many Sikhs, the increase of Sikh militancy outside Punjab has led to instances of harassment of moderate Sikhs by extremists and to greater police surveillance of the Sikh community. Moreover, isolated incidents of communal violence involving Sikhs may play a role in influencing the security conditions for Sikhs outside Punjab. This is especially true during periods of chaos and unrest that often follow attacks by Sikh militants on Hindu targets.


Sikhs have been uprooted several times in recent Indian history. During the British colonial period, many Sikhs moved to large cities (Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta), and large numbers joined the colonial army, living wherever garrisons were located (Minority Rights Group 1989, 319). Today Sikhs still continue to serve in the Indian army, although representation has fallen. Many Sikhs deserted the army after the attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar (The Washington Post 12 June 1984; The New York Times 4 Nov. 1984).

The partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, which divided the Punjab, particularly affected the Sikh community. Many Sikhs were forced to resettle outside the Punjab, and most of those who did so moved to Delhi (Cole and Sambhi 1978, 165).

Today, Sikhs outside Punjab are predominantly urban and generally prosperous (Études Jan. 1987, 10; Pittson 8 Sept. 1992). They tend to concentrate in certain occupations: business, the transportation industry (taxi and bus driving, auto parts trade), professions (law, medicine) and the military (Ibid.; Delahoutre 1989, 148; Amrik Singh 1988, 425). They control important trades and occupy a predominant position within the central and regional administration (Delahoutre 1989, 148). The president of India was a Sikh at the time of the 1984 events (New York Times 1 Nov. 1984), and Rajiv Gandhi assigned Sikhs to key positions in two important departments, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Agriculture (Études 1987, 17). India’s largest bottling plants are owned by a Sikh, and one of India’s most popular sports stars is a Sikh cricket player (AP 28 Apr. 1988).

2.1              Uttar Pradesh and Haryana

In 1966, Indian state borders were redrawn to better fit linguistic territories (Population 1988, 1111). Haryana and Uttar Pradesh inherited significant Sikh peasant communities from the former, much larger Punjab.

In Uttar Pradesh, Sikh communities are mostly concentrated in the Nalital (125,000 Sikhs), Pilibhit (50,000 Sikhs), Rampur, Lakhimpur, Shahjahanpur, Bijnor, Saharanpur and Dehra Dun districts of the Terai region (Asia Watch 29 Sept. 1991, 1). According to a 1988 estimate, the Terai region was, at the time, home to approximately 300,000 Sikh farmers (Amrik Singh 1988, 425). Militants chose the region as a base of operations for its mountainous characteristics, which provided easy shelter, and for the presence of many Sikh families (India Abroad 21 Aug. 1992, 6; The Gazette 22 Aug. 1992; AP 20 Oct. 1991).

The Chandigargh administrative region was established as the common capital for Punjab and Haryana in 1966 (Population 1988, 1111). According to the 1981 census, approximately six per cent of Haryana’s population at the time was Sikh (Ibid.). Most Sikhs live in the areas that border Punjab.

2.2    Delhi

Sikhs settled in Delhi before 1947, and the already well-established community grew with the influx of Sikh refugees from the Pakistani Punjab during the partition (Cole and Sambhi 1978, 165; Amrik Singh 1988, 424). At the time of the 1981 census, approximately eight per cent of Delhi’s population was Sikh (Population 1988, 1111). A significant number of Sikhs resided in neighbourhoods such as Mangolpuri, Trilokpuri and Sultanpuri (PUDR/PUCL 1984, 17, 19, 21). Many Sikhs work in the transportation and tourist industries in Delhi, and others serve in the civil service and the army (AP 28 Apr. 1988; Delahoutre 1989, 148).

During the 1984 anti-Sikh riots following Indira Gandhi’s assassination by two of her Sikh bodyguards, some 2,150 Sikhs were killed in the capital alone, and 50,000 to 60,000 Sikhs fled the city, taking refuge in temporary camps set up around Delhi or returning to Punjab (Minority Rights Group 1989, 321; Lokayan Bulletin 1984, 40; Amrik Singh 1988, 425). Although some violent incidents involving Sikhs in Delhi have been reported, the situation in the capital has calmed down since the 1984 riots (Wallace 17 Sept. 1992).

2.3          Bombay and Calcutta

According to The New York Times, in 1984, some 300,000 Sikhs lived in Bombay (then a city with a population of seven million) (2 Nov. 1984). Another source indicates that in 1988, however, Bombay had a population of no more than 100,000 Sikhs (Amrik Singh 1988, 424). Sikhs are concentrated in several neighbourhoods, with Koliwada as the largest Sikh community in the city (Reuters 3 Nov. 1984). Other significant Sikh enclaves are found in Sion and North Dadar. Sikhs have traditionally lived in harmony with other religious groups in Bombay (The New York Times 2 Nov. 1984). As elsewhere in India, they tend to concentrate in certain occupations: they own automobile or auto parts shops, drive trucks and taxis, work in restaurants, or are carpenters or handymen. Very few are unemployed (Ibid.; AP 28 Apr. 1988; Reuters 3 Nov. 1984).

Sikh communities in Calcutta and other cities in West Bengal are reported to be sizeable. Although Sikhs claim to have been present in the region since the time of Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion, a number of Sikhs from the Punjab also migrated there at the time of the British Colonial Empire. The Sikh population of West Bengal increased in 1947 due to the influx of refugees from West Punjab, which is now a part of Pakistan (Eliade 1987, 105). The Bengali capital has a population of approximately 50,000 Sikhs, according to a 1984 estimate (Reuters 2 Nov. 1984). Most of them are concentrated in the Kalighat and Bhawanipur districts in the south-central part of the city, where there are at least two gurdwaras (Sikh temples), as well as in the north of Calcutta not far from the airport, where truck and bus operations are located (O’Connell 18 Sept. 1992). Gurdwaras, Sikh community schools and welfare organizations now operate in Calcutta, and the Journal of Sikh Studies, a long established, broad-spectrum journal, is also published there (Eliade 1987, 105).

2.4      Other States

Very little has been published on Sikhs residing in other cities and states in India. The numerous reports on the 1984 riots, however, as well as more recent articles, reveal the presence of Sikhs in virtually all regions of the country. Sikh communities are located in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and West Bengal. In the state of Jammu and Kashmir, often referred to simply as Kashmir, there is a 25,000-strong Sikh community, and in Rajasthan the Sikh population, mostly concentrated at the border with Punjab, made up 1.4 per cent of the total population in 1981 (Population 1988, 1111; UPI 19 Jan. 1992; The New York Times 1 Nov. 1984; Reuters 1 Nov. 1984).


According to a top civil servant in Uttar Pradesh, the Sikh militant struggle for the independent state of Khalistan “is fast emerging as an interstate phenomenon” (AP 20 Oct. 1991). Sikh militants are currently shifting some of their bases of operations outside Punjab due to increased police control in their home state (AP 16 Jan. 1992; India Abroad 21 Aug. 1992, 6). Police have also increased crack-downs on militants in neighbouring states in order to prevent the development of further Sikh militant activities (Pittson 8 Sept. 1992; Basarka 21 Sept. 1992).

3.1      Uttar Pradesh and Haryana

Uttar Pradesh was hard hit by the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, and most major cities in the state were placed under curfew at the time in order to prevent further violence (AP 3 Nov. 1984; UPI 2 Nov. 1984; New York Times 1 Nov. 1984). Over the years, the spill-over of Sikh militancy has most affected the mountainous Terai region of Uttar Pradesh (Asia Watch 29 Sept. 1991, 1; Reuters 16 July 1991). The security situation there led the government of Uttar Pradesh to launch an “anti-terrorist drive” in November 1991 (AP 17 Nov. 1991). Sikh militants are reportedly becoming “more audacious and ruthless” in their activities. Militants frequently kidnap for ransom and spread terror in Uttar Pradesh villages, causing people to flee the region (Gazette 22 Aug. 1992; India Abroad 21 Aug. 1992, 6). Following the killing of 29 Terai villagers, allegedly by Sikh militants, in early August 1992, members of the Uttar Pradesh legislature asked that troops be sent into the region in order to curb the militants (India Abroad 21 Aug. 1992; AFP 3 Aug. 1992).

Elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh, both police and militants have been responsible for human rights violations. In 1988, Sikh militants killed a senior member of the Congress (I) party in Kanpur (AP 5 Apr. 1988). In October of 1991, extremists planted a bomb in a crowd during a Hindu festival in Ruderpur, killing 55 people. A second bomb exploded half an hour later in a hospital where the wounded from the first attack were being brought (Le Monde 19 Oct. 1991). One month later, militants shot nine Hindu civilians near Rampur “in revenge for the death of a fellow rebel” (AP 17 Nov. 1991). There have also been reports of violations by police. A major incident occurred in Pilibhit on 13 July 1991 when ten Sikh pilgrims were taken into custody and shot dead by police, who later stated that the Sikhs had died in an “encounter” (Asia Watch 29 Sept. 1991; AFP 18 July 1991). During a Hindu festival early in 1992, policemen reportedly extorted money from local Sikhs who had allegedly engaged in illicit distillation (SAHRDC Mar. 1992, 67-68). The situation in Uttar Pradesh increasingly resembles that in Punjab, with more than 300 people killed in the last few months (India Abroad 21 Aug. 1992, 6).

After the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, hundreds of Sikhs from both Haryana and Himachal Pradesh fled to Punjab where, despite the uncertain security conditions, they believed that they were somewhat more protected (Reuters 2 Nov. 1984; Ibid. 1 Nov. 1984). In 1985, the government of Rajiv Gandhi and the main Sikh political party reached an agreement that granted many demands by Sikh activists, among them the transfer of the city of Chandigarh to the exclusive jurisdiction of Punjab and the appointment of a special tribunal to rule on water disputes between Punjab and neighboring states. At the time, an article in the Los Angeles Times noted that the agreement faced potential criticism from officials in Haryana and Rajasthan who had, in the past, opposed concessions for Sikhs. According to Press Trust, quoted in the same article, security was tightened in Punjab, Haryana and the union territory of Chandigarh and Delhi to stop “terrorists” from “vitiat[ing] the atmosphere of good will” (25 July 1985).

Violent incidents took place in the Haryana towns of Ambala and Yamunanagar during the 1980s, as well as at other locations in Haryana (the press articles do not specify exactly where) (Xinhua 19 June 1990; Los Angeles Times 11 July 1987). In November 1991, indiscriminate shooting by Sikh militants in a Haryana-Punjab border town claimed a number of victims, many of them Sikh civilians (AP 10 Nov. 1991; The Washington Post 7 Dec. 1991). In March 1992, the leader of Haryana Akali Dal (the main Sikh political party) made allegations about “large scale arrests and torture of Sikhs by the police in Haryana” (SAHRDC Mar. 1992, 47).

3.2          Delhi

Delhi, where Indira Gandhi was assassinated, was a major centre of anti-Sikh rioting in 1984 (The Washington Post 1 Nov. 1984; The New York Times 4 Nov. 1984). According to a professor specializing in Sikh issues, major Sikhgurdwaras were fortified in the Indian capital after 1984, in preparation for further rioting (O’Connell 18 Sept. 1992). Attacks against Sikhs did occur after 1984, most notably in 1990 when vandals ransacked a Sikh gurdwara in Delhi and destroyed the Sikh holy book, the Granth Sahib (The Independent 15 Nov. 1990). Earlier, in 1986, security was tightened during Independence Day celebrations to prevent attacks by Sikh extremists, who the police feared may have hidden among the capital’s large Sikh population (UPI 15 Aug. 1986). During the 1991 national elections, many Sikhs in Delhi were worried about “the backlash from Punjab violence,” as security forces were stopping cars in the capital to intercept militants from Punjab operating in Delhi (The Toronto Star 24 June 1991). In August of this year, counter-insurgency officers raided suspected Sikh militant hideouts a few days before Independence Day celebrations, and several people were detained for questioning (AFP 13 Aug. 1992).

There are reports about militant Sikhs in Delhi involved in violent incidents, including bombings, gun battles and political assassinations. In April 1991, for example, a bomb in the city’s main market killed three people and wounded fifteen others. Police blamed Sikh militants, claiming they were trying to disrupt upcoming elections (AP 26 Apr. 1991). Earlier this year, security for government officials was stepped up when the chairperson of the Indian Administrative Service was assassinated by a militant group (India Abroad 22 May 1992). In August, AFP reported on a gun battle between Sikh militants and secruity men in which at least two people were killed (13 Aug. 1992).

3.3            Bombay and Calcutta

A New York Times article of 2 November 1984 reports that Sikhs and non-Sikhs lived in relative harmony before 1984. The article does state that Bombay and three other towns in Maharashtra were placed under curfew during the November 1984 riots. Some further rioting has occurred since then. For example, a strike called by Hindus in Bombay and Chikli in July 1989 to protest against Sikh violence in Punjab led to numerous attacks by Hindus on transportation workers, many of whom are Sikhs (AP 3 July 1989). However, there are no reports to indicate that the Sikh community as a whole is at risk.

Sikh militants have a “substantial presence” in Bombay and reportedly target the city to extort money from wealthy businessmen (AFP 5 Mar. 1992; India Today 15 July 1992, 26). The Sikh militants who allegedly planned earlier this year to kidnap Prime Minister Rao’s granddaughter were arrested in Bombay (AFP 7 June 1992). Sikh organizations such as the Khalistan Liberation Front (KLF), the Bhindranwale Tiger Force (BTF) and the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) are believed to have targeted Bombay for future operations according to (India Today 15 July 1992, 26). Shoot-outs between Sikh militants and police have increased in recent years. As a consequence, the city police have asked for wider powers and better equipment in order to curb the rise of Sikh terrorism in the city (AP 5 Mar. 1992).

During the 1984 riots, many Sikhs in both Calcutta and Bombay reportedly went into hiding for several days out of fear of Hindu mobs (Reuters 2 Nov. 1984; New York Times 2 Nov. 1984). Gun battles between police and Sikh militants hiding in the jungles on the Bengal-Bihar border were reported in January 1991 (Reuters 11 Jan. 1991).

More recently, in early February 1992, police arrested some 28 Sikh militants in Calcutta (AFP 8 Feb. 1992; UPI 8 Feb. 1992). Despite the arrests, an article of April 1992 reported that Calcutta had so far “remained virtually free of the violence among Hindus, Moslems and Sikhs” (The Washington Post 19 Apr. 1992). Later, in August, Sikh militants described as “hard-core terrorists” were killed in an encounter with police (All India Radio 4 Aug. 1992). While Sikh-related violence was mostly concentrated in Punjab during the last few years, the number of incidents involving Sikh militants is now increasing in other areas, even in places far as West Bengal (The Gazette 22 Aug. 1992).

3.4                Other States

The Muslim separatist struggle in Kashmir is leading some Sikhs to flee the region (Reuters 29 Jan. 1990). After a Sikh was killed in July 1990, allegedly by Muslim militants, demonstrators of both faiths marched through the streets of Baramulla (30 miles northwest of Srinagar) and accused the military of perpetrating the killing in order to further divide the two communities (UPI 14 July 1990). More recently, in January 1992, five Sikh women were abducted by Muslim militants in Kashmir (Ibid. 19 Jan. 1992).

In 1984, anti-Sikh riots took place mostly in northern India, but several riots also occurred in regions where the number of Sikhs is quite small, such as Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and even Tripura and Assam. Hindus have staged protests against the killing of members of their faith by Sikh militants. Some of these protests took place in Ajmer, Kanpur, Raipur, Bombay and Calcutta (Los Angeles Times 11 July 1987). In Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, Sikh militants are reportedly responsible for many killings, although details and precise dates are unavailable (AP 10 Nov. 1991; AFP 3 Aug. 1992). Limited information on Madhya Pradesh is available; however, one source indicates that the state government has recently permitted local police to detain Sikh militants arrested under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) (SAHRDC Mar. 1992, 53).


In order to assess the general treatment of Sikhs outside Punjab, one should consider the violations of human rights perpetrated by both militants and the police. The expansion of militant activities has significantly influenced the condition of Sikhs outside Punjab, as has the active police pursuit of Sikh militants outside their home state. TheTerrorist and Disruptive Activities Act, first enacted in 1985, is applicable throughout India and permits the administrative detention without formal charge or trial of “persons suspected of being militants or militant sympathizers” (Asia Watch 29 Sept. 1991, 2).

Relations between Sikhs and Hindus have been generally harmonious in the past. Sikhs and Hindus frequently intermarried, and some Punjabi Khatri Hindu families followed the tradition of raising one son as a Sikh (AP 28 Apr. 1988; McLeod 15 Sept. 1992). The Sikh “radical campaign” in Punjab, however, has strained the bond between the two religions according to the Associated Press, and traditional inter-faith exchanges have drastically decreased in recent years (28 Apr. 1988).

Sikhs outside Punjab do not generally encounter hostile treatment, but in the temporarily chaotic conditions that have often followed certain political events, they have become targets of indiscriminate retaliatory attacks. In times of trouble, resentment surfaces against the Sikhs, a minority regarded as highly successful in Indian society (Kothari 1989, 450). The situation becomes volatile for the Sikh community whenever there is a major attack by Sikh militants on a Hindu target. The events that followed the killing of Indira Gandhi by two Sikhs in 1984 illustrate this (Oberoi 15 Sept. 1992; Wallace 17 Sept. 1992). Another incident occurred a few years later when right-wing Hindus hurled rocks at buses and caused injuries to transport workers during a three-day anti-Sikh riot in Bombay to protest against the July 1987 killing of six Hindus in Punjab (Los Angeles Times 11 July 1987). In 1986, Hindus killed at least five Sikhs and bombed a Sikh-owned hotel in Bombay to protest against the killing in Pune of a retired Indian army chief (Reuters 13 Aug. 1986). The Sikh community outside Punjab has at times responded (by keeping shops closed or organizing protest marches) to specific incidents, such as the hanging of Indira Gandhi’s two Sikh assassins in 1989 or the killing of moderate Sikh leader Harchand Singh Longowal in 1985 (The Washington Post 7 Jan. 1989; The New York Times 22 Aug. 1985).

Another important factor which affects the situation of Sikhs as well as other minority religions in India is the rise of Hindu chauvinism (Millennium: Journal of International Studies 1985, 186). Hindu fundamentalist movements such as the Shiv Sena are increasingly present in Punjab, and they reportedly oppose Sikhs with violence (OSAR 1988, 42;Études Jan. 1987, 18). Sikh militants have also clashed with Hindu fundamentalist movements. In January and February 1992, members of the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were attacked by Sikh militants in Punjab (La Presse 24 Jan. 1992; Reuters 11 Feb. 1992; AFP 11 Feb. 1992).

Muslims have been perceived as traditional enemies of Sikhs, and the relations between the two communities were deeply embittered by the 1947 partition (Millennium: Journal of International Studies 1985, 184). The separatist struggle in the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir in northeastern India has also had a negative impact on the Muslim-Sikh relationship, leading some Sikhs to flee the region for fear of riots in 1990 (Reuters 29 Jan. 1990; UPI 19 Jan. 1992). In 1990, members of both communities accused the military of driving a “wedge” between Moslems and Sikhs (UPI 14 July 1990).


Assessing who is at risk within the Sikh community in India is difficult as Sikhs are a very diverse group. Orthodox Sikhs (Kesdhari)–not necessarily militants–have attempted in the recent past to bring a large number of nominal Sikhs (Sahajdhari) who have adopted some Hindu rituals back to the religion (Delahoutre 1989, 149). In addition to the division between Kesdhari and Sahajdhari, numerous sub-groups based on caste or occupation (such as the Jats and the Khatris) or on religious sects or initiations (such as the Nirankaris or the Amritdharis) are likely to be considered differently by the authorities or by other religious groups. For example, a clean-shaven Sikh member of the Ahluwalia, Khatri or Arora caste may be mistaken for a Hindu or at least be less visible than other, more orthodox Sikhs (McLeod 1989, 114).

The example of the 1984 riots has shown that, within the context of communal violence in India, “innocence is irrelevant. The killing of the Mazhabi Sikhs or the Sindhi Sikhs who had little to do with Akali politics or terrorist demands illustrates this” (Kothari 1989, 448). The upsurge of violence against Sikhs at the time of Indira Gandhi’s assassination was indiscriminate, and some Sikhs were killed strictly by association, not as a result of their personal political opinion or militancy (Reuters 2 Nov. 1984; Patwant Singh 1988, 415).

Although most Sikhs outside Punjab are reportedly moderate about a separate Sikh state, those who wear turbans and beards as their religion commands are highly visible in the eyes of the authorities. Sikhs are reportedly regarded with suspicion, and many Sikh taxi drivers in Bombay have cut their hair and shaved (which, in principle, goes against their religious beliefs) in order to avoid being associated with militants. “It means a special [police security] check the moment the driver is a Sikh,” claimed a taxi stand owner in Delhi (AP 28 Apr. 1988). Some Sikhs outside Punjab deliberately hide their religion because, after the violence in the strife-torn state, they are afraid they will be targeted for retaliation (The Toronto Star 24 June 1991).

According to a specialist on the Sikh issue, young male Sikh students who advocate the establishment of Khalistan or who protest publicly against the government of India may be unsafe anywhere in India, especially if they have drawn attention to themselves by holding marches or writing anti-government statements. He added that certain locations, such as Kanpur, where Sikhs were killed after Gandhi’s 1984 assassination, may be more risky for Sikhs (O’Connell 18 Sept. 1992).

Other groups may be a target for harassment by militants or by police. For example, there is an increasing number of cases of Sikh businessmen being held for ransom by militants, who use the money for their activities in Punjab (India Today 15 July 1992, 26). Forestry officials in the Terai region were recently threatened with death by militants if they did not leave the region immediately (India Abroad 21 Aug. 1992, 6). Government officials and politicians in Delhi are also frequently targeted for assassination (Ibid. 22 May 1992, 11).

In the wake of the assault on the Golden Temple in early June 1984, a resigning Sikh member of parliament predicted that “the wound inflicted on the psyche of Punjab during the last one week may take ages to heal” (The Washington Post 12 June 1984). The Golden Temple incident and the authorities’ subsequent refusal to prosecute Hindu agitators blamed for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots left an entire community divided and disillusioned. On the one hand, Sikhs outside Punjab say they are made to feel separate by India’s dominant Hindus (AP 28 Apr. 1988). On the other hand, the ferocity of the Sikh militants’ campaign for Khalistan has also disillusioned many Sikhs (McLeod 15 Sept. 1992). The Sikhs are reportedly “the sharpest critics of the separatist concept because they are most hurt by it” (AP 28 Apr. 1988).

Despite their history of emigration to other parts of India and the world, most Sikhs still consider Punjab as their homeland, Amritsar as their most sacred city and the Golden Temple as their source of spiritual attachment (Delahoutre 1989, 148; Patwant Singh 1988, 415). They now live in an increasingly polarized India, still headed by the Congress (I) party, some of whose members reportedly helped to organize the 1984 riots against Sikhs (The Economist1 Nov. 1986). The situation of Sikhs outside Punjab may seem more stable than life in their strife-torn homeland. The communal tensions in India appear to be increasing, however, and outbursts of violence remain a possibility as long as the root causes of the conflict over Punjab are unresolved.

6.          APPENDIX: MAP

See original

7.              REFERENCES

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India Today [New Delhi]. 15 July 1992. M. Rahman. “Another Killing Field.”

Kothari, Rajni. 1989. Politics and the People: In Search of a Humane India. Vol. 2. New York: New Horizons Press.

Lokayan Bulletin [New Delhi]. 1984. Vol. 3, No. 2. Baljit Malik. “To Dare to Belong.”

Los Angeles Times. 11 July 1987. “India Violence Persists as Sikhs Kill 6, Hindus Stage Protests.” (NEXIS)

Los Angeles Times. 25 July 1985. Rone Tempest. “Gandhi Concedes on Many Demands by Sikh Activists.” (NEXIS)

McLeod, Hew. Visiting Professor (from the University of Otago, New Zealand), Centre for Religious Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto. 15 September 1992. Telephone Interview.

McLeod, Hew. 1989. Who is a Sikh? The Problem of Sikh Identity. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Millennium: Journal of International Studies [London]. 1985. Vol. 14, No. 2. T.V. Sathyamurthy. “Indian Nationalism and the ‘National Question’.”

Minority Rights Group, ed. 1989. World Directory of Minorities. London: Longman.

Le Monde [Paris]. 19 October 1991. “L’Inde malade de ses Sikhs.” (NEXIS)

The New York Times. 22 August 1985. Sanjoy Hazarika. “India Honors Assassinated Sikh Leader.” (NEXIS)

The New York Times. 4 November 1984. James Markham. “India’s Ordeal; The Hatreds That Killed Indira Gandhi Test Her Son.” (NEXIS)

The New York Times. 2 November 1984. “Assassination Aftermath: Olive Branches from Neighbors; In Shuttered Houses, the Sikhs Wait Fearfully.” (NEXIS)

The New York Times. 1 November 1984. “Assassination in India: Violence Ripples Through the Nation; Sikhs Attacked by Hindus in at Least 8 Indian Cities.” (NEXIS)

The New York Times. 12 June 1984. Sanjoy Hazarika. “574 Sikh Deserters Reportedly Held by Indian Forces.” (NEXIS)

Oberoi, Harjit. Professor, Punjabi and Sikh Studies Programme, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 15 September 1992. Telephone Interview.

O’Connell, Joseph. Professor, St. Michael’s College, Toronto. 18 September 1992. Telephone Interview.

Office central suisse d’aide aux réfugiés (OSAR). 1988. Inde. Lausanne: OSAR.

Patwant Singh. 1988. “The Sikhs and the Challenge of the Eighties.” Sikh History and Religion in the Twentieth Century. Edited by R.J.T. O’Connell, M. Israel, W.G. Oxtoby, V.H. McLeod and J.S. Grewal. Toronto: University of Toronto Centre for South Asian Studies.

People’s Union for Democratic Rights/People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUDR/PUCL). 1984. Who are the Guilty? Report of a Joint Inquiry into the Causes and Impact of the Riots in Delhi from 31 October to 10 November. Delhi: PUDR/PUCL.

Pittson, Monty. Development Officer, Community Support and Participation Program, Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada. 8 September 1992. Telephone Interview.

Population [Paris]. 1988. No. 6. Roland J.L. Breton. “Religion et évolution démographique en Inde.”

La Presse [Montréal]. 24 January 1992. “Des Sikhs tirent sur des militants hindous: 5 morts et 16 blessés.”

Reuters. 11 February 1992. Prabhjot Singh. “Sikh Leaders Held, Militants Kill Party Workers.”

Reuters. 16 July 1991. “Police Fear Terrorist Threat to India’s Taj Mahal.” (NEXIS)

Reuters. 11 January 1991. “Indian Police Kill Three Militants After Rampage.” (NEXIS)

Reuters. 4 December 1990. “Suspected Sikh Militants Kill Three Policemen in Bombay.” (NEXIS)

Reuters. 29 January 1990. Rajendra Bajpai. “One Killed as Security Forces Open Fire on Kashmir Protesters.” (NEXIS)

Reuters. 20 February 1987. “Punjab Chief Minister Draws Support Against Priests at Rally.” (NEXIS)

Reuters. 13 August 1986. “Bombay Hotel Bombed After Anti-Sikh Protests.” (NEXIS)

Reuters. 3 November 1984. “Bombay Closes for Gandhi Funeral.” (NEXIS)

Reuters. 2 November 1984. Brian Williams. “Fresh Riots Kill 13 Sikhs near Indian Capital.” (NEXIS)

Reuters. 1 November 1984. John Fullerton. “Security Forces Were Ordered to Shoot Rioters on Sight.” (NEXIS)

Robinson, F., ed. 1989. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC). March 1992. Human Rights Summary. New Delhi: SAHRDC.

The Toronto Star. 24 June 1991. Olivia Ward. “Some Indian Sikhs Hide Religion Amid Fears of Violent Backlash.” (NEXIS)

United Press International (UPI). 8 February 1992. “Six Die, 47 Hurt in Punjab Train Blast.” (NEXIS)

United Press International (UPI). 19 January 1992. Ghulam Nabi Khayal. “Five Sikh Women Reportedly Abducted by Muslim Militants.” (NEXIS)

United Press International (UPI). 14 July 1990. Ghulam Nabi Khayal. “Kashmir Separatist Violence.” (NEXIS)

United Press International (UPI). 15 August 1986. T.S.K. Lingam. “Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.” (NEXIS)

United Press International (UPI). 2 November 1984. Neal Robbins. “Troops in Battle Gear.” (NEXIS)

Wallace, Paul. Professor, University of Missouri, Columbia. 17 September 1992. Telephone Interview.

The Washington Post. 19 April 1992. James North. “Calcutta City of Joy, Culture, Squalor, Rage and Tolerance; Life on the Desperate Streets: An Unlikely Place of Civility.” (NEXIS)

The Washington Post. 7 December 1991. “50 Killed by Sikh Gunmen in N. India.” (NEXIS)

The Washington Post. 7 January 1989. “Hangings Spark Indian Strikes.” (NEXIS)

The Washington Post. 1 November 1984. P.P. Balachandran. “Gandhi’s Son Sworn In; Hindu-Sikh Clashes Follow Prime Minister’s Assassination.” (NEXIS)

The Washington Post. 12 June 1984. William Claiborne. “Sikh Mutinies Spreading in India’s Army.” (NEXIS)

The Xinhua General Overseas News Service. 19 June 1990. “13 Killed in Punjab, Haryana States in India.” (NEXIS)

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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