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Resurrecting Khalistan

The Asian Tribune announced on June 7 that this article was "withdrawn on the request of the providers." The letter from Syndicate Features stated, "Conveying that we have no intention to hurt the Sikh feelings and that the article was only a view point which need not necessarily be universal and acceptable." The letter added, "Any how considering the sentiments voiced in the letter, we suggest that it is better to withdraw the article from the site and post the message that the article has been withdrawn." S. Venkatesh, currently a freelance journalist, was formerly special correspondent for The Statesman and bureau chief for The Gulf India Weekly. The following sentence could be interpreted as justifying the Sikh massacres: "Yet it needs to be recognised that the spark was lit by the handful of jubilant Sikhs who went about distributing sweets after the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister in Delhi."

Central Chronicle, Jun. 7, 2005

Photo: 1984 Sikh massacres

The appointment of Lt.-Gen. Javed Nasir, a former I.S.I. chief, who played a key role in creating the Taliban, as head of the Pakistan Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, is undoubtedly a calculated state policy to revive Sikh separatism, opines S. Venkatesh.

The arrest of two young men from Nawashehr in Punjab for alleged involvement in the bombing of the two cinema halls in New Delhi and the recovery of explosives from them has lent credence to suspicions that have been raised over the past three years that Pakistan is trying to resurrect the Khalistan insurgency in Punjab.

The appointment of Lt.-Gen. Javed Nasir (former chief of the Pakistan Army Inter-Services Intelligence who played an important part in creating the Taliban extremist Islamic fundamentalist phalanx for use as Pakistani storm troopers to create 'strategic depth' in Afghanistan) as head of the Pakistan Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (P.G.P.C.) was seen as calculated state policy to revive Sikh separatism.

The former I.S.I. chief also had considerable experience in the training and launching of the Khalistani brand of extremists into Punjab and it was obvious that his new posting was intended to give him a front to be able to interact with the several hundred hardcore Sikh separatists who were left stranded in Pakistan after the Khalistani movement was crushed by a combined Army, Punjab Police, Border Security Force, C.R.P.F. and Indo-Tibetan Border Police force deployed in 'hammer and anvil' mode in the strife-torn Punjab.

Major among these Sikh terrorist remnants, who have been given refuge in gurdwaras in Pakistan under control of the P.G.P.C., is the Babbar Khalsa Commando Force. There are signs that Lt.-Gen. (Retd.) Javed Nasir has not been able to resist the temptation of indulging his favourite pastime of encouraging terrorism in India. His appointment as chief of the P.G.P.C. was clearly intended by President-General Pervez Musharraf to utilize his expertise.

Operation Black Thunder in the Golden Temple broke the back of the Khalistani insurgency because many of the most wanted of the Sikh terrorists were either killed or captured in an operation that was more clinical in its methodology than was the Army-led operation conducted by Lt.-Gen. K. Sundarji in the same venue.

The destruction of the Golden Temple, especially the Akal Takht, created a groundswell that led to the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the anti-Sikh riots, the effects of which are still seen in the demands to bring those who perpetrated that atrocity to book.

Yet it needs to be recognised that the spark was lit by the handful of jubilant Sikhs who went about distributing sweets after the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister in Delhi. It is in the exploitation of this kind of action and reaction that Lt.-Gen. Javed Nasir is an expert and that is why it is important to handle the bombing of the two cinemas where a controversial film was being screened with special care so that the obvious intention of stirring communal poison is thwarted.

The Delhi Police has handled the situation particularly well given the communally-sensitive undertones of the cinema hall bombings. The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee and the Akal Takht, currently busy in according to Sant Bhindranwale, who was killed in the Golden Temple during the Army-led Operation Blue star, the status of martyr, need to be brought into the loop of mutual consultations by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi so that the aftermath of the arrest of the two Sikh youth is not sought to be used to spark violence in keeping with a game plan hatched in Pakistani gurudwaras by the arch-terrorist Lt.-Gen. Javed Nasir.

Since the 9/11 attack on the U.S. and the unleashing of the War On Terror by the U.S.-led coalition, Pakistan has been finding it increasingly difficult to use Islamic fundamentalism as a weapon in Jammu and Kashmir even though General Pervez Musharraf has been trying to retain a fine distinction between the terrorism of the Taliban-Al Qaeda variety and the 'struggle for self-determination of the Kashmiris.'

The combination of the barbed wire fence and the operations by the Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir has resulted in a reduction of infiltration into the state and larger loss of personnel among the terrorists though hits against soft targets do occur quite regularly. But terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir is bringing diminishing returns for Pakistan.

More and more its catspaw within the All Parties Hurriyat Conference is beginning to feel the ire of people fed up with the senseless bloodletting, especially because notwithstanding the propaganda against the security forces of perpetrating atrocities against the people it is increasingly being noted and objected to that the death toll held up as the handiwork of the security forces is actually that of the so-called 'Kashmiri freedom fighters.'

Thus, notwithstanding claims by the Hurriyat of being the 'sole representative of the Kashmiri people' the insurgency is beginning to flag and lose its way much as the Khalistani variety did after Punjab Police Chief K.P.S. Gill dealt it a body blow during Operation Black Thunder.

That is why Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is showing signs of urgency to achieve a settlement on his terms which he can only do till there is still some fervour left in the Kashmiri separatist movement in the teeth of the global antipathy to terrorism of the jehadi type.

It is not without reason that the Pakistan military establishment has done its best to shift the training camps and indoctrination centers run by terrorist organisations created by the I.S.I. out of Pakistan. Bangladesh has become the hotbed for Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organizations even as pressure is being mounted by the international coalition against terrorism on nations in southeast Asia to crack down on their own indigenous modules if they are to make a credible contribution to the war against terror.

Pakistan cannot afford to be seen to shed terrorism as an instrument of state policy and that is why using Bangladesh as its proxy to ferment trouble in the northeast is being seen as a good alternative to shutting shop in Jammu and Kashmir.

Also, it makes no sense in feeding and training the Sikh terrorists inside Pakistan when they can be better employed in Punjab to try and retain an element of control over these useful proxies. Many former Khalistani terrorists have returned to India and given themselves up to the police like Zafarwal but there are also many who have tried to borough themselves among the civilian population and, as in the case of at least one of those who had been arrested in the cinema bomb blast case, have acquired a more credible camouflage by marrying local girls.

It is these 'moles' that are now being activated selectively and with very specific intent. The controversial film provided a rallying point and they were immediately put to use to try and rouse communal passions in a manner that has been the hallmark of the Pakistan I.S.I. At the same time there is an element of 'networking' among several terrorist groups operating in India. At the height of the Khalistan insurgency there was evidence that the I.S.I. had managed to forge linkages between it and the Sri Lanka L.T.T.E. and U.L.F.A.

It is in this context that the police and paramilitary forces need to forge closer cooperation so that these dormant modules can be detected and penetrated before they can be used to the detriment of the nation-state. Immediately after the cinema explosions analysts were advocating better surveillance of the periphery of the National Capital Territory of Delhi so that it is made less porous to anti-social elements who may have found sanctuary in the suburbs.

The arrest of those wanted for the cinema bombings from Punjab shows that anyone indulging in such activity needs sanctuaries. Only good policing at the very grassroots level can deny them this.