Religion and Nationalism in India: The Case of the Punjab

By Harnik Deol | Go to book overview

4


The rise of Sikh national consciousness (1947-95)

In Chapter 3 the evolution of the Sikhs from a religious congregation in the sixteenth century into a fully formed ethnic community during the period of the British Raj was traced. In this chapter the examination of the growth of Sikh separatism from the period of India's independence (1950-66) until the last period of Sikh unrest (1970-95) will be continued. To start with, some key questions will be posed. These questions emerge from trying develop a conceptual framework for understanding the emergence of Sikh ethno-nationalism. How is the emergence of a movement that during the 1980s aimed to create the separate Sikh state of Khalistan explained? What are the factors that gave rise to a fierce Sikh ethno-nationalism in the 1980s?

This chapter will focus on the growth of Sikh national consciousness. It is divided into two sections. The first section considers the Akali movement for a Punjabi suba, or 'a Punjabi-speaking state'. The nature of the demand for a Punjabi-speaking state and the tactics and strategies used by the Hindu and Sikh élites will be studied. The falling out of the Punjabi suba movement over communal consciousness is further examined. The second section examines the processes that gave rise to the Sikh armed resistance for the formation of a separate Sikh state of Khalistan. To start with, the historic Anandpur Sahib resolution, which outlined the policy and programme of the Akali Dal in independent India will be examined. This is followed by an examination of the meteoric rise of the charismatic Sikh preacher Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and the subsequent army assault on the Golden Temple in 1984. The rise and disintegration of the Sikh guerrilla movement, focusing on the impact of the policies of the central government on regional demand will be examined. Finally, the role of the Sikh diaspora in the movement for the formation of a separate Sikh state of Khalistan will be discussed.


The demand for a 'Punjabisuba ', or a Punjabi-speaking state, in independent India (1950-66)

The foremost controversy that pushed India to the brink of civil disorder soon after independence was the language issue. While the burning issue in the 1950s and 1960s was a linguistic one, it is the religious issue that poses

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