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April 25, 2010




Page: 21/39

Home > 2010 Issues > April 25, 2010

A study of separatism in Punjab
By Lokesh Kumar

The Sikh Separatist Insurgency in India: Political Leadership and Ethno-nationalist Movements, Jugdep S. Chima, Sage Publications, Pp 315(HB), Rs 750.00

TERRORISM is an offshoot primarily of ethnic, religious and ideological motivations. Violence in Punjab in the latter part of the 20th century took the form of an ethno-nationalist movement for an independent Sikh state. Sikh content and context added the religious elements as a force multiplier, thereby increasing the scope and intensity of the violence. The author, Jugdep S. Chima, a third generation Sikh raised in the Sikh diaspora in USA, reached India and moved in a world of both Khalistan activists and supporters of the Indian state and claims to have written from his personal contacts and experience.

The north-western state of Punjab had been a model of political stability and economical development for India during the late 1960s and early 1970s as it was free of communal violence and political instability. After the re-organisation of the state in the late 1950s and early 1960, the enterprising Sikh community seemed well integrated into the ‘national mainstream’, providing a large number of recruits in the Indian armed forces, being the granary of India with the Green Revolution and “a model province” for the rest of India. The situation changed dramatically in the early 1980s when a violent Sikh ethno-nationalist movement transformed itself into a secessionist struggle for the creation of an independent Sikh state – Khalistan.

The Sikh separatist insurgency represented the “worst threat” to India’s territorial integrity and unity since Independence and Partition. What is however particularly intriguing about the movement is that this violent ethno-nationalist movement, which escalated precipitously through the late 1980s, should have declined by the mid-1990s to the point of no significant militancy-related deaths after 1993. This thus raises a number of important questions – How and why did the movement emerge in the first place? How was it sustained? Finally how did it decline?

The book throws light on the political history of the Sikh separatist insurgency in Punjab by focusing on “patterns of political leadership”, the trends which led to the emergence of the ‘Punjab crisis’, the various dynamics through which the movement sustained itself and the changing nature of “patterns of political leadership” which led to its decline in the mid-1990s. The regional factors mentioned are the changing socio-economic conditions in Punjab emanating from the Green Revolution, including the increase in unemployment and alienation of the rural youth.

(Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, B 1/I-1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area, Mathura Road, New Delhi-110044; www.sagepublications.com)




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