“Pak has always favoured Khalistan”
‘Khalistan’, the moribund movement to carve out an independent Sikh nation, has become a fresh excuse for Pakistan’s Inter-services Intelligence to revive Sikh militant outfits in its territory. The revival, says a top-ranking former militant on strict condition of anonymity, is drawing scores of young Sikhs lured by the prospect of revenge. This militant, who is responsible for some audacious terror strikes through the 1980s and early ’90s, now lives in three-room house in a village close to the India-pakistan border. A new car, a motorcycle, and a tractor parked in the courtyard signal that he is comfortably off. He lives here quietly with his wife, two sons and a younger brother. He says Khalistan is merely awaiting “the right kind of leadership”. Excerpts from an interview with Assistant Editor ASIT JOLLY. Q. Is Khalistan on ISI’S agenda? A. Pakistan has always favoured Khalistan. These people are like our own tabbar (family), they care for us. We had comfortable homes in Lahore with complete freedom of movement. Each khadku (militant) was given money and facilities as per his position in the jathebandi (militant group). We mixed freely with army officers and politicians. The jihadis are brothers. I remember meeting (Mushtaq Ahmed) Zargar and Masood (Azhar) many times in Lahore after they were released in Kandahar (1999).
Q. Where did you cross the border from?
A. Border crossings are not difficult even today. The rivers are impossible to fence or patrol. In Ferozepur, the Sutlej meanders back and forth across the border. We used to slip across through the khuds often during the day. In the old days, we would cross near Bikaner. It was easy. One could have driven a Gypsy to Pakistan.
Q. But the police claim militant groups are not finding recruits in Punjab.
A. They forget that more than five lakh Sikhs voted for separatists in September’s SGPC elections (Simranjit Singh Mann’s Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar, whose poll plank is Khalistan, polled 5.75 lakh of the 34.1 lakh votes). There are volunteers everywhere. Just go to the villages, you will come across youngsters keen to do something for the panth (faith). All they need is the right leadership. Nothing in God’s world ever ends. The movement (for Khalistan) can be revived at any time. Many of our children are going back to Sikhism. Not one of them cuts his hair and the best part is that they do this under no pressure from elders. The older khadkus are respected and can get volunteers on a single ishaara (signal). I even know of a couple of police officers’ sons who would join up.
Q. Do young Sikhs want to get involved?
A. Check out the Internet. These days everyone has a computer even in villages. Youngsters are avidly reading
“Pakistanis are like our own family, they care for us.”