“Pak has al­ways favoured Khal­is­tan”

India Today - - COVER STORY -

‘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.”

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