image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Sikh Right of Self-Determination and the Issue of Khalistan

In 1733 when the Mughal government found that extreme measures of persecution had failed to persuade the Sikhs to compromise their basic doctrines and attitudes, they conceded to the Sikhs the status of a sub-nation, an autonomous political status&hellip&hellip.which they []]the Sikhs] accepted with the reservation that, the Khalsa meant to rule freely, cannot accept permanently, a subordinate position. (Teja Singh, Ganda Singh, A Short History of the Sikhs.)

We now have another Sikh First when someone used Artificial Intelligence search engine (computer that mimics human intelligence) to settle objectively that there is no place in Sikhi for Khalistan, an independent Sikh state!

It seems. either due to own biases and personal agendas or due to genuine ignorance of Sikh ideology, history and the legal position, even some well-educated and well-meaning Sikhs conflate the two separate issues of Sikh historical right to self-determination and the issue of the Khalistan into one. It is necessary to distinguish between a legal right and the option when to exercise that right. A right is permanent and cannot be taken away but the option to exercise the right through the democratic process depends on the circumstances and the timing.

To repeat: Self- determination is a Sikh legal right in international law as a distinct people Khalistan is the Sikh option as and when to exercise that democratic right through due democratic process.

I wonder if the evidence of 500 years of Sikh history summarised in the daily Sikh Ardaas (supplication) and thousands of Sikh sacrifices can be put aside by Artificial Intelligence or by modern Sikh academics. Sirdar Kapur Singh wrote in August 1974 that the Sikhs as the Khalsa Panth have always insisted that they must be approached and dealt with at State level as a collective group and entity. That statement is based on Sikh history of self-rule which shows that, depending on the circumstances, Sikhs have established self-rule, albeit, based on universal Sikhi principles so that all citizens enjoy equal rights. The Khalsa Raj of Maharja Ranjit Singh can be regarded as such a Sikh-ethos state.

According to constitutional experts, the role of religion may differ widely in different domains. A state with an official religion, is not necessarily a theocracy and the state does not need to be under the control of the clergy, nor is the state-sanctioned religion necessarily under the control of the state. History of Khalsa Raj shows that a Sikh state run according to Sikhi universal principles cannot be like a religion-state as generally understood. It is understandable why those who look at Sikhi through the lens of orthodox religions are against a Sikh religion-state like Israel or Pakistan. Those who watched the coronation of King Charles in a church would rightly argue that UK is a state with Christian ethos.

Labels of separatists and extremists are readily attached to those who even touch the issue of some sort of Sikh autonomy as a distinct people. There are Sikhs today who believe that not only is the demand for self-rule against Sikhi, but that it did not exist before 1984!

It seems that for some, a Hindu Rashtra is good because the majority cannot be wrong but Khalistan is evil because the Sikhs, as a minority, have no such right. In other words, it is a case of might is right! That cannot be right!

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant retd (UK)