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The Concept of "Khalistan" a Sikh State; Could it Have Been a Reality?


The Sikhs are a distinct religion though many Hindu leaders from the RSS claim they are Hindus. The fact is the Sikh religion does not believe in the pantheon of Gods of Hinduism as well as the Caste system and as such are distinct but over the centuries many Hindu customs are adopted by Sikhs, diluting their faith. The Sikhs at the time of Independence consisted about 30% population of Punjab and in hindsight, a Sikh state was not viable where the population of Muslims was close to 50%. The Hindus numbered about 20%.

But apologists point out that from 1798 to 1850 a Sikh Empire ruled Punjab under Maharaja Ranjit Singh where the subjects were mostly Muslims and everything was fine. Even Kashmir a predominantly Muslim state was annexed and the rule of the Khalsa established.

Master Tara Singh Jinnah and Gandhi

Master Tara Singh Jinnah and Gandhi

Punjab in 1946

The Akali party represented the Sikhs. It supported the Union Party which was basically a Punjabi party with both Hindus and Muslims as members. Master Tara Singh the Akali leader was, however, wary of the Muslims and had built bridges with the Congress Party and Mohandas Gandhi. Jinnah had been making overtures to the Union Party. The situation in Punjab was fluid and "Masterji" as Tara Singh was affectionately called decided that his and Sikhs future was with Gandhi and India.

The offer

Lord Mountbatten sent his secretary to meet the Akali leader Master Tara Singh. There are some reports that he sounded out Masterji on an independent Sikh State. No records of this conversation are available but there is certainly some circumstantial evidence that this was considered by the last Viceroy.

The situation was however extremely tense as Muslims many of who were members of the Muslim League in Punjab were hell-bent on joining Pakistan. Attacks had commenced on Sikhs and Hindus and the aim of many of the attackers was to carry away Hindu girls.

Tara Singh was in a dilemma. In early 1946 Jinnah had a meeting with Tara Singh at Lahore. He offered Tara Singh a place in Pakistan and if Tara Singh accepted he was ready to sign a blank check of constitutional guarantees. The Sikhs joining Pakistan would have meant the state of Pakistan would have a border right up to Delhi.

Tara Singh also could not consider the offer of Mountbatten as the Muslims constituted nearly 50% of the state likely to be made Khalistan. The British gave no guarantees. The matter was decided by an incident at Karachi when some 1200 Sikh were butchered and Tara Singh decided to throw his lot with Gandhi. In short Tara Singh being a lesser leader with little ambition took the decision to join India.

1946 was a very crucial period in the history of India. A more ambitious leader then master Tara Singh would have accepted the offer of independent Punjab. The history of the subcontinent would have been entirely different. This was the one chance of Independence but there was a problem because, in the state which was to be carved out, the Sikhs themselves constituted only 30% of the population. the Muslims were about 50% and the Hindus were 15% The question arises what would happen to the Muslim population and would it have remained in Punjab?. Would they accept the Sikhs as rulers? !946 was very different from the mid 19th century.

First Day Postal cover Tara Singh with Nehru

First Day Postal cover Tara Singh with Nehru

A Bird Flown

in Punjab

The Sikhs had special rights in undivided Punjab and the union party had specifically passed a law to allow Sikhs to have "Jhatka" meat and not "halal". The British were angry at what they thought was the perfidy of the Sikhs after being allied to them for over a 100 years. With the result, the border was so demarcated that most Sikh holy places like Punja Sahib and Nankana Sahib including Sikh gurudwaras of historical importance in Lahore went to Pakistan. It was a macabre revenge.

Tara Singh could have made a bid for a Sikh state. After all, Ranjit Singh presided over a Sikh kingdom where the Muslim were in a majority and Lahore was his capital. He had also married three Muslim girls to show that he did not discriminate against Muslims.

The Sikhs have missed the chance of a Khalistan as they now form a thriving community in India who though being just 2% of the population dominates the Indian scene in all walks of life.