What is the Khalistan issue?

The Khalistan issue refers to a Sikh separatist movement that seeks to establish a Sikh homeland within the Punjab region. The proposed state would consist of land that currently forms Punjab, India and Punjab, Pakistan.

The Khalistan issue came to a head in 1983 when a religious militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale seized the Golden Temple with his armed followers. This prompted Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to launch ‘Operation Blue Star’ that resulted in the deaths of Bhindranwale and his followers and massive damage to the Golden Temple. In the aftermath, PM Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own Sikh bodyguards.

In the 1990s, the insurgency petered out and the movement failed to reach its objective for multiple reasons including a heavy police crackdown on separatists, factional infighting, and disillusionment from the Sikh population.

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