The proxy war between India and Pakistan seems to engulf the entire subcontinent. While Pakistan is aggressively promoting separatism in Kashmir and Khalistan, India, on the other hand, is leaving unturned to diffuse the fire ignited by Pakistan and fanned by previous Indian governments.
The BJP government in its initiative to diffuse fire has decided to release eight Sikh prisoners, according to senior officials in the government and security community. The Modi government on Saturday decided to grant a special dispensation to eight Sikh prisoners from various jails in the country as a humanitarian gesture on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
In one case, a decision was taken to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment, and in the remaining eight cases, the decision was to prematurely release prisoners serving life and other sentences. These individuals were convicted by various courts in the country for offences committed by them during the militancy period in Punjab.
The release of Sikh prisoners was a long-pending demand, raised by various sections of the Sikh community. The above decision is another way to dilute a 35-year-old ‘blacklist’ that barred 312 members of the Sikh community, who have foreign passports, from travelling to India. They were suspected for their alleged role in the Khalistan movement in Punjab.
The pardon was in the queue since 2015 and was put into action soon after the Narendra Modi government came back to power, officials said. Its objectives was to “heal the wounds of the Sikh community” and “wean away hardliners living abroad” from a plot by Pakistan’s spy agency ISI to reactivate militancy in Punjab.
Foreign minister S Jaishankar, the chiefs of the Intelligence Bureau and the Research & Analysis Wing, also had a role in the rollout of the decision, apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
“The process of healing the wounds of the Sikh community began with the meeting of Prime Minister Modi with Sikh groups in London on November 12, 2015. In that meeting, the demand to facilitate the return of radicalised Sikh elements was raised,” said a second official.
He added that government has also fast-tracked the 1984 riots cases, dismissed the names of people from the blacklist and coaxed Pakistan to allow pilgrims with OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) cards to travel through the Kartarpur Corridor.
The officials said the community outreached to Modi as a part of their effort to stop Pakistan’s ISI to influence Sikh hardliners, particularly in the US, Canada and the UK. These extremists were working on lines of the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) group.
Pakistan’s military establishment has been reactivating is the campaign for Khalistan — the demand for an independent country for the Sikh religious majority in India’s Punjab. Sikhs make up almost 60% of Punjabis but only 1.7% of all Indians.
Khalistan was a key component of Pakistan’s military doctrine of “bleeding India with a thousand cuts” and avenging its defeat in the 1971 war, when India backed a rebellion of Bengali Muslims and carved out a new country, Bangladesh, out of former East Pakistan.