Since the annexation of the Sikh confederacy by the British in 1849, the Sikh peoples have been resiliently resisting foreign occupation and mobilizing to re-establish Sikh sovereignty in the Punjab. The manifestations of Sikh liberation movements since 1849 have taken a variety of forms that continue to inspire and drive Sikh self-determination today.
After annexation, the British colonizers of the region sought to forcibly integrate Punjab under the unification and homogenization of the entire subcontinent within an artificial Indian identity that has never existed prior. Upon the British Transfer of Power, the Indian state aggressively escalated this political program of centralization and homogenization despite the resistance of countless minority communities. In response, Sikh movements have strategically taken fluid and diverse forms to maintain the political autonomy, cultural identity, and economic sustenance of the Sikh nation. Despite the persistence of conflict, the Indian state has stubbornly refused any political settlement on the question of Sikh sovereignty.
In the face of growing Sikh resistance in 1984, the Indian political establishment, led by Indira Gandhi and the INC, shifted gears from a policy of assimilation to annihilation. In June 1984, the Indian army invaded the political capitol of the Sikh nation as the state embarked upon a genocidal campaign—that would last up to a decade—with the aim of eliminating the dissenting Sikh community.
Through indigenous mechanisms of self- governance, including the 1986 Sarbat Khalsa, the Sikh nation has repeatedly declared the intention to secede from the Indian state and establish an independent state, Khalistan, to achieve the aspiration of Sikh sovereignty. The unequivocal support for this objective can be seen in the resounding electoral results of 1989 and 1992 in support of secessionist demands, and repeated ratification of this goal as recently as the Sarbat Khalsa in 2015.
The Sikh struggle throughout the centuries has never been a sectarian movement predicated on a chauvinistic impulse of identity or self-interest. Every struggle has been an exercise of the patshahi (indigenous sovereignty) bestowed upon the Khalsa to destroy the tyrants and protect the poor, and establish a just polity based on radical co-existence and co-creation. Sikh warriors and martyrs of the Khalsa have consistently fought to uproot every form of oppression and resist any attempts to restrict the Khalsa’s inherent sovereignty.
In this legacy, the Sikh struggle for Khalistan centres around our drive to exercise our patshahi and establish a sovereign society-polity that is against all forms of domination, centring our shared humanity. The Khalistan struggle was initiated as a revolutionary resistance to abolish the Indian state, capitalist exploitation, and Hindutva’s caste- based supremacy—with a clear commitment to advancing the liberation of all oppressed peoples across the subcontinent.