Indian agencies perturbed by new form of Khalistan movement in Punjab

Indian agencies perturbed by new form of Khalistan movement in Punjab

NEW DELHI - A new brand of Sikh movement has surfaced in Punjab — educated, suave, clean shaven and mostly millennial young men and women from families with no links to the pro-Khalistan movement, according to police.

Radicalised through social media by Khalistani groups active abroad, these young Sikhs are recruited to kill specific targets set by their handlers, said police after busting several modules behind “targeted killings” in Punjab last year.

“It’s a new way of spreading militancy. Pro-Khalistani forces are radicalising people using cyber space… That’s why we handed the probe into all such cases to the National Investigation Agency (NIA),” state director general of police Suresh Arora said. “You never know how many such modules they have prepared for anti-national activities.”

The alarm rang after police arrested five men who are said to be part of a module that had shot dead Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) members in Ludhiana, Dera Sacha Sauda followers and a Christian pastor between October 31 and November 7, 2017.

These new-age militants have no trace of any Khalistani activity in at least three generations of their families. None of them is from households that suffered the worst during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. They also have no links to “victims” of Punjab’s violent insurgency in the 1980s and early 1990s.

These militants weren’t even born when the riots happened after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984. About 3,000 people were killed in the violence, mostly in New Delhi.

In one module busted this August, police found an 18-year-old Ludhiana girl allegedly brainwashed through Facebook by fundamentalists in Canada and incited to kill Hindu leaders.

Of the 45 suspects arrested so far from different modules, at least 20 are below 35. They are tech and social media savvy. The men have short hair and are clean shaven, though keeping a beard and growing long hair are among the basic tenets of Sikhism.