Many Sikhs in India want to secede and create an independent state. Photo/Reuters
NEW DELHI – Diplomatic tensions over calls for a separate homeland for Sikhs in India have escalated.
It comes after Canada said it was investigating credible allegations potentially linking the Indian state to the killing of a separatist leader in British Columbia, Canada. India denied the allegations and described them as “absurd”.
Here are 4 facts related to why many Sikhs want to separate from India.
1. There are 25 Million Sikhs
Sikhism is one of the world’s major religions, founded in the 16th century in the Punjab region of what is now India and Pakistan – which was divided between the two countries after the end of British rule in 1947.
There are around 25 million Sikhs worldwide, making it the fifth largest religious group.
The majority of them live in India, making up 2% of the country’s 1.4 billion population. However, a significant diaspora population also exists.
Canada is home to the largest population outside India, with about 780,000 Sikhs – more than 2% of the country’s population – while the United States and the United Kingdom are home to about 500,000 people and Australia about 200,000 people.
Why do some Sikhs call for the creation of a separate state?
The Khalistan movement called for an independent homeland for Sikhs in India.
The movement reached its peak in the 1980s in the Indian state of Punjab, when the area experienced a series of violent attacks and deaths.
This movement lost power after the Indian armed forces launched a special operation against the movement.
Politics in modern Punjab has moved away from the movement and calls for independence are not the majority opinion, according to Prof Shruti Kapila of Cambridge University.