US State Department Supports Sikh Activists’ Rights Amid Khalistan Debates


In an address on Tuesday, the U.S. State Department affirmed its respect for the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and assembly, directing the statement towards activist factions within the American Sikh community. These factions have long campaigned for the creation of a Sikh separatist state, much to the chagrin of the Indian government.

India has previously expressed discontent regarding the international presence, particularly in Canada, of Sikh secessionist groups. These organizations have maintained the call for Khalistan, a movement for a separate Sikh nation to be delineated from Indian territory.

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One of these groups, known as Sikhs for Justice, is stationed in the U.S. and has orchestrated an informal “Khalistan Referendum.”

While declining to comment directly on this unofficial referendum, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department stated, “What I will just say is that, broadly across the board, individuals have the right to freedoms of speech, rights to peacefully assemble in the United States, all of which are in line with our First Amendment protections, and adherence, of course, to any appropriate federal and local regulations.”

The call for a distinct Sikh state gained considerable attention during a widespread and violent insurgency within India during the ’80s and ’90s, which brought Punjab to a standstill. It also led to the loss of tens of thousands of lives.

The separatist movement is viewed by India as a matter of national security, with Sikh militants held responsible for the 1985 bombing of an Air India Boeing 747. Originating from Canada bound for India, the tragic incident resulted in the deaths of all 329 passengers and crew members.

India’s Prime Minister at the time, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated in 1984 by two Sikh bodyguards in response to her authorizing an attack on the sacred Sikh temple with the intention of putting an end to the separatists.

Despite its turbulent past, currently, the cause for a Sikh separatist state finds little support within India, having been effectively neutralized by the Indian government in the ’90s.

Last month, Canada suggested possible Indian involvement in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and Sikh separatist, who was labeled a “terrorist” by New Delhi. While India has refuted any involvement in the killing, the exact circumstances remain uncertain.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.