Op/Ed: Misogyny in the Khalistan movement – View of a Kaur

File Photo: Sikh Women Seen With Prominent Freedom Fighters

The Khalistan movement divides people as much as it unites them. I am strongly in support of it and everything that it stands for.

However, what I do not support is the toxic, overbearing, testosterone-fuelled, egocentric, masochistic voices that think they have earned the right to speak on behalf of everyone else who identifies as a Khalistani (like myself). These young men are in their mid to late twenties and have appointed themselves ‘speakers’ and ‘activists’ from various different organisations across the United Kingdom. One would think that due to the fact these individuals are from specific groups, they’re accountable to something or someone for their behaviour. Wrong. There is no accountability which in term has directly contributed to their disrespectful and outlandish behaviour.

As I mentioned before, the Khalistan movement does not sit favourably with many people. Instead of politely engaging with those who are against (or frankly do not understand) the movement, these so-called activists and speakers berate, attack and slander anyone who holds an alternative point of view. On social media I witness countless arguments and very quickly the subject matter divulges in to participants hurling hostile and personal abuse at each other; the discourse of Khalistan having been long forgotten. These young men cannot handle the idea that there are people who will never adhere to their way of thinking, especially people from their very own community. Anyone who holds political views that are in direct conflict with the principles of the Khalistan movement automatically becomes diasporic panthik enemy number one.

It’s all well and good being provocative behind a screen and shouting your opinions in uppercase lettered sentences littered with undesirable expletives across various different social media platforms. There comes a time when one should voluntarily move away from this sort of juvenile behaviour and actively do something for the betterment of the sangarsh.

I have noticed many times over the majority of these self-proclaimed male experts on the Khalistan movement are fantastic at trashing other people’s opinions but they fail spectacularly at providing decent counter arguments. Their natural knee-jerk defensive reaction is to jump in to victim mode and repeat the same constant stream of rhetoric like a stuck record: if you criticise or do not support the Khalistan movement, you’re automatically on the side of the oppressive Indian government.

There’s an ever-present invisible agreement amongst these Khalistani men that any other opinions must be attacked, annihilated and silenced in to submission. This is true of dialogue I have experienced online, in personal discussions and formal academic spaces. It’s “my way or the highway”, for them it is simply not plausible to engage in healthy political discourse in any context. For these men, everything exists in black and white; what they fail to realise is that many people are learning and forming their point of view, they are still firmly existing in the grey area.

Undoubtedly there is an inherent male dominance in the movement and this has negative repercussions for women who contribute tirelessly. To a certain extent, the role of female Khalistani activists are not taken seriously at all and they’re severely undermined. You are only granted a shred of credibility as a female activist if you are amritdhari. This culture of male dominance must come to an end and the idolisation of a token female amritdhari activist must also stop. Women must be given the same respect as their male counterparts.

The Khalistan movement is incredibly emotionally charged and of course, why shouldn’t it be? We are up against a genocidal government that has always been intent upon erasing Sikhs and everything that we stand for. A stereotypical image of a Khalistani would be an amritdhari Sikh man with a black dhumalla grasping an AK-47. While all this makes sense because a black dhumalla is symbolic of our resistance and sovereignty and the AK-47 is a symbolic reference to freedom and liberation, the image of the Khalistan movement is changing. No longer does the movement exclusively consist of Taksali amritdhari Sikh men, the Khalistan movement like any other political movement is organic and ever-evolving; these men have no choice but to accept that.

With the arrest of Scottish activist Jagtar Singh Johal, many young Sikhs are waking up to the harsh reality they were previously ignorant of. They are showing interest in the Khalistan movement and all that it’s about. I beg these egotistical Khalistani men to think about their behaviour and the ramifications it could have. If you do not agree with someone, there is no need to descend in to chaos. Furthermore, displays of behaviour like this will drive people away from the movement, particularly young Sikh women. There is already plenty of ill-feeling and disillusionment surrounding our movement, we do not need to add anymore fuel to the fire.

I know my words will not be well received across the board but that was not the purpose of writing this. The truth always tastes most bitter to those who have difficulty digesting it. These men have no choice to change their behaviour because there may come a time in the near future where they inflict serious irreversible damage all because they are slaves to monumental sized egos.


  1. There are several issues with this op-ed that the writer has haphazardly glazed over.

    Descent into uncompromising argument and unwavering opinion in this age of social-media induced polarization is hardly a unique male trait/fault nor is it inherently a manifestation of misogynist intent. The rationale of behaviour and character proposed by the writer are based on her own presumptions and do not alone identify systemic prejudice.

    The other issue is that the crux of the writer’s point in her piece gets lost in a somewhat disingenuous effort to conflate the nature and history of this particular movement with the matter of inclusion and sexism. If there is an argument to made about an enhanced role for women in the activism surrounding Sikh rights in 2018, then I believe the writer has complete latitude to do so.

    Instead, the writer undercuts this point entirely with an unfocused criticism of what defines the “Khalistani” movement and her issue with who is most visible. The amritdhari dominance, particularly male, of the Khalistani movement is due to the nature of its genesis in Punjab decades ago. That is not stereotype, but a matter of fact. If the writer feels that amritdhari women are given prominence, then what exactly is her assertion of misogyny based on? It seems that there is a selective observational grievance serving as the basis of a presumption of widespread prejudice.

    Khalistan is anything but organic and I’m afraid the writer is either too young or too naive to understand the difference between activism on general human rights awareness and the political movement of Khalistan. This op-ed could have been an opportunity to discuss the need of more women in contemporary Sikh issues, but wound up conflating several highly complex topics without any regard for context.

  2. There should never be Khalistan to start with because sikhs don’t get on with each other, full stop. If you look at the present situation in the Sikh panth, it has been hijacked by those that have the least interest in propagating sikhi.

  3. point i am trying to make is it is not possible to keep our minds and speech pure if we are sharing air we breathe full of meat, tobacco, alcohol etc in our homes vs Naam, because we do not have wealth to afford homes amongst Gursikhs who keep Rehit

  4. Guru Nanak kirpa so we who live amongst those who do not know Vahiguroo are not affected by their lifestyle, like a duck in mud become muddy, so i believe youth who swear and told me to convert for going against their belief that defense against evil is fire… will stay noble, …like i hope to also bethi ji, i am guilty of getting angry with evil living amongst evil habit neighbors_/\_.

  5. The crazy thing about the Khalistan issue is that Sikhs are likely to be a minority in Punjab in 3years time! So it suits the RSS and Hindutva forces to have Sikhs focussing on Khalistan as a future concept whilst taking our eyes off the ball that Sikhs are a minority in Doaba already and are soon on our way to becoming a minority in east Punjab generally. In addition to which 99% of Sikhs in India voted for anti-Khalistan parties in last year’s elections because everyone there remembers the thousands killed by Congress. The best chance of Khalistan happening any time soon is if Pakistan disintegrates into separate countries first. It is a very hard for a 1.5% minority to gain freedom when America, Canada, UK, France, Australia, China, Pakistan all support the status quo against Sikhs. So uniting Sikhs under one local Gurdwara needs to be a first step before imagining future states any time soon in this decade.

  6. A very good and balanced approach. It would appear that the subject matter that you touched on relates to what can be compared as a” talibanisation ” of Sikhi. This can be seen in language and attitudes. It can be claimed that this is going on in the background with the support of very large institutions that actually did form the actual Talibanisation. They care nothing of Sikhi, Khalistan, or contrrarian opinions. Sikhi is great.

    As you have said the subject of Khalistan is contentious but Sikhi is not. It is beautiful and unifying. Those that want division do not care. The will use Sikhi for their own agenda if we are not careful.


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