Tom Quiggin on the Revival of Khalistani Extremism in Canada

Written By Giordano Baratta, Posted on March 20, 2020

Given the recent resurgence in pro-Khalistan sentiments among the Sikh diaspora abroad, The National Telegraph met with Canadian terrorist and intelligence expert Tom Quiggin for his clarification on the matter.

“The inevitable faith-based conflict that emerged between Indian religious groups was largely a product of the historical failings of British foreign policy,” Quiggin affirmed. 

“The British had to be aware that the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent would result in violence between Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus that were not perfectly diffused in neat groups across borders—but whether they understood the long-term repercussions is unclear. Think of it another way: if a foreign power came in and carved up Canada, cleaving Ontario from Quebec, you would have English-speakers in the latter and French-speakers in the former that would feel left out. In the case of Punjab, it was split right down the middle. With this in mind, whether the British fully knew it or not, violence was programmed to happen from the very beginning.”

Quiggin proceeded to describe how violence came to be used by fundamentalists to differentiate themselves in the post-partition era. “At the height of religious tension in the 1970s-80s, we saw a push from within Sikhism to purify doctrine by establishing one singular strand of faith. One of these many strands was the Sant Nirankari Mission, which was regarded by many Sikh fundamentalists as heretics. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, one of the most critical voices from the latter, stirred up violence on this basis, leading to significant loss of life, and marking the beginning of the insurgency in Punjab.”


“As Bhindranwale’s supporters strove to establish a unified faith, they attacked ‘heretic Sikhs’ along with Hindus and Muslims in an attempt to transform Sikhism into a ‘nation.’

Simply put, Bhindranwale’s goal was to take Sikhism and mould it into a culture and political system, much as the Muslim Brotherhood attempted in 1928. While striking outwards against non-Sikhs and heretics, they also worked to portray themselves as victims—which becomes essential in today’s context, as you’ll soon see. By 1982, Bhindranwale took over the Golden Temple, the most important pilgrimage site in the faith. After the Indian army took it back, we saw a spate of violence after including the Air India bombing, Indira Gandhi’s assassination, and the killing of many Sikhs in India through communal violence. All of this traces back to the idea of purifying the faith by making it a singular movement and political force.”

Quiggin affirmed that the transformation of faith into political force occurs within the context of identity politics. “The ultimate outcome of identity politics based on religion is a cause bound up in notions of ‘supremacy,’” Quiggin remarked. “In turn, a political force or organization that stresses supremacy inevitably leads to violence. This applies broadly from Islamists, the actors of political Islam, to adherents of Sikhism that strive to establish nationhood. They are identitarian in nature, seeing themselves as superior to the infidel or the heretic. Furthermore, they are expansionist—many in the radical Sikh world say ‘onwards to Delhi, to conquer the Hindu.’ In broad strokes, the language used is of a similar tone to Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, who spoke of “dominating the other,” or South Asian Islamist Abul A’la Maududi.”

Due to the rebirth of identity politics in the Western world, Quiggin worryingly noted that extremism could lead to further violence anew. “It all depends on having two things. Firstly, you need a charismatic leader to appear, as Bhindranwale was, who pushed a Khalistani grievance campaign. Secondly, you need money. Unfortunately, the second is already in action. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been documented funding Sikh extremism across the border in the Indian Punjab. The typical Canadian perception is that we’ve moved on. However, what we’re seeing is a resurgence of Khalistani sympathy, which you wouldn’t have seen two decades ago. With money coming from overseas, the movement is getting stronger.”

“Ironically, support for an independent Sikh state isn’t all that strong in the Indian Punjab itself, as supporters are pushing it from outside. The violent agenda is mostly coming from members of the diaspora in the US, Canada, and the UK. For example, India has sought the extradition of Sikh militants in Canada who are involved in arms-trading and terrorism funding. Talwinder Singh Parmar, the terrorist that planned the Air India bombing, was a Canadian citizen whose cell was based in Vancouver. These patterns are emerging today.”


Quiggin noted how the guise of ‘anti-bigotry’ is used to block Sikh militants from facing accountability. “It’s important to understand that most Sikhs don’t believe in Khalistan or use violence. Reports should use Khalistani extremism rather than the label of “Sikh terrorism,” which is a more accurate label. But we can’t deny that the government is hiding behind the shield of tolerance to justify their inaction. Political correctness, postmodernism, ‘white guilt,’ call it what you will. Whatever you might call it, we see a lack of willpower on this basis in countries like Britain, given their ex-colonial relationship with India, to crack down on foreign ideologies like the Khalistani movement that are rapidly gaining traction within their society. The same thing is happening in Canada, where our post-modern lens of not wanting to offend has made us tolerant of those who espouse intolerance.

The National Telegraph asked Quiggin for his prognosis on how Canada should address the re-emergent Khalistani movement. “I first testified about this back in 1998 for the Senate of Canada. The answer’s simple, if we want less extremism, follow the money trail and turn off the tap. We did this with the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (IRFAN), which was a front for funnelling into Hamas. A few years back, the government did the same with ISNA Canada, which was involved with terrorist financing. It’s as simple as that.”

For more on Tom Quiggin, consider his book SUBMISSION: The Danger of Political Islam to Canada: (With a Warning to America) or tune into his counter-terrorism podcast at The Quiggin Report.

Giordano Baratta

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