The threat of Khalistani terrorism in India has been looming for several decades. The separatist groups in Punjab have been advocating for an independent Sikh-majority state known as ‘Khalistan’, a Sikh theocratic homeland. These groups have employed violent and terrorist activities, such as bombings, assassinations, and armed attacks against Indian Security Forces in the past. While the peak of the Khalistan movement was in the 1980s and early 1990s, marked by a rise in violence in the form of terrorist attacks, bombings, and assassinations, recent incidents suggest a clear agenda to revive Khalistani terrorism in India.
Among the prominent groups are Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), Bhindranwale Tiger Force (BTF), Khalistan Commando Force (KCF), Khalistan Liberation Army (KLA), Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF), Sikh for Justice (SFJ), and Lashkar-e-Jabbar (LeJ).
The recent surge in the activities of pro-Khalistan groups in Punjab is alarming. The banned pro-Khalistan group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) threatened to “storm and target” Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport in New Delhi with Khalistan flags during the upcoming G20 Foreign Ministers Summit in New Delhi. Additionally, supporters of pro-Khalistan propagator Amritpal Singh, ‘Chief’ of ‘Waris Punjab De’, (WPD, Heirs to Punjab), armed with swords, guns, and sharp weapons clashed with Punjab Police personnel. These incidents suggest a clear agenda to revive Khalistani terrorism in India.
Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have also used the Kartarpur Corridor operationalized in 2019 to revive the Khalistan movement against India. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)-backed Khalistani terrorist groups, with their leaders operating out of Pakistan and abroad, persist in their efforts to revive the ‘Khalistani movement’. The recent two subsequent Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG) attacks, one on the Punjab Police intelligence headquarters in Mohali on May 9, 2022, and another on a police station complex in Sarhali village in Tarn Taran district on December 10, 2022, illustrate the group’s increasing capability to commit serious offenses, relying on a network of impulsive youth, some of whom are minors.
Despite the government’s efforts, the threat of Khalistani terrorism is evolving. Recent data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) suggests a potential shift in focus towards terror associates and other individuals involved in supporting terrorist activities. In 2022, 55 Khalistani terrorists were arrested, while no arrests have been made so far in 2023. However, the number of terror associates arrested has increased from 23 in 2022 to 28 in 2023. These trends indicate a potential evolution in the terrorist threat, with authorities focusing on disrupting the support network that enables terrorist activities.
The Khalistani terrorist groups have caused fatalities in the past, with the highest incidence being in 2018 when there were three reported cases. There have been six fatalities associated with Khalistani terrorist groups reported since 2023, with the highest incidence being in 2018, when there were three reported cases, followed by two in 2022 and one in 2020. However, recent years have seen a decrease in fatalities, with only one recorded fatality in 2023 (a terrorist) as of February 15, 2023.
In conclusion, the threat of Khalistani terrorism in India remains a significant concern. The recent surge in activities of pro-Khalistan groups, with the support of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, and the increasing capability of the terrorist groups