The Khalistan bogey comes alive every time there is unrest in Punjab. At a time when the farmers' protests have intensified at various entry points of Delhi, both intelligence agencies and the pro-Khalistan groups are using the 'K' word to talk about the threat from secessionist forces.
Intelligence agencies have once again warned that the protests are taking the form of a ''Khalistan orchestrated plot'' and their critique is based on a series of events that took place at protest sites and a few statements by protesters which have left many perplexed if the threat is real or imaginary.
However, senior security officials admit that the threat is not so much from the long lost idea of Khalistan, but its use as a strong ''propaganda material'' to rally men and money. While the recently banned pro-Khalistan groups like the 'Sikh for Justice' use it for rallying support nationally and internationally, the 'K' threat is flagged by security agencies to outwit its scheming neighbour, Pakistan, which is sheltering Khalistani terrorists and of late using them to drop weapons into the border areas of Punjab and fund terror activities.
Moreover, Indian agencies have tirelessly been on the trail of radical Khalistani terrorists like Gurpatwant Singh Pannu who are sitting on foreign soil fishing in troubled waters.
On the ground, the idea of Khalistan has found no traction in Punjab despite desperate attempts made by radical outfits like the proscribed “Sikhs for Justice” to revive the long lost secessionists dream.
Instead of a revival, the year 2020 has marked the denunciation of the bogey of Khalistan after the referendum by pro-Khalistan radical groups to build a consensus in favour of Khalistan failed to garner any support. Mainstream political parties in Punjab closed ranks to condemn the bogey of Khalistan. The central government banned the SFJ in September 2019 and declared Pannu as an ''individual terrorist'' in June, prompting even pro-Khalistan splinter groups to distance themselves from it. Pannu joined the list of other designated terrorists Paramjit Singh of Babbr Khalsa International, Hardeep Singh Nijjar of Khalistan Tiger Force and Gurmit Singh Bagga of Khalistan Zindabad Force.
It was the SFJ that was the brain behind the 'Referendum 2020' that failed to motivate the youth to join militancy making it desperate to stir trouble, said a security official.
Even the pro-referendum shows organised by the SFJ on foreign soil failed to have any significant impact as it was seen as driven by those who are living abroad and will never come back to Punjab.
Intelligence sources said the use of Khalistan as a propaganda material is a last ditch attempt by outfits like the SFJ to garner support in terms of both people and funding in countries like the US, the UK and Canada where they have been organising signature campaigns and protests for the last one year. The governments in these countries has allowed them free speech and it is only through the use of the 'K' word they are able to garner some support, the official said.
The intelligence agencies are now making every effort to discredit the activities of the banned outfits on foreign soil. ''Back in Punjab, people understand the tactics of these groups. But these outfits cannot be allowed to exploit the sentiments of people abroad,'' the official added.
A latest intelligence report said that the disinformation networks of the SFJ became active in September during the 'rail roko' campaign and that US-based Pannu tried to capitalise on the opportunity to receive funding from online sources. There are reports of two websites being created to mobilize farmers and Pannu even announced one million US dollars to indebted farmers in Punjab and Haryana. The amounts were to be transfered in the first week of October but no such transfers took place.
The intelligence reports said that Pannu has been tricking and capitalising on pro-Khalistan sentiments to crowd source money for personal gains. Zoom meetings, motor cycle rallies, and other conferences and rallies were orgaised by the banned outfit in the last few days in Canada, the US, the UK and Germany to exploit the current sentiment in Punjab, said an intelligence official. The NIA is already probing the role of the SFJ, Pannu and other Khalistani outfits in pushing fake Indian currency and dropping arms and ammunition into Punjab from Pakistan.