Jagjit Singh Chauhan
|Jagjit Singh Chauhan|
Urmar Tanda, Punjab, British India
|Died||April 4, 2007
Urmar Tanda, Hoshiarpur, Punjab (India), India
Dr. Jagjit Singh Chauhan (or Chohan) was the founder of the Khalistan movement that sought to create an independent Sikh state in the Punjab region of South Asia.
Jagjit Singh grew up in Tanda in Punjab's Hoshiarpur district, about 180 km from Chandigarh. A medical practitioner, Dr. Chauhan was first elected to the Punjab Assembly from the Tanda as a candidate of the Republican Party of India in 1967. He became Deputy Speaker when the Akali Dal-led coalition Government took office in Punjab. When Lachhman Singh Gill became Chief Minister, Chauhan was made Finance Minister. In 1969, he lost the Assembly election.
In 1971 he moved to the United Kingdom. In 1971, he went to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan to attempt to set up a Sikh government. He then visited USA at the invitation of some supporters. On Oct 13, 1971, he placed an advertisement in the New York Times proclaiming an Independent Sikh state. In 1977, he returned to India.
He migrated again to Britain in 1979. In London, Chauhan created an organization "Khalistan National Council"  and ran its operation from a building termed "Khalistan House". He remained in contact with Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Chauhan also maintained contacts among various groups in Canada, the USA and Germany. He visited Pakistan as a guest of leaders like Chaudhuri Zahoor Elahi. Chauhan declared himself president of the "Republic of Khalistan", named a Cabinet, and issued Khalistan "passports", "postage stamps" and "Khalistan dollars". It is reported that with the assistance of a wealthy Californian supporter, a peach magnate, he opened an Ecuadorean bank account to support his operation.
Operation Blue Star and later
In June 1983, Bhindranwale was asked: "If Jagjit Singh Chauhan attacks India with assistance from England, America, and Canada, whom will you help?" Bhindranwale hedged and did not indicate his support.
On June 12, 1984, in London Chauhan was interviewed by BBC. The interviewer asked: "Do you actually want to see the downfall of Mrs Gandhi's Government?" Chauhan answered: "..within a few days you will have the news that Mrs Gandhi and her family have been beheaded. That is what Sikhs will do..". After this interview, Thatcher government curtailed Chauhan's activities. The British government also instructed him to confine his activities within the bounds of democracy and laws of the land.
On June 13, 1984, Chauhan announced a government in exile. On 31 October, 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated.
Chauhan's Indian passport was cancelled on April 24, 1989, by the Indian High Commission after he visited India and hoisted the flag of Khalistan at a gurdwara in Anandpur Sahib. India raised a storm when he was allowed to enter USA using the canceled passport.
Softening and return
Chauhan gradually softened his stance. He supported India's attempts to defuse the tension by accepting surrenders by the militants. Other organizations, mainly in UK and North America, continue to work for a Khalistan.India government first permitted his wife to return. Chauhan himself returned to India in June 2001, after an exile of 21 years. The government decided to overlook his past activities.
After his return, in an interview Chauhan said he would keep the Khalistan movement alive democratically and pointed out that he has always been against violence.
Chauhan is said to have suggested that he is a descendant of the legendary king Prithviraj Chauhan of Delhi and he can assist in getting the remains of Prithviraj Chauhan back to India from Afghanistan.
Soon after Chauhan returned to India, he started a political party named the Khalsa Raj Party, apparently with the aim of propagating the cause of Khalistan through peaceful means. In a 2004 interview he claimed that Khalistan will be formed in 2007. When asked, "Has the recognition by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation [U.N.P.O.] at the Hague given a boost to the movement?", he said, "Yes. Apart from that we already have three-four MPs in the British Parliament. Kashmir has four-five MPs. Our movement is coordinating with the Kashmiris."
- The New York Times, USA, "LONDON SIKH ASSUMES ROLE OF EXILE CHIEF" 14 June 1984
- The Tribune, India, "Punjab caught on sticky wicket Govt in dilemma over Chohan" 28 June 2001
- The Sikh Times - Biographies - Jagjit Singh Chauhan: "Khalistan Will Be Formed by 2007"
- PunjabNewsline.com - Jagit Singh Chohan, Khalistan ideologue dies in Punjab
- http://www.telegraphindia.com/1070428/asp/opinion/story_7707446.asp Close the chapter: Khushwant Singh
- http://www.ceri-sciencespo.com/archive/mai02/artlg.pdf The globalization of identity politics : the Sikh experience, International Journal of Punjab Studies, 7 (2), July–December 2000 (page 29).
- THE KHALISTAN MOVEMENT IN PUNJAB, Meredith Weiss, Yale, 25 June 2002.