Khalistan comes from a feeling of ‘irrelevance’ in Indian migrants in foreign lands: Ujjal Dosanjh, first India-born Premier of B.C. Canada

Rashmi Talwar


The issue of Khalistan comes out of a ‘sense of irrelevance’ of the Indian Diaspora, a sense of nothingness or no importance attached to themselves in their adopted countries. Following this ‘irrelevance’ in a foreign society, one latches on to something that one knows. Alongside, one needs to live for a cause, this twin factor was fulfilled when Khalistan became the cause, which became handy to Sikhs who migrated.  It became like, you go to a Temple, you shout Khalistan slogans and suddenly you get a rush of feeling, of being alive! And suddenly you find some relevance, attention, and importance being showered upon you”.         Ujjal Dosanjh the Indo-Canadian Sikh politician who rose to prominence as the first India-born Canadian provincial leader, expressed these views while speaking at Majha House- a cultural hub of Amritsar, during the book release of his debut novel ‘The Past Is Not Dead’ based on the caste baggage, immigrants carry from their homeland during foreign migration and live and bear it even in foreign lands.

Recently Khalistan sloganeering had again grabbed headlines and figured prominently in the media reports emerging from countries like the UK, Australia, and Canada, which were essentially the US, UK Australia, and Europe Bloc supporting Ukraine in the Russian-Ukraine War. World think tanks are not off the mark to think that the timing of the Khalistan movement’s revival is not a coincidence as India chose to remain adamantly neutral to this conflict and refused to be part of sanctions against Russia or take any sides. Khalistanis were seen disrespecting the Indian flag in the UK, their Canadian activities of sloganeering Khalistan in Gurdwaras throughout, and Australian reports of disrespecting Hindu temples.


“I think the diaspora needs to ask some of us in India whether we want a Khalistan or not. It seems our opinion doesn’t matter and we are the ones who will be subjected to it”, pipped in Deepa Swani, moderating the session along with Preeti Gill the founder and owner of Majha House. Dosanjh clarified his views and stated that in 1984, the time of peak militancy in Punjab –“I called out Khalistan as a pipe dream!  I still stand by it. It (Khalistan) won’t happen, because people in Punjab don’t want it.  And some of us suggested to self-professed Khalistanis to -Go buy land in Alberta where land is quite flat like in Punjab, and set it up (as Khalistan), don t bug the people back home in India”.

About modern voices of Khalistan among the younger generation of Canadian Sikhs –Dosanjh explained it as “Another phenomenon, wherein the old hardcore elements of Khalistan are imparting fanaticism to the next generation. This new generation in Canada and America speaks perfect English and raises Khalistan on various stages. Significantly, some of these desi cum firangis, have never been to India, never even seen the country. They are so easy to manipulate by the older hardcore ones”. And added -“You see they don’t know the country India, they pick from social media and mass-share it with each other and formulate the idea that this incident is the way things are happening back in Punjab. Of course, there is much violence in India, but it is not happening to Sikhs as much as it is happening to the rest, inserted Canadian politician

when I spoke against Khalistan, many Sikhs hated me –“They pointed at me and said, “No Sikh is going to vote for you, if it’s no Khalistan.” He pointed out that today mediocrity dominates politics everywhere and there was a scarcity of leaders.

Talking on behalf of migrants from India to Canada, he noted –“No doubt there is racism in Canada and many other countries too, but it is our own actions and omissions that make us irrelevant. One important factor is Education as the greatest instrument for integration in any society, which was not the pressing issue with the first Indian immigrants to Canada,  who went on to set the mould for others, that came after them.

It seems to me Congress destroyed the fabric of India long before BJP did. BJP made it worse and I was say crazier. Congress has already weakened the secular fabric and core philosophy of India to a dangerous degree.

Taking on BJP he inquired – which Political party has ‘Building a Mandir ‘in its manifesto, for a country that comprises of multi-religio, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-directional electorate.

Dosanjh didn’t spare Sikhism either, “The founder Sikh Guru Nanak was radical about Sikhism being a caste-less society ”  but look at Sikhism today – It is riddled with casteism away from the core tenets of Sikhism.

Speaking out his mind without any full stops Dosanjh said –“Religion is not going to give you anything – infrastructure roads, buildings, or happiness and I am out of this religious rut”.


 BOOK: ‘The Past Is Not Dead’ BY Ujjal Dosanjh

The book ‘The Past Is Not Dead’  authored by Ujjal Dosanjh as his debut novel, projects ‘caste’  as the ultimate label that shadows one throughout life beyond the seven oceans in faraway lands too. Ujjal, the Sikh politician who rose to prominence as the first India-born Canadian provincial leader, a prominent lawyer, and author, born in Dosanjh Kalan, Jallandhar spent his early life in villages before migrating to the UK talked about the issue of casteism among the Indian diaspora. Having served as the 33rd premier of British Columbia, Canada from 2000 to 2001 he spoke about the ultimate humiliation of lower castes in Punjab, which travels from generation to generation never letting them forget their antecedents, despite successes in life.

He spoke about his book that traces how the caste is carried onto foreign lands from the Punjab hinterland and refuses to leave lives and beyond. The book is based on caste-based slurs and violence in the UK that the protagonist Kalu witnessed and is subjected to.       Kalu,  plays out the real-life experiences of Dosanjh in the book when he migrates to the UK in 1965 just as Dosanjh did.        Dosanjh relates- “I was 18, a turbaned Sikh boy, living with cousins. An acquaintance of my cousin used to do Hawala transactions, during those times. He was being accused of not remitting money back to the customer’s family in Punjab. Suddenly, the customer stood up and gave a tight slap with a litany of Casteist slurs, to the Hawala operator. I just froze. It remained with me,” The book is a tribute to that man, who bore the insults and the violence and torture.

Dosanjh said casteism is a reality abroad “I worked, as a lab assistant, even in a crayon factory and I know the way immigrants face casteist experiences in the UK by their Indian counterparts. I have seen people go numb or crazy if they know their child is marrying a person from a lower caste. There are so many incidents in Bedford, UK, alone believe me, not as brutal as in India, but it’s ugly, humiliating, and painful.”

So the adage –‘You can leave India behind, but not your ‘caste’, falls true even today, especially among the rural migrants. The urban is lesser involved with casteist leanings but villages being close-knit, smaller in size, inter-connected, and bonded, practice this to the hilt.

He talked about a growing sense of irrelevance among the Indian diaspora. “When people migrate to another country, not quite familiar with the culture or society of that country, there are chances that they get ghettoed’ packed-in both into physical and mental Ghettos. The tragedy grows when the diaspora grows, more are ghettoized in physical and mental ghettos. Look at the areas of Surrey and Brampton, ghettos in Britain, and in the USA in some places; we build ghettos there to overcome the stigma of being irrelevant in a foreign society. You think alike, you don’t change and carry along your casteist baggage.”

Casteism is a reality among the diaspora; and definitely ugly.

Talking about the Congress Party in India the former Canadian politician stated – “Congress destroyed the fabric of the country, by pandering to castes, nullifying the core philosophy of secularism. Congress didn’t do it as much in a blatant fashion, as the BJP –RSS are doing it now”.



Ujjal Dosanjh

  • Ujjwal Dosanjh is a midnight child born on September 9, 1947
  • ‘The Past Is Never Dead’ is his debut novel, although he has penned several books.
  • He was Awarded ‘Pravasi Bhartiye Samman’ in 2003 by Prime Minister AB Vajpayee.
  • He served as the 33rd premier of British Columbia from 2000 to 2001 and was active in politics in Canada till recently.
  • He faced one attack in 1985 by Khalistanis during the peak of Punjab militancy for speaking against Khalistan but survived with 80 head stitches and a broken hand.
  • Second attack on him came  on 26th Dec 1999, and his office as a member of the legislative Assemble in British Columbia Canada was vandalized with an attempt at arson
  • BOX
  • Ujjal Dev Dosanjh is a PC and KC
  • PC: Meaning Dosanjh is part of His Majesty Privy Council for Canada which make him as a personal consultant to the Monarch of Canada on state and constitutional affairs  of elected members of Parliament of former cabinet ministers
  • KC: Dosanjh is also the KC as King’s Council in the UK and in some commonwealth countries. The appointment is conferred by the Crown that is recognized by the courts. Appointments are made within the legal profession on merit.







Rashmi Talwar