Celebrities feted and hailed by Indians for decades are now openly paying tributes to terrorists who wanted the country broken up.
Cricketer Harbhajan Singh has shared a tribute to terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale on his death anniversary on his Instagram page. “Pranaam shaheena nu (Salute to the martyrs),” he wrote on his Instagram story, which carried a picture of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and the Golden Temple. On 6th June 1984, Bhindranwale had been killed by security forces in Operation Blue Star.
The text in the image speaks of living with pride dying for your religion, and salutes the “lions” who were killed during the operation.
Harbhajan’s tribute to Bhindranwale is shocking, primarily because Bhindranwale essentially advocated for the break-up of India. In 1982, he took up arms to create an autonomous state, and began running a parallel government in Punjab which was settling cases and disputes. Bhindranwale and his militants also occupied the Golden Temple, and created a military fortification. In 1984, after a bloody battle, Bhindranwale was killed by security forces.
The Khalistan issue and the Sikh separatist movement had largely died then, but there have been attempts made to revive it in recent years by fringe elements abroad. A lot of money has been poured into the cause, with several organizations popping up that have been trying to revive the issue and provoke unrest.
Harbhajan Singh appears to have been caught as an unwilling pawn in this game, but this is not the first time he’s courted controversy. Last year, he’d supported Shahid Afridi’s foundation, weeks after the Pakistani cricketer had spoken about waging war against India from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Earlier this year, he’d shared a fake video which misleadingly implied that doctors weren’t getting vaccinated, before being called out and apologizing. But supporting Bhindranwale might be a bridge too far — in attempting to pay tribute on the death anniversary of someone who took up arms against the Indian state, Harbhajan has probably sounded the death knell on his cricket and endorsement career forever.