A Quick Journey to February 11, 1984

I was still in diapers, but the Indian sub-continent was in an uproar in 1984. The Punjab rebellion – a movement which began with the request for decentralization, greater Sikh liberty, and the recognition of the Sikh religion – was underway.  

On February 11, 1984, following years of unrest, the United States granted Jagjit Singh Chouhan – a prominent Sikh leader and proponent of a free Khalistan – a visa. Australia and the United Kingdom also sat on the sidelines, anxiously watching the events unfold. 

Chouhan was an interesting character. Although the granting of his visa gathered significant attention in 1984, it was a part of a larger picture. This charismatic leader had pushed for a free Khalistan for years. He produced passports, currency, and postage stamps for the state he hoped to see form – some say, with the help of an American businessman. Chouhan lived in exile from 1971-2001, with a brief two year return to India from 1977-1979. For 21 of those years, he was officially in exile. Leading a fight that many people don’t realize existed, this leader claimed that by 2007 his free Khalistan would be formed, with the help of Kashmiri parliament members. He died in April of that year. 

The effects of insurgency and war on the gender composition of a population, investment decisions of rural economies, and state cooperation with terrorist and separatist groups have all been examined using the Punjab insurgency as a case study. The conflict is still a fresh wound for many Indians, and an area of fascinating and well-documented research for scholars. 


For more information on the Punjab insurgency and the leaders behind it, see the following resources:

Journal Articles

India’s Counter-Insurgency Experience: The ‘trust and nurture’ strategy Goswami, 2009 

Counter-Insurgency in India: Observations from Punjab and Kashmir Telford, 2001

Punjab Since 1984: Disorder, order, and legitimacy Singh, 1996

Impact of Terrorism on Investment Decisions of Farmers: Evidence from the Punjab insurgency Singh, 2013

Gender-Differential Effects of Conflict on Education: The case of the 1981-1993 Punjab insurgency Singh and Shemyakina, 2013


Reduced to Ashes: The insurgency and human rights in Punjab by Kumar and Singh, 2003 

Fearful Symmetry: India-Pakistan Crises in the Shadow of Nuclear Weapons by Ganguly and Hagerty, 2005

Terrorism and Insurgency in India: A study of the human element by Capt. Ashish Sunal, VrC, 1994


*Do not assume that the books included in this list are purely scholarly works. I make a strong effort to include perspectives of different sides in conflict, so that a deeper understanding of events is created. Weigh each side for yourself, think critically, and remember that often times books on a particular conflict are written by stakeholders in the conflict itself. 


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