The curious case of the resurgence of Khalisthani groups and their ally Evangelical theocrat Pieter Friedrich

Hinduphobia Sep 15, 2019

History of Khalistan movement

To understand the origin of Khalistan movement, we need to revisit the history of Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) and 1971 India - Pakistan war.

On 26th March 1971, then West Pakistan (now Pakistan) launched a genocide in Bangladesh in which Pakistani military and Islamic militias killed  between 30,0000 - 3000,000 Bengalis and raped millions. As a result of  the conflict, a further eight to ten million people fled the country to  seek refuge in India.

Then  US President Richard Nixon viewed Pakistan as a Cold War ally and,  therefore, refused to condemn its actions. A collection of declassified  U.S. government documents, mostly consisting of communications between  US officials in Washington, D.C. and in embassies and USIS centers in  Dhaka and in India, show that US officials knew about these mass  killings at the time and, in fact, used the terms "genocide" and  "selective genocide," for example, in the "Blood Telegram."

They  also show that President Nixon, advised by Henry Kissinger, decided to  downplay this secret internal advice, because he wanted to protect the  interests of Pakistan as he was apprehensive of India's friendship with  the USSR, and he was seeking a closer relationship with China, which  supported Pakistan.

By  September 1971, it was inevitable that the Bangladesh Liberation  movement was gaining the upper hand and West Pakistan was losing its  grip over East Pakistan. On the evening of 3rd December 1971, at about  5:40 pm, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) launched surprise pre-emptive strikes on eleven airfields in north-western  India, including Agra, which was 300 miles (480 km) from the border.  This air action marked the official start of the Indo-Pakistani War of  1971; Prime Minister Gandhi ordered the immediate mobilization of troops  and launched a full-scale invasion of Pakistan.

There  was a decisive Indian victory, with 90,000 Pakistani POWs captured and  released with the signing of Simla Agreement. Bangladesh was liberated  out of East Pakistan after the violent bloodbath of the Pakistani army.

So why are we talking  about 1971 India-Pakistan conflict? It was then the Khalistan movement was kickstarted by Jagjit Singh Chohan. On 13 October 1971, he placed an  advertisement in the New York Times proclaiming an Independent Sikh  state. Advertisement of Khalistan enabled him to collect millions of  dollars from the Sikh diaspora.

In  1971, he went to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan to attempt to set up a Sikh  government. Chohan was invited by Pakistani army dictator Yahya Khan and  was proclaimed as a Sikh leader.  In other words, Pakistan used the Sikh separatist movement as a tactic to seek revenge on India. This small but powerful movement  resulted in many violent, tragic consequences in India, including the  assassination of then India's PM Indira Gandhi and subsequent anti-Sikh  riots.

Since the early  1980s, Sikh militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was supported by  Pakistan's ISI on his radical separatist stand, plans and operations.  Bhindranwale had started the efforts for his demand in 1982, and by  mid-1983 had managed to gain support for his plan to divide India. ISI  created a Punjab cell in the ISI headquarters to support his movement  and help him spread militancy in the Indian Punjab state. The arms and ammunition used by his group were provided by ISI. Terrorist training camps were set up in Karachi and Lahore to train the young Sikhs.

Bhindranwale,  the most prominent Khalistan leader, frequently used anti-Hindu  rhetoric in his speeches. Noted Sikh journalist, Kushwant Singh,  described Bhindranwale as a “hate monger” who routinely used hateful and  inflammatory language against Hindus and exhorted every Sikh to “kill  32 Hindus to solve the Hindu-Sikh problem.”

In  1982, Bhindranwale and his armed group moved to the Golden Temple  complex and made it his headquarters. From inside the complex,  Bhindranwale led the Punjab insurgency campaign in Punjab. In June 1984,  Operation Blue Star was carried out by the Indian Army to remove  Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed militants from the buildings of  the Harmandir Sahib in the Golden Temple Complex. Bhindranwale died and  the temple complex was cleared of militants.

Five  months after the operation, on 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi was  assassinated in an act of revenge by her two Sikh bodyguards, Satwant  Singh, and Beant Singh.

Many  Khalistani terrorist groups were established across Canada, the US, and  the UK with the help of Pakistan and Sikh diaspora.

Similarly,  on July 28, 1984, Ajaib Singh Bagri, a leader in the Khalistani  militant group, Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), declared at a public  rally in Canada that “I give you my most solemn assurance that until we  kill 50,000 Hindus, we will not rest!” The crowd of thousands of  pro-Khalistan supporters responded with chants of “Hindu dogs! Death to  them!”

BKI, along with  International Sikh Youth Federation, were later designated as Specially  Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) organizations by the US Department of  State under section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.

Air  India Flight 182 was a flight operating on the  Montréal-London-Delhi-Bombay route. On 23 June 1985, the Boeing 747  airplane operating on the route was blown up midair off the coast of Ireland by a bomb. In all, 329 people were killed,  among them 280 Canadian nationals and 22 Indian nationals.

The  main suspects in the bombing were the members of a Sikh separatist  group called the Babbar Khalsa, and other related groups who were at the  time agitating for a separate Sikh state of Khalistan in Punjab,  India.

The Khalistan  movement gradually lost popular support. By the early 1990s, the Sikhs'  separatist campaign was crushed in India. However a significant Sikh  diaspora in Canada, the UK and the US remain staunch Khalistani group  members with the help of Pakistan.  

The resurgence of the Khalistani movement

In some ways, The Sikh  Diaspora is seen as a torch-bearer of the Khalistan movement, now  considered to be highly political and militaristic. Recent reports  indicate a rise in pro-Khalistan sentiments among the Sikh Diaspora  overseas, which can revive the secessionist movement. Currently, there  is a movement for a "Khalistan 2020 referendum" which is reportedly an ISI project.

A  US-based organization, Sikhs for Justice, has become the most prominent  pro-Khalistan group in the west and reportedly enjoys the support of  the ISI. It purportedly peacefully advocates for a 2020 referendum on  Khalistan but has openly associated with convicted Khalistan terrorists  and those suspected of being involved in large-scale terror plots in  India.

The ‘defeated  rump’ of Khalistani terrorist organizations has been widely dispersed  across the world and continues to engage in a range of activities,  including propaganda, international political mobilization, mobilization  of funds, and recruitment. Despite the events of 9/11 and the  relatively hostile international environment for such enterprises, these  activities continue to thrive. The BKI and the ISYF have now both been  placed on the US list of terrorist organizations, but they continue to  operate under different identities.

In 2008, India's Intelligence Bureau indicated that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence organization was trying to revive Sikh militancy.  An IB dossier claims that most of the funds raised by terror outfits  come through self-styled NGOs and charity organizations.

Among  them, one of the organizations is OFMI (Organization for Minorities of  India) founded in 2006 by Bhajan Singh Bhinder. It is a group led by  pro-Khalistani Sikhs whose members are alleged to have been involved in  procuring arms for the Khalistan movement.

Interestingly, Bhajan Singh Bhinder was also the subject of an undercover United States Customs Service investigation for trying to purchase C-4 plastic explosives, M-16s, AK-47s, grenade  and rocket launchers, and Stinger missiles in support of the Khalistan  terrorist movement in India. Bhinder allegedly said the weapons would  travel via yacht to Pakistan.

The  two individuals who are most frequently quoted as speaking on behalf of  OFMI are a Bhajan Singh Bhinder and Pieter Friedrich. Bhinder has also  reportedly served as a spokesperson for Sikh Youth of America,  a radical organization that glorifies Sikh terrorists and has alleged  ties with the International Sikh Youth Federation, a US Department of  State designated terrorist organization under E.O. 13224.

Currently,  Pieter Friedrich aka Pieter Singh and OFMI can be seen actively  protesting any Indian and Hindu events, especially those of US  presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who is Hindu (although she has no  Indian heritage).

So who is Pieter James Friedrich?

Support of evangelical organizations to Khalistan movement

In his own words, Pieter Friedrich proclaimed  -

"I'm a Christian, foremost. but ultimately, I believe in constitutional republican Christian theocracy.  I'm heavily involved in pro-life activism as a member of Sacramento  Teens for Life. I just organized a youth rally on January 22nd, 2003,  the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. 300 Christian teens showed up at  the rally, an awesome turn-out. "  

Currently, he is the front  face of OFMI and writes frequently to controversial Indian media called  "The Caravan". "The Caravan" has a long history of fabricating stories  and it often publishes unfounded anti-Indian articles. An autonomous  Indian media public body accused it as " ‘blatant’ anti-India presentation" at a global meet.

According  to his previous blogs, he tried to get into the US Airforce. However,  he was kicked out for some reason (in his own words "Ok, so perhaps “kicked out”  isn’t the most accurate term. My contract was canceled, against my  will, by the Air Force."). He also reportedly finished an "Emergency  Medical Technician course".

He  traveled in Europe and "South Asia" and currently is engaged in OFMI  and co-authoring articles and books along with Bhajan Singh Bhinder.

During  his travel in "South Asia", he exclusively began focusing on Khalistani  and anti-Hindu movements. It's unclear if he visited India or Pakistan  even though his focus is exclusively on Hindu and Indian affairs. It's  also unclear if he was part of evangelical overseas NGO's.

Starting  from 2015, he consistently speaks at churches discussing "Hindu" danger  and prominently introduces christian priests and pastors to Sikh  community in his YouTube videos like the ones below...

"Why is a California Church Praying for a Sikh Hunger-Striker in India?"

Fr. Joshua Lickter: "[Surat Singh] starves himself because he himself is starving for justice"

Christian Church Prays for Punjab : "Things are pretty heated up in the state of Punjab right now"

Stand up for the Persecuted in India - Fr. Joshua Lickter

Interestingly, he  consistently promotes Fr. Joshua Lickter, a Christian priest as an  effort to collaborate across Sikhism and Christianity. According to his Linkedin job description he says:

"I  have over ten years of ministry experience in various areas, though  mostly it seems I have been called to reach people on the "fringe" who  would not normally go to church. I would like to continue utilizing  those gifts by planting churches and ministries interested in reaching  folks who normally avoid church."  

Pieter Friedrich also maintains an organization called "Singh of Judah". Interestingly in its official Facebook page cover displays the quote, " And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for,  behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all  people. - Luke 2:10," and the page prominently features similar  Christian priests (even though it is portrayed as Sikh organization).

The strange alliance of Evangelical Christians and Khalistan Sikhs

One can wonder what could be  the reason for this strange alliance between Evangelical Christians and  Pro-Khalisthani Sikhs starting from 2014? What could be the reason for  this extreme rhetoric and propaganda against India's PM Narendra Modi  and Tulsi Gabbard?

Two words - "religious conversions".

Very few understand the vast network of Christian missionaries abroad, especially in India, with almost unlimited funding from Christians all around the world. Christian missionaries focused on  religious conversions usually have little success with Islamic  countries and authoritarian countries like China and Russia. India is a  democracy with complex diversity and a huge population, which is a  perfect environment for religious conversions.

Astonishingly India has around 3.2 million registered NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) more than double the number of  schools. There are reportedly millions more unregistered NGOs. Religious  bodies are frequently registered as NGOs. "The first-ever exercise by  the CBI to map registered NGOs has disclosed that India has at least 31  lakh NGOs — more than double the number of schools in the country, 250  times the number of government hospitals, one NGO for 400 people as  against one policeman for 709 people."

Interestingly,  the majority of these mammoth number of NGOs are Christian  missionaries. The main motive of these Christian missionaries is to  convert as many Hindus to Christianity as possible. Often the coerced  tactics they use are outright horrendous and appalling and include loans  to poor people, conversions in ambulances and death beds, and outright  threatening. The main target demographic is people who were historically  oppressed. Sikhs, who still feel the pain of the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots  orchestrated by Congress Party members after the assassination of Indira  Gandhi, are also part of this target demographic.

Phillip Goldberg, a popular spiritual counselor from the US, once stated in the Huffington Post,  "I told people in India that most American Christians would be appalled  if they knew what was being done by their overly aggressive brethren."

The vast network of  these NGOs was recently highlighted when a US evangelist Allen Chau was  reportedly killed by members of the Sentinelese tribe in India’s Andaman  and Nicobar islands after he attempted to “declare Jesus” to them.

So why is there hatred against the RSS, Narendra Modi and Tulsi Gabbard in the United States?

Interestingly  the RSS/Janatha Party were opposed to Indira Gandhi and the Congress  Party, and fought to protect Sikhs in the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots  perpetrated by the Congress Party. Sikh intellectual and author of ‘A  History of the Sikhs’, Khushwant Singh, credits members of the RSS with helping and protecting Sikhs who were being targeted by members of the Congress party during the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots.

“RSS  has played an honorable role in maintaining Hindu-Sikh unity before and  after the murder of Indira Gandhi in Delhi and other places. It was the  Congress leaders who instigated mobs in 1984 and got more than 3000  people killed. I must give due credit to RSS and the BJP for showing  courage and protecting helpless Sikhs during those difficult days. No  less a person than Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself intervened at a couple  of places to help poor taxi drivers.”  

The hostility towards  Narendra Modi started when he became the chief minister of the Indian  state in Gujarat in 2001. He was the first prominent politician who  called out the illegal forced religious conversions in India. There have  been huge amounts of propaganda against Modi since then by western  media and Indian media (which was part of 70 years of Pro Congress party  establishment), including the debunked claim that Modi played a role in  orchestrating the 2002 Gujarath Riots, which were started after a  Muslim mob burned a train full of Hindu pilgrims, resulting in 59 deaths  and hundreds of critical injuries.

He also introduced bills to counter religious conversion during his tenure, like the "Freedom of Religion" bill.

This decision landed him in a direct conflict with a powerful evangelical network around globe, especially when the Pope declared his goal to evangelize India in 1999. This coincided with the rise of  the term "Hindu Nationalist" being used as propaganda to smear Modi.

The New York Times reported that the push to deny Modi a visa to the United States was largely led by American Evangelicals:U.S. Evangelicals, Indian Expats Teamed Up to Push Through Modi Visa Ban.

What about anti-Tulsi Gabbard propaganda?

Interestingly, Obama met Modi and wrote an oped equivalent to a love letter to Modi in Time magazine. There was no outrage or protests.

Tulsi  Gabbard, who is a Hindu, poses a threat to Christian missionaries and  Anti-India forces, as Hinduism is a big part of India. That's why you'll  see Pieter Friedrich and Khalistani extremist Sikh groups seen  protesting at her events because she met Modi once and supposedly  received donations from Hindu Americans.

Pieter Friedrich's multiple goals include: converting of these "troubled" Sikhs  into Christianity, spreading anti-Modi propaganda in order to support  Christian missionaries' conversion goals, and propagating anti-Hindu  conspiracies to enhance Hinduphobia in under-informed Americans.

Unfortunately,  pro-Khalistani Sikhs are being used as pawns in this complex dynamic.  We'll have to wait to see how extreme the "Khalistan Referendum 2020"  will be.


Modern Karna Fighting for Dharma. Creator of this website KarnaSena