Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 22 September 2023

Khalistan movement fuelling India-Canada rift

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

Tensions between India and Canada escalated after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there were "credible allegations" linking Indian government agents to the June murder in Canada of a Sikh separatist leader campaigning for the creation of an independent Sikh homeland called "Khalistan".

What is the Khalistan Movement?

  • It wants an independent Sikh state carved out of India and dates back to India and Pakistan's independence in 1947 when the idea was pushed forward in negotiations preceding the partition of the Punjab region between the two new countries.
  • The Sikh religion was founded in Punjab in the late 15th century and currently has about 25 million followers worldwide.
  • Sikhs form a majority of Punjab's population but are a minority in India, comprising 2% of its population of 1.4 billion.
  • Sikh separatists demand that their homeland Khalistan, meaning "the land of the pure", be created out of Punjab.
  • The demand has resurfaced many times, most prominently during a violent insurgency in the 1970s and 1980s which paralysed Punjab for over a decade.

How did India react?

  • The Khalistan movement is considered a security threat by the Indian government. The bloodiest episode in the conflict between the government and Sikh separatists occurred in 1984.
  • Then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sent the military into the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine for Sikhs, to evict armed separatist leader Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his supporters, which infuriated Sikhs around the world.
  • A few months later, Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards at her home in New Delhi.
  • The army launched operations in 1986 and 1988 to flush out Sikh militants from Punjab. Sikh militants were also blamed for the 1985 bombing of an Air India Boeing 747 flying from Canada to India in which all 329 people on board were killed off the Irish coast.
  • The insurgency killed tens of thousands of people and Punjab still bears the scars of that violence.
  • Although the Khalistan movement has little support now in India, it has small pockets of backing among sections of the Sikh diaspora in Canada, which has the largest population of Sikhs outside Punjab, and in Britain, Australia and the US.

Why is India worried now?

  • In April this year, India arrested a self-styled preacher and Sikh separatist Amritpal Singh for allegedly reviving calls for Khalistan, sparking fears of new violence in Punjab.
  • Earlier this year, India hit out at Canada for allowing a float in a parade depicting the assassination of Indira Gandhi, perceiving this to be a glorification of Sikh separatist violence.
  • India has also been upset about frequent demonstrations and vandalism by Sikh separatists and their supporters at Indian diplomatic missions in Canada, Britain, the U.S. and Australia, and has sought better security from local governments.

How does it impact India-Canada relations?

  • Indian diplomats based in Canada have on numerous occasions said that Ottawa's failure to tackle "Sikh extremism", and the constant harassment of Indian diplomats and officials by Khalistanis, is a major foreign policy stress point.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised strong concerns about Sikh protests in Canada with Trudeau on the sidelines of a G20 summit in New Delhi this month.
  • Canada has paused talks on a proposed trade treaty with India. Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng is postponing a planned trade mission to India.

‘Socialist’ and ‘secular’ in Preamble

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has claimed that the words “socialist” and “secular” were missing in the Preamble of the Constitution of India, the copies of which were given to MPs. These two words were originally not a part of the Preamble. They were added by The Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976 during the Emergency imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

What is the Preamble of the Constitution?

  • Every Constitution has a philosophy. The philosophy underlying the Constitution of India was summed up in the Objectives Resolution, which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 22 January 1947.
  • The Preamble of the Constitution puts in words the ideal contained in the Objectives Resolution. It serves as an introduction to the Constitution, and contains its basic principles and goals.
  • Over her years in government, Indira had attempted to cement her approval among the masses on the basis of a socialist and pro-poor image with slogans such as “garibi hatao” (Eradicate poverty).
  • Her Emergency government inserted the word in the Preamble to underline that socialism was a goal and philosophy of the Indian state.
  • It needs to be stressed, however, that the socialism envisaged by the Indian state was not the socialism of the USSR or China of the time — it did not envisage the nationalisation of all of India’s means of production.
  • Indira herself clarified that “we have our own brand of socialism”, under which “we will nationalise [only] the sectors where we feel the necessity”. She underlined that “just nationalisation is not our type of socialism”.

What about the word “secular”?

  • The people of India profess numerous faiths, and their unity and fraternity, notwithstanding the difference in religious beliefs, was sought to be achieved by enshrining the ideal of “secularism” in the Preamble.
  • In essence, this means that the state protects all religions equally, maintains neutrality and impartiality towards all religions, and does not uphold any one religion as a “state religion”.
  • secular Indian state was founded on the idea that it is concerned with the relationship between human being and human being, and not between human being and God, which is a matter of individual choice and individual conscience.
  • Secularism in the Indian Constitution, therefore, is not a question of religious sentiment, but a question of law.
  • The secular nature of the Indian state is secured by Articles 25-28 of the Constitution.

Neuralink gets permission to implant brain chips

GS Paper - 3 (Science and Technology)

Neuralink, a brain-chip startup founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, has obtained permission to kick off its first human trial. The focus of the clinical study will be on patients suffering from paralysis caused by cervical spinal cord injuries or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The announcement came on 19 September 2023 although the specific number of participants remains undisclosed.

More about the News

  • Initially, Neuralink aimed to receive approval for 10 participants, but after safety concerns were raised by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the company found itself negotiating for a smaller participant pool.
  • However, the final number approved by the FDA has not been confirmed. This latest development comes after Neuralink got the nod for its first-in-human clinical trial in May, a time when it was also under federal investigation for its animal testing practices.
  • The long-term vision for Neuralink, as articulated by Musk, goes beyond paralysis treatment.
  • The founder has ambitious plans that extend to rapid surgical insertion of chip devices to manage an array of conditions, from obesity and autism to depression and schizophrenia.
  • At the heart of this pioneering trial is an intricate surgical process. A robot will place the BCI implant into a specific brain area responsible for the intention to move.
  • The immediate aim is straightforward: enable the test subjects to operate a computer keyboard or move a cursor merely by using their thoughts.
  • The clinical trial is expected to span approximately six years, paving the way for a comprehensive understanding of the implant’s safety and efficacy.
  • Although some scepticism remains, the venture adds a novel layer to the broader conversation on how technology might be harnessed to solve complex health issues.

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