Essentially Sikh history, with respect to Sikhism as a distinct political body, can be said to have begun with the martyrdom of the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev in 1606. Sikh distinction was further enhanced by the establishment of the Khalsa (ਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ), by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. The evolution of Sikhism began with the emergence of Guru Nanak as a religious leader and a social reformer during the fifteenth century in Punjab. The religious practice was formalized by Guru Gobind Singh on March 30, 1699. The latter baptised five people from different social backgrounds to form Khalsa. The first five, Pure Ones, then baptized Gobind Singh into the Khalsa fold. This gives Sikhism, as an organized grouping, a religious history of around 400 years.
Generally Sikhism has had amicable relations with other religions. However, during the Mughal rule of India (1556–1707), the emerging religion had strained relations with the ruling Mughals. Hindu Hill rajahs fought frequent battles against Guru Gobind Singh because they were largely opposed to Guru Gobind Singh's casteless principles of religion. Prominent Sikh Gurus were martyred by Mughals for opposing Mughal persecution of minority religious communities. Subsequently, Sikhism militarized to oppose Mughal hegemony. The emergence of the Sikh Empire under reign of the MaharajahRanjit Singh was characterized by religious tolerance and pluralism with Christians, Muslims and Hindus in positions of power. The establishment of the Sikh Empire is commonly considered the zenith of Sikhism at political level, during this time the Sikh Empire came to include Kashmir, Ladakh, and Peshawar. Hari Singh Nalwa, the Commander-in-chief of the Sikh army along the North West Frontier, took the boundary of the Sikh Empire to the very mouth of the Khyber Pass. The Empire's secular administration integrated innovative military, economic and governmental reforms.
The months leading up to the partition of India in 1947, were marked by heavy conflict in thePunjab between Sikh and Muslims. The effect was the religious migration of Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus from West Punjab, mirroring a similar religious migration of Punjabi Muslims inEast Punjab.
The 1960s saw growing animosity and rioting between Sikhs and Hindus in India, as the Sikhs agitated for the creation of a Punjab state based on a linguistic basis similar to that by which other states in India had been created. This had also been promised to the Sikh leaderMaster Tara Singh by Nehru in return for Sikh political support during the negotiations for Indian Independence. Sikhs obtained the Punjab but not without losing some Punjabi speaking areas to Himachal Pradesh and Harayana and worst of all Chandigarh was made Union Territory and joint capital of Haryana & Punjab. Punjab on November 1, 1966.
Communal tensions arose again in the late 1970s, fueled by Sikh claims of discrimination and marginalization by the secularist dominatedIndian National Congress ruling party and the "dictatorial" tactics adopted the then Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. Frank argues that Gandhi's assumption of emergency powers in 1975 resulted in the weakening of the "legitimate and impartial machinery of government" and her increasing "paranoia" of opposing political groups led her to instigate a "despotic policy of playing castes, religions and political groups against each other for political advantage". As a reaction against these actions came the emergence of the Sikh leader Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who vocalized Sikh sentiment for justice and advocated the creation of a Sikh homeland, Khalistan. This accelerated Punjab into a state of communal violence. Gandhi's 1984 action to defeat Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale led to the attack of the Golden Temple in Operation Bluestar and ultimately led to Gandhi's assassination by her Sikh bodyguards. This resulted in an explosion of violence against the Sikh community in the Anti Sikh Riots which resulted in the massacre of thousands of Sikhs throughout India;Khushwant Singh described the actions as being a Sikh pogrom in which he "felt like a refugee in my country. In fact, I felt like a Jew in Nazi Germany". Since 1984, relations between Sikhs and Hindus have reached a rapprochement helped by growing economic prosperity; however in 2002 the claims of the popular right-wing Hindu organization the RSS, that "Sikhs are Hindus" angered Sikh sensibilities. Many Sikhs still are campaigning for justice for victims of the violence and the political and economic needs of the Punjab espoused in theKhalistan movement.
In 1996 the Special Rapporteur for the Commission on Human Rights on freedom of religion or belief, Abdelfattah Amor (Tunisia, 1993–2004), visited India in order to compose a report on religious discrimination. In 1997, Amor concluded, "it appears that the situation of the Sikhs in the religious field is satisfactory, but that difficulties are arising in the political (foreign interference, terrorism, etc.), economic (in particular with regard to sharing of water supplies) and even occupational fields. Information received from nongovernment (sic) sources indicates that discrimination does exist in certain sectors of the public administration; examples include the decline in the number of Sikhs in the police force and the military, and the absence of Sikhs in personal bodyguard units since the murder of Indira Gandhi