Playing with fire in Punjab
Akalis owe an explanation to the nation
by Kuldip Nayar
WHEN the Akalis are out of power, they indulge either in a dharam morcha or some act which would evoke religious passions among the Sikhs. But when they adopt the same tactics while in authority, it means that they want to divert attention from problems like unemployment, drug trafficking and farmers’ lessening incomes.
To the horror of the country, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal filed the other day a mercy petition on behalf of Balwant Singh Rajoana, the killer of former chief minister Beant Singh. Now Badal’s son, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh, is among those who have honoured the insurgents and a few others involved in resisting the Army which was deployed to flush them out from the Golden Temple at Amritsar. Both Badals are in charge of law and order. In a way, they are the custodians of the state. They have not realised even yet that they cannot carry out their duty if they side with militants.
I have been told they had to bow before “pressure”. If the rulers have to act under the direction of insurgents, the state is in for uncertain times.Punjab has been through the phase from the mid-’70s to mid-’80s when the extremists had the upper hand and instilled fear among the Hindus that they were not safe in the state. A hiatus between the two communities began to be visible from that time. The insurgents have now founded a memorial for Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who, once sponsored by the Congress, challenged the state from within the precincts of the GoldenTemple.
Sukhbir’s explanation that the memorial was laid by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) is not credible. The Akali Dal itself controls the SGPC. In fact, the Government of India should get at the root of the problem and scrap the Gurdwara Act. Let the entire Sikh community, not those who are on restrictive electoral rolls, run the gurdwaras.
The problem with the Akali Dal is that it does not differentiate religion from politics. Bhindranwale committed the same mistake and Punjab paid the price. I do not know what the Akalis have in mind because they are traversing the same dangerous path.
How embarrassed must have been Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a Sikh and the new Chief of Army Staff, Gen Bikram Singh, also a Sikh, over what the ruling Akali Dal did to glorify the insurgents who polluted theGolden Temple, the Sikhs’ Vatican? The government had to employ the Army to destroy the barricades and the bunkers that Bhindranwale’s men had built to fight against the Army. How can a memorial be built to perpetuate those who wanted to disintegrate the country and give a bad name to the Sikhs who are proud citizens of India?(...contd.)