New Delhi, India — Top Sikh political leaders said Friday their party will bolster Hindu Sikh unity and eliminate ‘terrorism’ if they win state elections next Wednesday, All India Radio reported.

The state-run radio quoted Surjit Singh Barnala, president of the Akali Dal Party, as telling a campaign rally that the party stood firmly for Hindu Sikh unity and opposed any attempts to pit the two religions against each other.

Another senior Sikh leader, former Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal, said the party would “eliminate terrorists” if it come to power in the northwest state.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, campaigning in Punjab, told voters they had to choose between progress or destruction and said his Congress (I) Party was going all-out to win the election Wednesday.

Gandhi, using a helicopter to hopscotch through the state, told audiences at four rallies the party would bring peace and prosperity to Punjab, where Sikh militants have been waging a campaign in a bid to set up a separate state.

Suspected Sikh militants killed six people in random attacks during the first week of the campaign, but there have been no serious incidents in the last few weeks.

Sikhs make up about 2 percent of India’s population of 750 million, but form a 62% majority in the Punjab region along the Pakistani border.

Barnala said his party would follow the policies of its late president, Harchard Singh Longowal, who was assassinated last month after he signed an accord with Gandhi designed to restore peace to Punjab.

Barnala has tried to broaden the appeal of the mainstream Sikh religious party by giving the party’s nomination to a record 20 non Sikhs in the upcoming elections.

Government run television showed scenes of poll campaigning in the state and said “the battle of the ballot appears to have overtaken the cult of violence.”

Article extracted from this publication >>  September 27, 1985