“Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi and no relation of the present Prime Minister of India used to say that when people and governments do not understand which way to turn, they inevitably turn to violence”, recollects Dr. Jagjit Singh Chohan, the spokesman for the Panthic Committee — the representative body of the Sikh people with headquarters in Amritsar. Dr. Chohan traces the history of events and talks about the Sikh traditions. He says that it was April 29, 1986, that in keeping with the democratic custom enshrined in Sikhism that a SARBAT KHALSA was called at the Akal Takht in Amritsar. The Akal Takht, contrary to the general belief held by Many is not strictly a place of worship. It is the high seat of politics of the Sikh nation. There, on that day, the Sikh people gathered together in the Sarbat Khalsa and decided without any coercion that they found no economic, social or cultural security in India and, therefore, determining their own political status they wanted to form themselves into a sovereign nation called KHALISTAN. Incidentally, this activity was and remains in consonance with the provisions of Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which forms a part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Indian Parliament ratified this Covenant on 10th April 1979. At the Akal Takht on April 29, 1986, the Sikh people chose a group of FIVE persons and gave that group the mandate of leading the nation to sovereignty. That group is the Panthic Committee. In that act itself, the Sikh people also appealed to the people of the world to give them their legitimate and rightful place as a sovereign nation in the international comity of nations.

In his simple and neat flat in Paddington area of London, Dr. Chohan recollects the time when he was alone carrying a vision of Khalistan — and that was not long ago. He used to be laughed at. He used to be called the “Mad Monk” in the image of Rasputin. Today, he says, every oppressed person in Punjab dreams of liberation from the yoke of the neocolonial rule imposed by New Delhi. The fate of Khalistan, he says, rests not only with the few inside the Golden Temple Complex but also with the hundreds of thousands who till the land and keep the wheels, so does the number of those who want to opt out of the myth of democracy that India has become. The siege of the Golden Temple in Amritsar shows the utter bankruptcy. of ideas in New Delhi and because the rulers of India do not know which way to turn, they turn to violence. They inflict State sponsored terrorism on a people in the hope that the voice of dissent will die. But what happens is that as the number of dead dissenter’s increases, the voice of dissent finds many more echoes; becomes stronger. The violence in Punjab, the violence in Amritsar, and the violence in and around the Golden Temple, violence per se is saddening but then one cannot forget that action and reaction are equal and opposite. The greater the oppression, the stronger the resistance. The settlers in the American colony, he says, had just one Boston Tea Party. The Sikhs have had a series of them. And they are not alone. Producing a map of South Asia, Dr. Chohan points out that the Sikhs are not the only people in ‘ that region struggling to establish their identity. There are the Tamils, the Nagas, the Jharkhandis and’ the Kashmiris, to name only a few. He is of the opinion that in 1947 British left India but the Indian people did not become free. It has taken them some time but they are beginning to realize the difference between an independent nation and a free people. They are also beginning to understand the difference between “unity” and “uniformity”. They find that the kind of infrastructure that New Delhi creates is not conducive to “unity” and demands submission to “uniformity”. The Khalistan Movement, in that respect, is not a secessionist movement at all. It is opposed to, an imposed uniformity. It is sad, says Dr. Chohan, that the present Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi (and before him his mother, the late Mrs. Indira Gandhi) had refused to recognize these differences and it is a pity that they sacrificed the interests of the people of the subcontinent for the sake of personal gains through politics of expediency. If the people of the subcontinent could attain freedom, which is their right, they would demand the pooling of common interests for attaining peace, prosperity and progress. But a prosperous and progressive group of people would pose not only a challenge and disinherit dynastical succession, but also would demand greater participation for the people in the process of governance, and would compel the government and all its agencies to be answerable to the people in the real sense. And that the Rulers of New Delhi cannot have. Therefore, they preserve all the trimmings of democracy and act in a manner that would make Hitler cringe. And the Sikh people are the most recent victims of democracy. It is but natural that they would protect themselves or want to escape tyranny or stand up to it. They chose the last alternative. The movement for Khalistan is really the vanguard movement for people’s freedom and for reorganization of power structures in South Asia. Reflecting upon the present turbulent conditions in Punjab, Dr. Chohan says, “There is no doubt people are being killed in Punjab but I do not accept that Sikhs alone are responsible for these killings. The Government of India would like the world to believe that this is so but I do not accept it. Now a body of opinion is growing, as evidence emerges, that the Government of India is itself organizing “false encounters”, mass scale killings and selective murders as well as smuggling of arms and ammunition. Obviously there is some reaction to the killings inspired by the Government. It is not a law and order situation at all. Mr. Gandhi and his viceroy in Punjab, Mr. Ribeiro would like us to believe it is. But is a political situation and needs political solutions. You cannot find political solutions piecemeal. You cannot find political solutions to the problems of a people by projecting one person at one time and another at another time. There must be an open dialogue with the whole people. I know it is a difficult and cumbersome process. I am afraid, there are no alternatives. There are no choices. And I am ready to cooperate with anybody who is sincere and wants to promote the process of open dialogue”.

Article extracted from this publication >> June 24, 1988