Indian Punjab rocks and sways, said this column on August 2 that the tension among young Sikhs building around Longowal may lead Gandhi to think he had chosen a wrong person to negotiate with. If tension builds up it will mean a new set, probably a younger and more volatile one than the present Sikh leadership, with whom Gandhi will have to negotiate. Will he find it willing?
This remains to be seen. What is evident is the panic that has gripped Longowal’s friendly rivals, Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Prakash Singh Badal. Longowal’s murder would persuade new thinking and Strategy and the realization that elections, democracy or emergencies are no solutions to minds agitated beyond normal. The revolution phenomenon of the twentieth century has overturned democracies as well as dictatorships. Mass killings, Kalashnikovs, hand grenades and time bombs are everywhere. Rather than burning down bastilles the agitators resort to symbolic killings. Political leaders or members of religious or ethnic communities are the usual victims. Often, as in the recent, horrifying obliteration of an entire family in Rawalpindi, speechless corpses may well utter, WHY WE?
Dead Longowal can hardly ask such a question. Bhindranwale’s spirit pervades the land. Mrs. Indira Gandhi could not have made a more tragic mistaken than attacking the holiest shrine of the Sikhs. She left behind an uncomfortable legacy for the Hindu government of India. Can a similar attack on the Vatican or (God forbid!) the Holy Kaaba go un revenged? Would the perpetrators be naive to think the whole affair could be forgotten by offering political sops to the aggrieved community? Political bribery may assuage the existing generation. History will pass down the profoundness of the insult to posterity which will always remember. It was not, after all, one of the thousands of communal prayer halls Indian troops went picnicking in. It was the Golden Temple.
What new strategies could Rajiv Gandhi think up to bring about a Grand Reconciliation with the Sikhs. As a religious person (if he is one, and even if he isn’t) Gandhi and his Hindu top not cheers could emulate Ranjit Singh’s performance of a humble penitent crawling into the Golden Temple with folded hands and tearful eyes and yelling out his folly while seeking forgiveness with equally vocal enthusiasm. Thereafter as tradition goes, without waiting for a command from the Head Priest, every penitent, with readily available soapy water and cleaning napkins, wash, soap and scratch away every inch of the Temple’s marble floors while performing the prescribed religious rituals and chanting hymns in praise of the Eternal Khalsa. Some of Rajiv’s inspired co penitents might even embrace Sikhism as an entirely agreeable procedure. It would, of course, be presumptuous to predict that all this will bring about the Grand Reconciliation; but it will help.
The whole thing must be kept out of public view and knowledge. No cameras, no reporters, no street watchers, no citizens within a two-mile radius. Like the late Indira’s last visit. When the operation is over, the genial Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khurshid Alam, can describe the result as a great diplomatic triumph. He can, as usual, talk of “SubaheBenares” and “‘ShamiOudh,”’ when “ShabiTareeq” would be more appropriate to the occasion.
Politically, Sikhs would like fulfillment of their ancient claim, “Raj Karega Khalsa” (Khalsa must rule). Nothing less would suffice because there is a pleasant mix of religion with politics in the slogan. In coining it the author wisely left the territory of Khalsa undefined, all of which is very embarrassing. Nowhere in the Sikh scriptures is the community asked to confine itself to Amritsar, Birmingham and Vancouver, Lahore, where Rafiv Gandhi would ardently wish his Sikh troublemakers to base their dominion, does not find a mention even in the rare Sikh poetry of Amrita Pritam.
The truth is the Khalsa’a undefined territory would appear to highlight its universality which is what the religion is all about. Finally, numbers must yield the magic. Wherever the Khalsa’s numerical strength or political clout becomes decisive, the specific area must pass under Khalsa control, theoretically. Practically, it is the kind of game now being played by the Khalsa and Rajiv Gandhi.
If the latter can draw, a lesson from his aborted pact with the late Longowal by which he had to yield the multimillion dollar capital city of Chandigarh to Sikhs, Rajiv would begin to believe in the community’s power as an adversary. Demographically (Sikh birthrate is fantastic) Sikhs must expand eastward of Indian Punjab and gradually dominate Haryana and Himachal. Absorption of these arbitrarily devised provinces in East Punjab is entirely visible within two decades. The trouble is, this will bring Sikhs to the doorsteps of Delhi where their influence in commerce and private ownership already is considerable. It would be facile for Hindus to think their business jealousies will not be aroused or they could apply their usual handy corrective of subjecting their opponents to deliberate bloodbaths. Nothing would drive the Khalsa away unless more Chandigarhs were conceded. Such as a place under the sun in neighboring Rajasthan.
Sikhs claim they have the right to annex part of Rajasthan to Sikh Punjab. The part is Bikaner bordering Ferozepur district including Fazilka’s west and east. A valid reason given is that the Ferozepur head works have a history. A Sikh irrigation engineer at Ferozepur, fearing Ferozepore’s inclusion in Pakistan drove off like mad overnight to Bikaner and explained his fears to the state’s Chief Minister, Pannihar. Both rushed off to Delhi in the Maharaja’s Rolls Royce and met Patel and Nehru. The latter wrote to Mountbatten saying, “If Ferozepur goes to Pakistan, there will be no natural barrier to prevent its army marching to Delhi.” Whereupon the great Radcliffe changed his award.
The award’s change was helped by an earlier decision by the Punjab Sikh states of Patiala, Nabha, Jind, Kaputhala and Farid, kot to accede to India. Kashmir, which the Quaid had hoped, “would fall into Pakistan like a ripened apple,” then fell into India as a fait accompli.
India and Bikaner certainly owe a heavy debt of conscience to Sikhs.
(Courtesy — Pakistan Times)