Dignity Special Courtesy: Dignity Chandigarh
Chandigarh — justifying the operation blue star Mrs. Indira Gandhi had stated a few days after the historic Amritsar tragedy last year that Sikh leaders were not talking to her. The implication of her remark was that the people concerned had been chastised and that negotiations could “now” be held to sort out the controversial matters.
Sikhs’ doubt P.M.’s bona fide
Mrs. Gandhi’s optimism a year ago was obviously misplaced. So are the repeated reports published by newspapers these days quoting “well informed sources,” that talks are about to open between the Centre and the Akali Dal (L). Governor Arjun Singh appears to be busy with efforts to persuade Dal (L) leaders to resume negotiations. The last round of talks took place on May 25, 1984 at an undisclosed place between Mr. Gurcharan Singh Tohra and representatives of the Central Government.
While the second and third rung leaders of both the United Akali Dal and Akali Dal (L) are vying with each other to ask the Centre to open talks with their respective leaders only, the fact of the matter is that no senior leaders either of Akali Dal (L) or the United Akali Dal is willing to start talks. There are deep-seated doubts among Sikhs about Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s bona fide. It is felt that Sikh masses will not approve of the talks. A common remark made is that any leader joining the talks will be “finished” politically.
Ajit editor Barjinder Singh has been meeting Arjun Singh on behalf of Harchand Singh Longowal. A few more professional mediators may be in the merry-go-round run but such efforts are bound to fail because Longowal does not have the capacity to take Sikh masses along with him. Longowal has no doubt the backing of elite Sikh groups rich politicians, businessmen, ticket seekers and the like. It is also undoubted that official and controlled media have tried to build up Longowal and have achieved a degree of success, a degree and not more.
Longowal dependent on Tohra
Even within the Akali Dal, Longowal is pathetically dependent on Gurcharan Singh Tohra. The Akali Dal (L) President dare not overrule Tohra on any matter. The S.G.P.C. chief is preoccupied with the thought of his own rehabilitation among Sikh masses. Parkash Singh Badal these days is quite unhappy with Longowal although the former is not giving expression of his violent disagreements with the Dal (L) chief.
Badal is doing the tightrope walking. He has not left Longowal. Nor has he openly disassociated himself from the ad-hoc committee of the United Akali Dal headed by Baba Joginder Singh. He has let his important functionaries join the United Dal. It is however, true that he has not even once joined the deliberations of the United Dal group’s ad hoc committee.
Badal’s dialogue with Baba
What really is Badal up to? It appears he is aware of the severe limitations of Longowal as a vote catcher. He seems to feel that the two groups eventually will have to join hands and his ambition is to emerge as a compromise candidate to lord over the destiny of the merged party. It is with this aim in view that the former Chief Minister is keeping his eggs in two baskets.
Longowal is intrigued at Badal’s intentions. He appears to feel that Badal could be brought round to a soft, parliamentary path and away from the rugged way apparently chosen by Baba Joginder Singh. Badal’s strong yeasted interests also give encouragement to Longowal. That is why Longowal is threatening to hold a public meeting at Bajpur, UP, where Badal has a substantial Jand holding obviously to bring pressure to bear on him. Longowal is thus not making an issue of Badal’s double-dealing.
Tohra is also not aware of Badal’s calculations. He is keen on wooing Baba Joginder Singh. A message has gone out from Tohra offering to the Baba the post of “morcha dictator” as well as a proposal to abolish all other posts, including the ad hoc committee of the United Akali Dal.
Tension has arisen in the relations between senior leaders of the All India Sikh Students Federation and 2 few lieutenants of Baba Joginder Singh. While the A.LS.S.F. is lending support to the Baba, the former is at a loss to find a few right-hand men of Baba Joginder Singh trying to undermine the interests of the A.I.S.S.F It is felt that the Baba is being “mislead” by certain politicians close to him with the result that the AISS.B. Has not been given the pride of place in organization that, it feels, it deserves. ;
Tohra’s bid to woo rival chief
Baba Joginder Singh’s advisers appear to have convinced him that Badal’s relations with Longowal are too strained to be mended and that he should not be expelled from the “nine member” ad hoc committee. It is felt that Badal will eventually come over to the united Akali Dal.
Bhai Jagjit Singh and Sekhon are in touch with Badal. Even certain members of the A.LS.S.F. too, have opened dialogue with Badal. The former Chief Minister is said to be willing to join the united group openly provided he gets greater weightage in the ad hoc committee. He appears to be gunning for Gurtej Singh Brar although Badal is willing to leave Simranjit Singh Mann undisturbed as convenor of the ad hoc committee.
Absence of ideology
These goings-on indicate the complete absence of any ideological orientation on the part of either the Longowal faction or the United Akali Dal. Both seem to be operating on ad-hoc basis without keeping the vital issues in focus. Both appear to be allergic to youth power although they are clever enough to make use of students and youth power for their interest. What separates the two groups is vanity of their leaders and not any ideological issues. It is for these reasons that a sudden itch for unity can lead them to a dramatic merger.
The Centre obviously cannot be unaware of the Sikh currents and crosscurrents. Its strategy appears to be to win over a few leaders, open secret talks with them, make unilateral announcements as suggested by these leaders, create conditions in which Sikhs remain disunited and then hold elections to announce to the world that the Punjab issue had been ‘“‘solved”’ and that a small group of miscreants was causing trouble who would be dealt with an iron hand.
Mr. Raji Gandhi like his mother is not just interested in restoring to Punjab and Sikhs their constitutional rights. His government is following a set pattern: unending talks with leaders of the Assam agitation as well as leaders of the Mizo National Front. The aim appears to be to exhaust the negotiators. Barring a few exceptions, Sikh leaders are not willing to enter into future talks with an unresponsive Centre.
Talks as big business
Whatever the fate of the issues at stake, some Akali leaders have always been treating talks as good business. Half a dozen leaders of the Akali Dal (L) are busy setting up big factories involving investments of crores of rupees. Talks bring these leaders into national limelight and the files connected with their businesses move quicker.
Another noteworthy feature of the Central policy has been to set professional negotiators on unsuspecting Akali leaders on the eve of each foreign trip the Prime Minister have to undertake. The underlying idea has been to show signs of normalcy and to show foreign Sikhs their place and to blunt their ‘protests. They are confronted with “talks” at home to expose irrelevance of their protests. This strategy was again successfully employed on the eve of Rajiv Gandhi’s recent visit.
To sum up: the blundering, feuding and selfish tribe of Akali leaders is intact while the Centers insincere Punjab policy remains unchanged.
Article extracted from this publication >> July 26, 1985