The economy of Punjab is in shambles. Business and industry are on the brink of disaster. The once most prosperous State of India with highest per capita income is already running a deficit of over 500 crores. Its resources stand plundered to a point of starvation. Its politics continues to drift in the mire of uncertainty.

Rajiv Gandhi had in a cavalier manner declared that Punjab and Assam problems would be solved on top priority basis. The emptiness of the declaration was transparently evident even at the time it was made. The declaration was for a specific purpose — partly to project Rajiv on the international plane as a leader who means business and partly to pacify the badly mauled Sikhs. As expected Rajiv has now revived the familiar chorus. He wants the Akalis to disassociate themselves from ‘‘extremists,’’ and explicitly express their allegiance to the constitution. Prevarication through false charges and irrational pre-conditions is a technique perfected by his mother and he appears to have mastered it too.

Rajiv has cleverly played the old card. He knows that Akalis are already in the dock. Accepting the line suggested by him would mean political suicide and rejecting it would expose them to the charge of rigidity which Rajiv is bound to exploit and thus hold them responsible for the deadlock.

To effectively match this shrewed move, Akalis, if they are sincere to the Sikh cause, should make counter suggestions for creating the right climate to start a meaningful dialogue. They should demand that:

— All those instrumental in destroying Akal Takht should be immediately punished and government must at the same time offer unqualified apology to the Sikh nation for the wild attack on the Golden Temple and vicious propaganda against Sikhs.

— Judicial enquiry into the holocaust against Sikhs and immediate arrest of all those Congress (1) functionaries who have been indicted in public investigations.

— All the draconian laws should be withdrawn, all Sikhs should be released and all cases against them should be withdrawn.

— Army and CRPF should be immediately withdrawn from Punjab.

Akalis should organize a conference and there declare Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale as the Sikh of the century and a great martyr of the nation in order to demonstrate their mood and stand. They should request the Akal Takht chief to issue a Hukamnama to the effect that no Sikh shall contest election to either Parliament or State Assembly on any ticket so long the climate to truly enjoy the promised “‘glow of freedom’”’ is not there. They should declare that the position of Sikhs in India is worse than slaves and, therefore, the struggle for justice, equality and freedom would continue. It is only through a forthright stand that Sikhs can hope to defeat the hide and seek game of the government.

Article extracted from this publication >>