Rajiv Gandhi’s commendation of Acharya Sushil Muni’s abortive mission which he had undertaken sometimes back to work out a peaceful solution to the Punjab problem does not necessarily indicate any policy departure. Past experience tells that the pilot turned Prime Minister has seldom exhibited a sane or a sober attitude to the various problems facing the country. Trained to fly in the traffic free climes of India, he gets easily bogged down in the crowded boulevards of politics. His cavalier approach makes confusion more confounded.

It was on Rajiv’s instructions that Buta Singh dispatched the Acharya to Amritsar with a fairly broad brief and the Acharya played his cards with the finesse of a seasoned diplomat. He succeeded in persuading the then Acting Chief of Akal Takht, Prof. Darshan Singh, to accept a solution within the framework of the Indian Constitution. But as he triumphantly returned to Delhi, grinning with satisfaction from ear to ear at the success of his mission, he was brusquely turned away and Buta Singh, in a statement to the Parliament, described his mission as a purely “private exercise of a well-meaning person”.

This cavalier approach is now beginning to recoil. The folly of treating the problem in Punjab as a law and order issue is proving counterproductive. The Central government finds it increasingly difficult to distract the people from the challenge posed by the drift of events that un mistake ably point to the fast emerging reality of Khalistan. The writing on the wall is assuming diabolic proportions. Ray and Ribeiro are sheepishly talking of a political solution and 1o make amends to the insults heaped upon the Acharya, Rajiv Gandhi has publically issued a commendation certificate to him. He wants the Acharya to again pick up the broken threads and use his clout with the Damdami Taksal to initiate a dialogue with the freedom fighters. To make his task easier Bhai Jasbir Singh, Jathedar Akal Takht, has been shifted from a Madhya Pradesh jail to Delhi and the three Head Priests detained in Pathankot Jail have also been shifted to Delhi.

Obviously, Rajiv Gandhi has realized the necessity of seeking a political solution, but he has yet to develop an honest approach. Compelled by the congenital cunningness of a Brahmin, he is resorting to devious means. Such an attitude is bound to render the entire exercise futile. No lasting solution would emerge by having a dialogue with those who have remained out of touch with the developments and the latest thinking over various issues because of their long internments. They must first be released and allowed to develop direct rapport with the freedom fighters as well as with the Sikh masses. Let them study the issues on the merits rather than striking emotional postures that often lead to irreconcilable arguments.

For a really fruitful dialogue, Rajiv needs to first establish his badly fractured credibility. It is imperative that he should punish such guilty men as H.K.L. Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler and others of their kind who were directly responsible for the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Delhi and other Indian towns. So long these murderers enjoy Rajiv’s confidence, so long they remain entrenched in their privileged positions, no Sikh worth his salt will ever think in terms of negotiations. Time for fraudulent accords and repetition of a Rajiv Longowal farce is over now. The focus has shifted from the question of retrieving Punjab’s plundered resources and constitutional rights to the more urgent and more fundamental question of preserving Sikh identity and freedom. And the question of identity and freedom admits no compromise. The solution and the wisdom lie in acknowledging it.

Article extracted from this publication >> February 19, 1988