To start a dialogue with the Sikh freedom fighters, Rajiv Gandhi first wants them to renounce violence. Nobody wants violence, except the opportunists and the demented, Freedom fighters hate violence as much as any lover of mankind or God. Violence is not a cause but an effect. To end violence, it is imperative that the cause should be objectively identified and, then, efforts should be made to eliminate it. No purpose would be served either by making meaningless offers or by Ray and Ribeiro’s empty boast of “crushing” violence with a heavy hand. For the last nearly four years, Indian army assisted by all the police and paramilitary forces and many Rays and Ribeiros has not been able to crush “forty or so” freedom fighters.

Indian government is not prepared to recognize this reality. Recognizing this reality means accepting the fact that the army and the security forces are not fighting just “forty or so” freedom fighters but the Sikh nation as a whole. It is also to accept that those up in arms against the government are not just a “handful” of “terrorists” or “extremists” but committed lovers of liberty and democracy. They are not common criminals or trigger happy killers but men of conscience and courage who have staked their lives to end oppression and persecution let loose by a rabidly communal government against their religion and region. They are fighting a fascist order and they would neither be satisfied by reluctantly doled out “promises” nor duped by insincere offers of a dialogue.

Had Rajiv been sincere, he would not have made a conditional offer. He did not put any such condition while initiating a dialogue between Tamil guerrillas and the Sri Lankan government. It is true that violence seldom settles issues. In the end agreements are finalized through dialogue only. But to have positive results, honesty and sincerity are necessary.

To create a congenial climate for the dialogue, it would have been better if Rajiv Gandhi had offered a truce a temporary holding back of the fire power on both sides. He cannot expect freedom fighters to come cringing on their knees to surrender and seek dialogue. They know what they would get bullets and betrayal. For historical reasons, the freedom fighters cannot trust him. Delhi needs to build up its credibility. It can do it by immediately ending army and paramilitary occupation of Punjab, repealing the black laws, restoring civil and human rights, stopping fake encounters, releasing all detained Sikhs, punishing those guilty of atrocities against the Sikhs, rehabilitating the army deserters and creating a credible judicial system.

A.I.S.S.F. President S. Gurjit Singh has also expressed his willingness for a direct dialogue with Rajiv Gandhi provided the talks are held at the Akal Takht. A.I.S.S.F. President’s insistence on Akal Takht as the venue is fully justified because he does not want Sikhs to look like supplicants soliciting some favors. He wants Sikhs to stand as equals negotiating for their just and legitimate rights and aspirations. The Sikhs are recognized heirs to British India and must get their historical right to govern their share.

Delhi’s game of hide and seek has already done considerable damage. It must stop futile exercises like alienating and isolating the freedom fighters because the freedom fighters represent the collective will of the Sikh nation. A referendum under the U.N. supervision can dispel all doubts as to what the Sikh masses want. Rajiv is not going to relish the suggestion of a referendum as he is not interested in solving the problem. He is only keeping the issue alive to use it for his electoral gains. For narrow personal gains, he won’t mind risking disintegration of India. His grandfather accepted Pakistan to ensure his Prime Minister ship and to ensure yet another term in office, Rajiv can do anything. He can order massacre of Sikhs and he can also reconcile with the creation of Khalistan. The exigency of the situation alone will determine his choice. Every other move is pure gimmick.

Article extracted from this publication >> February 26, 1988