Government announcement for the holding of elections in the troubled state of Punjab surprised most Akali leaders except former Finance Minister Balwant Singh and former Union Agricultural Minister Surjit Singh Barnala who had secretly approved of the plan for early elections. Rajiv Gandhi ordered elections after his tour of the state. He appears to have been misled by the surface calm and has utterly failed in gauging the real mood of the Sikhs. Punjab Congress leaders must have impressed upon him the need to cash the supposed “goodwill” created by the accord besides benefitting from the irreconcilable feuds between the two Akali Dals.
On the other hand Barnala and Balwant Singh, who were chiefly instrumental in managing the RajivLongowal accord, seem to have made subjective calculations. Evidently they have worked on two alternatives.
(1) Boycott of elections by the United Akali Dal, thus, leaving the field free for the fruition of their ambitions.
(2) In the event of United Dal plunging into election arena, they could angle for a Congress Longowal coalition. Ostensibly their logic appears sound but it suffers from the proverbial tragic flaw. Its treatment of Baba Joginder Singh’s United Akali Dal as just a power hungry political party has made them commit the gravest blunder of their lives for which they will have to repent long. United Akali Dal is not a political party in the traditional sense. It has assumed the character of a great movement. It is the collective expression and voice of the Sikhs and is wedded to the objective of carving out a sovereign destiny for the Sikhs. What matters in this party is not PERSONALITY but the PURPOSE. After Longowal’s total betrayal of the Panth, which Rajiv engineered through his agents in the Akali Dal, the responsibility of keeping the banner of struggle fluttering devolved upon the United Akali Dal.
The magnitude of the movement was first realized by Rajiv during his visit to Europe and America. He was appalled to find the impact it had created in America, Canada and England upon the people and governments of these countries. The truth was too discomforting to let him have a peaceful sleep. He could clearly visualize the rise of an Independent State of Khalistan as a result of the communal venom that successive Congress governments and Arya Samajist press had been secreting against Sikhs ever since 1947 culminating in the attack on the Golden Temple. In his anxiety to stem the rising tide he made desperate efforts and succeeded in roping in Longowal through Balwant Singh, and some other renegades.
Under the circumstances continuance of the Dharm Yudh Morcha is more important than anything else. United Akali Dal’s “decision to contest or boycott elections should be solely determined by this central factor. The struggle has to be kept alive and active and contesting elections can only form a peripheral part of the general strategy of realizing the long eluding dream of freedom. For the United Akali Dal elections at this stage are not vital especially in the context of the limited power that the states enjoy under the monolithic central monopoly over practically every field of governmental activity. The decision to contest elections must flow out of the concern and utility for the main cause and not out of any consideration for forming a government. What good is a state government when it can be whimsically dismissed at the instance of the center! Leaders of the United Akali Dal should ignore passing temptations and steadfastly stick to their cherished goal.
The blood of martyrs and the still reverberating wails of riot victims cannot be betrayed. Sikhs have paid a very heavy price and can no more be consoled with reluctantly doled out lollypops. They will have to be given their due right otherwise in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “They (Sikhs) know how to take their right by the sword.”
Article extracted from this publication >> August 23, 1985