The release of the five Sikh High Priests has been widely acclaimed by the Sikhs everywhere. The rousing reception given to them on their arrival at the Golden Temple is enough to dispel all doubts about the mood and intent of the Sikh masses. Whereas it demonstrated their deep respect for the High Priests, it also pointed to their determination not to compromise with any settlement less than Khalistan. The formal guard of honor and the gunfire salute were not just a spontaneous expression of exultation but a portentous display of their resolve not to permit vested bargains.

The release of the High Priests is neither a concession nor a goodwill gesture. Nor is it an attempt to undo what was patently wrong and unjust. Their arrest and internment for nearly two years without any charges or trial made a mockery of all the judicial processes that disguise a democratic order from a totalitarian regime. Out of 379 Sikhs detained in Jodhpur ever since Operation Bluestar, forty have been released along with the High Priests. But this piecemeal and halfhearted dispensation would not in any way alter the priorities of the Sikh. The Ray and Ribeiro team having miserably failed to “crush” the freedom fighters and their bullet for bullet policy having proved counterproductive, the rulers in Delhi appear to be making new experiments to once again beguile the Sikh masses.

They had pinned their hopes on Parkash Singh Badal. But the fate of Barnala and Prof. Darshan Singh prevented Badal from opting for an obviously suicidal course. He considered it prudent not to play the government game, at least for the time being. The government is now anxious to use the High Priests for the same purpose. It is a game that doubly suits Rajiv Gandhi. If the Priests fall in his trap, the Khalistan movement will suffer a set back and if they decide not to oblige Rajiv, he will inflame the passions of the Hindu majority and seek their support in fighting “separatist” forces. He won the 1984 elections partly by Projecting Anandpur Sahib Resolution as secessionist and partly on sympathy wave and he hopes to win in 1989 on Khalistan issue.

In the context of rampant corruption, kickoffs, scandals, drought, poverty, and his own image in shambles as an arrogant, immature upstart, Rajiv has no option but to whip up communal hysteria to survive the combined onslaught of the major opposition parties. Peace in Punjab, therefore, does not fit in his arithmetic’s. Like his mother, he would talk of dialogue. He may even initiate dialogue. He would not hesitate to sign another “paper” accord. But he would never, never pursue it to the logical end. In the solution of the Punjab problem, he sees dissolution of his own dynastic crown. Besides, he needs to keep the Sikh issue alive and secure sophisticated weapons and nuclear submarines by playing the Pakistan card. He has already put England, America and Canada on the defensive by accusing them of clandestine support to the Sikhs and in the process manipulated super computers, helicopters, trade concessions and extradition treaties. He has found in the Sikh problem an extremely useful instrument to consolidate his Position and power. He would not like to abandon it and expose himself to all kinds of risks and dangers.

However, there is one serious snag in it. The escalation can lead to the Sikh unity and intransigence and, thus, make it impossible to stop the emergence of a sovereign Sikh State. To prevent such an eventuality, Delhi has devised many stratagems. Foremost among them is to keep the Sikhs divided. It has specialized in the art of beguiling the Sikh leaders and abandoning them in the dark alleys. It is always on the look out to destroy the credibility of the committed Sikhs through insidious rumors.

The High Priests need to be extra cautious. They must never forget or underrate the sacrifices being made by the Sikh youth. Today, the struggle for freedom is being sustained by their blood and they alone have the right to spell out the final word.

Article extracted from this publication >> March 11, 1988