Congress defeat in Punjab elections is being jubilantly described by Rajiv Gandhi as a victory of India. His statement that “congress has lost, but India has won,” is both significant and revealing. It exposes the ugly role of his party in deliberately making the Punjab problem nearly intractable. The policy of allowing the situation to drift into a communal hostility between the Sikhs and the Hindus merely to accomplish electoral victories gradually assumed dangerous proportions, degenerating into blatant Hindu Chauvinism and intolerant fundamentalism which inevitably brought India to the brink of disintegration. Delhi belatedly realized the damage caused by the suicidal course of “teaching lessons” first through the ill-conceived “Operation Blue Star” and later through the state aided and party engineered holocaust against the Sikhs.

Yet in retrospect, practically all events appear to conform to a definite pattern as though manipulated by a magic wand to fulfill the master design of perpetuating the dynastic rule. The plan for Mr. Surjit Singh Barnala’s triumphant sweep in the elections and his journey to the saddle of chief Minister ship has also been executed by Rajiv Gandhi with the exquisite finesse of an adept politician.

Barnala’s policy statement after assuming office, expectedly, did not even remotely touch the spirit and content of the Anandpur Sahib resolution. It can best be described as congress (I) ruler’s old wine in a borrowed bottle. How else could Barnala talk of appointing a judicial commission to process the cases of Dharam Yudh Morcha volunteers who are rotting in the torture cells of the Indian jails. The least he could do was to order a general amnesty and forthwith release all those detained for their direct or indirect involvement with the Dharam Yudh Morcha. All fabricated cases and proceedings against the Sikhs, particularly the youth, should have been instantly dropped in the same manner as the seditious case of tearing the constitution against him was dropped by the Delhi rulers. He could at least be as considerate to his compatriots as Delhi was to him.

Mr. Barnala would also do well both for himself and for the State to remember his solemn oath at the Golden Temple for the achievement of Anandpur Sahib Resolution. A unique opportunity has come his way to ensure that the resolution is implemented to the last syllable. Any departure from this objective would spell disaster and push the situation back to square one.

Rajiv Gandhi’s understandable jubilation can prove short-lived if he fails to learn from the sequence of tragic events. He has to reckon with the deep scars that “Operation Blue Star” and the November holocaust have left on the Sikh psyche. These scars cannot be just wished away or healed by stalling a puppet ministry in Punjab. He will have to take more positive steps. He can begin by immediately removing from his party and government all such persons as have been indicted in the reports of such eminent public organizations as PUCL or Manushi. He should also go to the Golden Temple and express unqualified regrets at the diabolic destruction of innocent lives, Sikh shrines and priceless treasures contained in the Sikh library. This way he will be able to considerably assuage the Sikh feelings and sentiments and may succeed in evolving a new understanding with the Sikhs.

Article extracted from this publication >>  October 6, 1985