History is replete with instances that show how some situations outgrow individuals and even institutions. Those who fail to match their pace with time’s winged chariot invariably become irrelevant and redundant. The reason for Akali Dal’s decline in Punjab can be traced to its leadership’s inability to move in step with the chain of events that picked up unprecedented momentum with Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s charismatic appearance on the Sikh scene. Whereas Akali leaders considered the Dharam Yudh Morcha as another game to gain electoral advantages, Sant Bhindranwale looked upon it as a logical culmination of the Sikh crusade against injustice and discrimination that Delhi rulers have been practicing against Sikhs ever since independence, Akali leaders had no interest beyond their own selfish lust for ministerial chairs. On the contrary, chairs had no fascination for Sant Jarnail Singh. He cared only for the principles and staked his life to uphold the dignity, honor and freedom of the Sikh nation.

The “retreat” of Prof, Darshan Singh and “withdrawal” of the Unified Akali Dal from the center stage is a repetition of the familiar story. Just as Badal, Tohra and Longowal were reduced to nonentities in the context of Sant Jarnail Singh’s towering personality and singular Commitment to the cause, Prof. Darshan Singh and UIA.D. Leaders also became irrelevant the moment Panthic Committee decided to discard proxies and take the reins directly in its own hands. It is no secret that even before their formal “retreat,” the real base of the popular support was all along with the Panthic Committee. Members of the Panthic Committee had deliberately effaced themselves in order to dispel misconceptions of those who still hoped for a reasonable understanding with the rulers in Delhi. They, therefore, wanted prototypes of Barnala to discover for themselves the inherent insincerity of the majority community towards Sikhs.

But Prof. Darshan Singh and U.A.D. leaders also started maneuvering and angling for positions and drifted away from the Sikh aspirations. Sikhs watched their antics and got convinced that they were no different from renegades like Barnala and Balwant.

Panthic Committee had earlier given a call to all the Sikh organizations to come under one banner for put up a united fight. The committee seems to have realized that it is no use yoking an assortment of groups together as. They are bound to pull to defend directions, thus dissipating their energies in fruitless exercises. The call, therefore, has now been wisely restricted to groups that have unhesitatingly and unambiguously stated their commitment of the total freedom of the Sikhs.

For the first time the Indian government is now facing a Sikh leadership that has no convenient buffers among them. No longer will there be prolonged exercises to arrive at unprincipled compromises. Delhi will have to either reconcile with the fundamental right of the Sikhs ‘or continue the confrontation indefinitely. Sikhs are prepared for a long drawn out struggle. They are conscious of the great sacrifices that they will have to make, The time for reconciliation is over as it is impossible for the Sikhs to identify themselves with a mainstream that harbors and honors Sikh killers like Bhagat and Tytler. And it is time for the fence sitters among the Sikhs to see the writing on the wall and join the growing cavalcade of the freedom fighters. Sikhs today are standing at the crossroads of history where a Single careless step can reduce them to vet another sect in Hinduism like Jains and Buddhists and a careful step can mean ‘tryst with destiny.’ They can’t possibly opt for oblivion when all over the golden horizon they see a glorious new beginning already unfolding itself.

Article extracted from this publication >>  September 4, 1987