NEW DELHI, Oct 1, Reuter: Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on Saturday set up a top level committee of Ministers as a precursor to talks with the opposition on the problem of the strife torn northern state of Punjab.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said the eight person group, which included the home (interior) minister and the ministers for finance and defense would probably confine talks to politicians in Punjab.

Sikh militants escalating’ fight for an independent homeland has claimed almost 2,000 lives in the state this year.

“Their arim is to get the entire spectrum of views about what is to be done in Punjab, from within the state itself,” the spokesman said. But he said no date had been fixed for talks.

He added that talks would not include the governing body of Sikh temples, the SGPC, on the grounds that it was a religious rather than a political group.

The SGPC, which controls the Golden Temple at Amritsar, Sikhdom’s holiest shrine, has in the past been seen as playing a pivotal role in determining the course of the separatist movement.

Article extracted from this publication >> October 7, 1988