Amritsar — Leaders of the Akali Dal withdrew when slogan shouting youth captured the stage. Akali Dal had organized an elaborate function to honour those Sikhs who had returned their medals and awards to the government as a protest against army attack on the Golden Temple. Over fifty thousand strong Sangat had reached there to celebrate the birth anniversary of the Khalsa Panth. As the first recipient of the ‘‘Saropa,’’ the traditional symbol of honor, was being presented, some two hundred Sikh youth suddenly filled the air with antigovernment slogans and captured the stage. They were lustily cheered by the Sangat when they hoisted Khalistan flag and raised slogans like Khalistan Zindabad, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale Zindabad. There was a sea of saffroncoloured turbans and ‘chunies’ all around and their mood was characterized by defiance.

Akalis had sought to use the occasion to test their following as well as to give the impression that they still had command over the situation and Sikhs generally supported them. The plan of honoring the protesting Sikhs was shrewdly drawn as such a function was not likely to attract opposition. Once they succeeded in their exercise, they would be able to say that the overwhelming majority among the Sikhs still supported them. But Sikh youth appears to be determined to rid the Panth of all hypocrisy, and only dedicated leaders with clearly stated objectives can hope to cut any ice with them.

Earlier in a show of defiance, about 5,000 Sikhs, flanked by heavy security, moved through parts of Amritsar on Saturday shouting slogans against the government and in support of a separate nation.

The protest was peaceful, and the police. Said they had made no arrests.

Residents said it was the largest rally of its kind in Amritsar since the crackdown on activists last year and followed several moves by the Indian government to defuse the Punjab crisis, which has gone on for nearly three years.

Article extracted from this publication >>  April 19, 1985