Karamjit Singh Rai, Ph.D.

The Government of India continues to rub salt in the wounds of the collective Sikh psyche and calls it the “‘healing touch.”’ Most of the World Press and some of the independent Indian press accounts (such as those that have appeared in Indian Express,  Illustrated Weekly of India, India Today, and Surya, have damned the Government’s intentions, accounts and handling of the situation in Punjab. Nevertheless, the Government continues with its hideous designs to hide the truth and perpetuate its distorted versions. The recent attempts of the classic “‘divide and conquer’’ policy towards Sikhs is reminiscent of colonial powers trying to keep the people they rule in subjugation.

The Government has forced its front man, Santa Singh, to undertake repairs of the Akal Takhat ‘ignoring the fulminations of the priests and Akalis’”’ in particular and of the Sikh masses in general. He and his so-called Kar Sewa popularly referred to as Sarkar Sewa “will remain no more than a gimmick, a bluff too transparent to win over a cynical Sikh population … It is impossible for the Government to convince the ordinary Sikh that Santa Singh is more than a_ stooge” (India Today, 8/15/84). The Government had Santa Singh challenge the authority of the Sikh Panth by contemptuously defying the hukamnama of the five Sikh priests barring Sikhs from participating in the Kar Sewa and to Santa Singh to explain his conduct. India Today (8/15/84) has rightly emphasized that “Never in the faith’s 500 year history had the traditional authority of the Panth been challenged so brazenly.”’” The veteran journalist, Kuldip Nayar has pointedly emphasized “Why has the Government taken upon itself the task of (Kar Sewa) through Baba Santa Singh, the leader of an order of Nihangs, or armed monks? Why could it not leave it to the Sikh community?’’ He has warned “‘In Punjab, the situation is far more serious because (Indira Gandhi) is not allowing even the pieces to be picked up there (India Abroad, 9/21/84). Mr. Prem Shankar Jha has rightly insisted ‘Fears for the unity of the country have been raised mainly by Gandhi’s handling of Kar Sewa i? Moreover, Jha has very perceptively described as to how the argument, between the S.G.P.C. and, the Government whether) the army should be withdrawn from the temple before the repair work began or after it was completed, ‘‘has been converted by the Congress into an opportunity to drive a wedge between the Sikhs of the Mazhabi caste. and the elite Jat and Khatri Sikhs by entrusting the repair work perforce to the Nihang chief, Baba Santa Singh … More and more people have begun to perceive that this strategy, if it succeeds and enables the Congress to forge a front of Sikhs belonging to the castes traditionally considered as _ ranking lower in the social hierarchy with the Hindus in Punjab, will drive the Akalis into overt secessionism. This will endanger not only Punjab but also Kashmir, which can be approached only through Punjab. Suddenly Gandhi’s actions in Punjab and Kashmir, as well as unrelenting (and unsuccessful) efforts by her Congress to secure defections from the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh … fell into a sinister pattern” (India Abroad, 8/31/84). And why is all this so arrogantly being done? Simply, as Nagarkar insists, so ‘‘that India’s highest office is no longer open to those outside the Nehru clan’’ (India Abroad, 8/31/84). The fact that Sikhs do not have even the most elementary freedoms of speech or religion in the Hindu land is obvious from numerous examples, the most recent

Being the suspension of Lachman Singh, an Assemblyman and former Minister for Industries in Haryana, from the Haryana Congress Legislature party for “‘provocative and communal statements according to the party leader and Chief Minister, Bhajan Lal’’ (India Abroad,8/31/84). Also, Surya India (August, 1984) reports that “The granthi of the Harmandar Saheb has an unusual companion these days. Sitting alert with him all the time, in a corner, is an Army jawan in plain clothes. He is ‘armed’ with two wireless sets and has to keep the Army High Command abreast of the proceedings within the Temple. Any unusual activity has to be reported quickly. He is also in charge of the public address system in use at present for recitation of gurbani and shabad kirtan. There is also a hotline to New Delhi.”

Furthermore, Sikhs recently returning from trips to India describe the mockery of forcibly busing people to Amritsar, mostly Mazhabi Sikhs, and paying them 50 rupees bribe per head for going and threatening government employees with demotions if they refused; all of this so that these persons would participate in the so called SarbatKhalsa provocation by Santa Singh on August 11, 1984. In contrast, the Government sealed off Punjab completely when the Sikhs wanted to hold a World Sikh Conference of their own on September 2, 1984 in Amritsar. Despite this, more than 150,000 Sikhs attended this meeting.

Numerous attempts have been made to float distortions knowingly, for example, the alleged presence of hard core drug in the Golden Temple complex or the extent of arms provided by foreign powers, simply to mislead and divide people. Now, ‘“‘the CBI has discovered that more of the arms were of Indian origin’ (India Today, 8/31/84). The story about hard core drugs was also repudiated by the Border Security Force an arm of the Government. “The White Paper has not even made a mention of the problem of smuggling across the Indo Pakistan border. Said a senior home ministry official: “With the benefit of hindsight now we can say we had really jumped the gun in making wild allegations of smuggling and maligning the BSF.” Similarly another telling omission (from the White Paper) is of the two medium machineguns originally reported to have been supplied by a foreign power but later shown to be of Indian origin. (India Today, 8/3/81).

This policy of divide and conquer will simply not work in the long run. However, the Sikhs will have to be vigilant. The distinguished journalist, S. Khushwant Singh has proposed a 15 point ‘‘Formula for Peace in Punjab’? (Surya India, 8/84). This so-called formula maligns both Bhindranwale and the entire Akalidal Leadership, rejects “separate nation” status for Sikhs and amendment of article 25 of Indian constitution and disavows the “Dharam Yudh”’ Morcha. In a major article entitle “A White Paper on 2 Black Record,’ A.G Noorani (Illustrated Weekly of India, 7/22/84) indirectly contradicts several assertions of Khushwant Singh who has previously spoken out forcefully and served the community well. However, his so-called ‘‘Formula for Peace’ may have had some merit before June 6, 1984 but certainly not after. It assured neither peace nor justice for Sikhs. Obvi ously people like Santa Singh, Khushwant Singh, and General Jagjit Singh Arora are making moves, albeit all too crude, to advance their claims for leadership roles to fill the vacuum created by army actions against the Sikhs. Sikhs have been all too often sold out by such self-seeking ‘‘leaders.”’ The government is only too eager to use such people as agents in its start. Edgy to “Divide and Conquer.”

Article extracted from this publication >> February 1, 1985