Any political analyst watching the Indian political situation for the last few years would inevitably reach the conclusion that the ruling Congress party’s policies have been guided solely by the maxim ‘Hell with India, Long Live Indira.’’ The ruling family along with a handful of unscrupulous masterminds believes no price is too high to maintain its dynastic dictatorship. This is amply borne out by the bloody drama staged in Punjab by Indira Gandhi and her then heir-apparent Rajiv Gandhi. Dismissal of the popularly elected governments in Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir and the atrocities in Assam shine as other venomous jewels in the crown of this King Cobra.
Of these the Punjab tragedy seems to be the most misunderstood one. The reasons are not far to seek. Firstly, it was planned and executed so adeptly and with so much cunningness that nobody could see through and reach facts. Secondly, to the majority community it seemed to affect only the Sikhs a religious minority which constitutes merely 2% of the teeming millions in the country. Very few could logically perceive its inevitably dangerous extensions and intervene before it was too late. As has now become clear the ruling family has been able to fully capitalize on the indifference of the majority and threatens to hold hostage the entire nation indefinitely in the hands of an insecure novice who refuses to communicate with anybody but those who are ready for bloodshed to maintain his position firmly.
The Sikh Demands Perceived as a Threat to Dynastic Rule
In 1982, the Akali Dal, the Sikhs’ political party started a movement for greater political and economic: autonomy for the state. Also included were some religious demands to limit the increasing government interference in Sikh religious affairs.
The demand for greater economic and political autonomy was not specific to the Sikhs or even to the Punjab State. It had a wider national appeal for all states. Soon after the Akali Dal presented its demands many other states raised the same voice. Indira Gandhi was shrewd enough to see that this was soon going to turn into a nationwide movement against her unconstitutional centralization of powers the powers that she was using on some as a stick and on others as a carrot to maintain her family rule. Accordingly plans were drawn up immediately to sabotage this political movement by converting it into a communal conflict between Hindus and Sikhs. With this began the ugliest period in the history of the Punjab State. Congress (I) party meetings from now on were devoted more on how to disrupt Hindu and Sikh religious gatherings and to flare up sentiments of both the communities against each other. Dead cow heads were transported to a Hindu temple. Innocent Hindus were; pulled out of a bus and killed. When some of these facts leaked to the press and some of the newspapers carried these stories, Indira government announced it was not in the ‘“‘national interest” to allow freedom to press to this extent. Issues of news magazines carrying such stories were banned. Instead the official press every now and then poured out its own fabricated stories of
Some Hindus who never even existed
To have been killed by Sikh extremists. When the Punjab Police started discovering the game plan and refused to co-operate, it was time to push it aside and fill the state with Central Reserve Police. On February 14, 1984 the day when the Hindu Suraksha Samiti organized a strike, 70 bandits were caught red handed engaged in various acts of violence by the Punjab police in various parts of the state. Special envoys of Mrs. Gandhi came all the way from Delhi to coerce police and civil authorities in Punjab to secure their unconditional release.
Sikh Leadership Frustrated
Up against the meanest and the mightiest ruler of a “democracy” Sikh leadership was utterly frustrated. It repeatedly requested the government to order judicial inquiries into the killings and acts of violence blamed on the Sikhs. However all those requests were denied. No inquiry was ever ordered and completed simply because it would reveal the ugly hand of the government at work in all such cases and show who the real terrorist was.
Dubbed as Separatists
When all the tactics failed to ignite the communal fire that the ruling congress party wanted flared up to justify direct central control over Punjab, Mrs. Gandhi figured the only way to extinguish the flame of a potentially strong movement against her autocratic rule was to crush the Sikhs with an army attack. How could this be justified to the world? Obviously nothing less than the charge that the Sikhs were making armed preparations in collaboration with Pakistan to secede from India could do it. So the official press started spitting out vicious propaganda that Sikhs were ready to wage a war for a separate Sikh state called ‘Khalistan.’ The Sikh leadership repeatedly denied the charge and reiterated its specific charter of demands. But who would hear the voice of a minority group amidst the deafening propaganda made by Mrs. Gandhi.
The Ghastly Attack
On June 6, 1984 the Indian army directed by Mrs. Gandhi invaded the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines along with 40 other Sikh temples with all its might. The attack was planned and executed in the most treacherous manner. The army not only invaded the Akal Takhat to capture ‘‘Bhindrawale and a score of other extremists’? but also massacred the thousands of pilgrims staying in the inns surrounding the Golden Temple complex.
As Neerja Chowdhary reported in the statement based on her interviews with the survivors of the tragedy, the thousands of inmates (who had assembled there to celebrate the martyrdom day of Gurn Arjan Dev ji, the architect-builder of the Golden Temple) were ordered to come out of the rooms at 4 a.m. for safe evacuation but when they all came out grenades were thrown on them from all sides.
The politics of insecurity, fear and violence has been playing havoc in Punjab ever since. Simultaneously with the attack on the Golden Temple, Sikhs all over the state have been subjected to tortures and humiliation and put in jails without due process, not because they have committed any crimes but out of the fear that they might retaliate.
Hindu-Sikh Tension and Some Unanswered Questions
While the official propaganda machinery and the white paper does a remarkable job of making the white lies look like hard facts it carefully omits some pertinent questions related to the whole drama. Perhaps it is because of the official media’s confidence that by the time the whole operation was completed the masses would be so brainwashed that they would not question even some obvious inconsistencies. Indeed by June, even the most skeptical and sensible Hindu would ask a Sikh friend “Why were the Sikhs killing the innocent Hindus? Why were they piling up arms and fighting for a separate state.’’ The questions reflected a complete trust of the questioner in the official news media rather than in the response of the Sikh who expected his Hindu friend to ask him ‘‘do the Sikhs have anything against the Hindus? Is it true that you want a separate Sikh state?”’
There are a number of unanswered questions related to the Punjab case. Now that the ruling family has completed the heinous act it thought was needed to enthrone its third generation, some of the questions may only be of academic interest. But nevertheless it may be useful for someone interested in the Punjab case to seek answers to at least the following questions:
- Were any judicial inquiries conducted into the acts of violence and killing of Hindus by the so called Sikh extremists? If not, why? If there were any inquiries what were the findings?
- What were the charges against Bhindranwale?
- Did he commit any crimes and during what period?
- Did the government try to arrest and prosecute Bhindrawale for any charges against him before he moved to Akal Takhat in 1984?
- How did the huge quantities of foreign made arms and ammunition get into the Golden Temple when the whole complex had been under massive surveillance by the Central Reserve Police for the last 2 years?
- Were the alleged acts of violence against the Hindus committed inside the Golden Temple or outside? If there was violence outside should the government have tightened its own law and order system or invaded the Golden Temple?
- Why was the press banned from the entire scene? Why are independent observers still barred from interviewing the victims?
As one would immediately discover there were no inquiries ordered into violence or killings because of the simple fact that they were all government sponsored. The hard fact is that the Gandhi government had one and only one goal behind the whole operation to firmly re-establish its own dynastic rule by
Emerging as a savior of Hinduism and Hindustan. “Why not kill two birds with one stone, Madam,” some trusted comrades must have convinced Mrs. Gandhi. “‘Don’t you remember it is the Sikhs who were the backbone of the agitation against your emergency rule. They must be taught a lesson if you want the Center strong enough for Rajiv to take over.”
Violence breeds violence. The organized terrorism of Mrs. Gandhi finally descended on her on October 31, 1984. She is no more, but the????? Offer lust for power is very much alive. The victimization of Sikhs at the hands of Mrs. Gandhi to glorify her candidature in the forthcoming general elections, coupled with active or tacit support of her policies by some sections of the Indian population and the indifference of the rest has left the Sikhs completely alienated. The planned genocide of Sikhs by Rajiv Gandhi to avenge his mother’s assassination has given the Punjab issue new dimensions. Every Sikh wonders if India is his home any more. The concept of Khalistan which tickled the fancy of a handful is being perceived by an ever increasing number of Sikhs as a necessity for survival.
On the other side of the scale millions of voters have been thoroughly convinced that Indira and her offspring’s are the only saviors of Hinduism and Hindustan. Amidst the maddening cries, “LONG LIVE INDIRA” who cares to hear the sobs of Mother India whose map is being redrawn in the process? The few who do can always be silenced by the victorious politicians mumbling “HELL WITH INDIA.”