CHANDIGARH: In the two Months it has been in power, the government has failed to check the rising tide of militancy in the state. In fact the Situation registered a progressive decline and even government employees have begun petitioning militants for mercy through advertisements in Punjabi newspapers.

The killing of eight members of a particular community in Amritsar district and the killing of seven, including five policemen, in Ludhiana district prove the militant’s ability to strike at will. Government sources apprehend that the recent spurt in selective killings of a particular community may spark off another wave of migration. There are reports of local migration in some parts of the border districts already.

In January this year, there were 110 militant killings. The number doubled to 226 in March, after an elected government took over after almost five years of Presidents rule. The number of killings has already reached 210 this month. Security forces have lost 106 men so far this year, 52 of them this month alone.

What has caused constipation in government and political circles here is the continued appearance of advertisements by people belonging to all walks of life appealing to the militants for mercy. One such advertisement which came up for discussion at a high level meeting of police officials, was an appeal issued to the militants by the engineers and staff of the Bhakra mainline. They expressed regret for not being aware that the militants were against the clearing operations of the Bhakra mainline undertaken recently. “We have made a mistake. We promise you that we will not commit such a mistake in future. We plead forgiveness for any mistake committed intentionally or unintentionally in the past,” the appeal said.

The advertisement follows the recent killing of two engineers and two laborers engaged in the cleaning operations. The Babbars, who had claimed responsibility for the killings, had opposed the functioning of the canal since it provided water to Haryana and Delhi apart from parts of Punjab. However, the killings had come at the end of cleaning operations and thus failed to make the desired impact.

A major handicap that the Beant Singh government continues to face is the unrepresentative mandate it secured in the elections which casts doubts on its legitimacy. Congress ministers have been avoiding visits to rural areas of the state and have drawn negligible audiences wherever they have gone. Villagers reportedly prefer to invite deputy commissioners for functions rather than ministers,

The government has failed to improve the industrial environment in the state. Government officials admit the flight of capital from the state. They confess that ho major industry is expanding on its existing units in the state,

But what has caused concern is the militants fresh offensive on the issue of Punjabi at in the state. Last March, militants gunned down 15 non-Punjabi engineers of national level firms on deputation to the Indian Acrylics plant in Sangrur district. The militants had left behind a note saying that they had committed the massacre because Punjabis were not being preferred for jobs.

Indian Acrylics Limited, an Rs 200 crore projects set up in collaboration with two US based firms, came out with a front-page advertisement, explaining its recruitment policy. The advertisement addressed to the militants assured that the management intended to recruit only Punjabis. It explained that only 25-30% vacancies had been filled by non-Punjabis because of the need for technical expensive.

Strangely, the government seems unperturbed by these developments. The secretary; industries, I.S.Bindra, admitted that he was not even aware of this development. The minister of state for industries was not available for comment.

 At another level the “popular” government is finding it difficult to the harness the bureaucracy and the police who are yet to reconcile themselves to politicians divesting them of their monopoly. At a recent meeting, several ministers and MLAs alleged that the bureaucracy was virtually out of their control and the government could not function till the state of affairs changed.

The governor, Surendra Nath, has reportedly told Beant Singh and his cabinet colleagues that they should remember that they do not in reality enjoy the mandate of the people. A senior minister, seeking anonymity, said the governor had asked them not to be misled by their victory since in reality they had won by default. He advised the chief minister that in the end it would be the level of violence that would gauge his success, The only consolation for the government is that both militants and the Akali groups too have little support among masses.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 15, 1992