The performance of the Akalis, particularly during the past year, clearly proves that any negotiation posture (an Akali forte) with the Indian government is nothing but a situation full of serious traps. It is an attempt to divert Sikh politics of self-determination, so that it will run into sand, and the Sikhs will forget the idea of having a sovereign state. Sikhs in India are and always have been an asset to the country, but are often a liability to themselves. Any negotiations which perpetuate this liability are nothing less than utter self-destruction.
Now, Longowal, in his new posture, wants Rajiv Gandhi to agree to several demands prior to any negotiations. He wants the investigation of the Sikh holocaust that occurred after Indira’s assassination (a subject Rajiv considers to be closed), the restoration of regular military status of Sikh soldiers being tried for treason (a subject the Indian government is taking up in special courts), the release of all Sikh political prisoners (a subject the Indian government is taking up in special courts in Rajasthan) other matters such as just compensation for Sikh losses etc. (a subject the Indian government feels no urgency to take up), and many others which do not fit into the design of the Indian government. What could any observer make out of this? Since Longowal has not openly come out for the demand of a sovereign Sikh state, he is not currently a favorite leader of most Sikhs. Also, he has not used his authority to discourage radical Sikh politics, which the government of India wants. This demonstrates that he neither does good for the Sikhs, nor does he serve the interests of the Indian government, but rather seems to be a sort of excess baggage for both. For him to enter into any negotiation with such an ineffective track record would be futile; he would surely be seen to be chasing more rainbow than to achieve any real good for the Sikhs.
Rajiv is actually frustrated with the Punjab issue. His credibility is on the line because of the bold promise he made to resolve the Punjab issue, at the beginning of his tenure. If Longowal does not perceive this situation correctly and exploit it wisely, then he falls into the trap of some foolish negotiations and is bound to do even more harm to the Sikh cause, (God forbid).
Rajiv has appointed Mr. Arjun Singh, a Hindu from Madhya Pradesh, as governor of Punjab. (He was pulled out of Madhya Pradesh after only one day of being chief minister there.) He has thereby deputized him, in a way, to resolve the complicated issues of Punjab. Also, he has ordered Home Minister S.B. Chavan to head a three-man cabinet panel with Defense Minister P.V. Narasimha, and Education Minister K.C. Pant. They are to go to various parts of Punjab, as Chavan said, “we will give advance information to all local people so that if they have anything to tell us, they will have the Opportunity to discuss matters with us.’”’ Home Minister S.B. Chavanmust naively believes that Sikhs from all over are going to flock around him to tell tales of their sufferings. It is hard to understand that these minds still think that Sikhs have confidence in them, while the Indian army still occupies Punjab, and Sikhs are still from the wounds inflicted upon them by agents of the Indian government. The alienation felt by Sikhs is more than can be expressed in a morning darshan with a government official on a verandah. These men, being non-Sikhs (including the new governor, in spite of his misleading name ) do not and cannot generate deep confidence among Sikhs, to be effective. This may sound no secular, but this is the plain fact. This effort shows how Rajiv, while practicing communal politics in New Delhi can extend the same to Punjab. No allowance is made here for the fact that Punjab issues are far more complicated than what these men are supposed to do. (At least Rajiv could have chosen a moderate Sikh, who would have been, in appearance at least, more effective smoke screen). While Rajiv sets this up in a roundabout way to bring the Akalis to the negotiating table so that there is a dialogue in the Longowal presence. What will Longowal say? Since he has not come out in favor of a final solution for Sikh problems (a sovereign Sikh state), he is bound to talk in the air. If that is the case, then he will inevitably go back to working within the Indian union, and modify the Anandpur resolution, object to the Sarkaria commission perhaps, and also take up riparian and hydroelectric power problems, together with religious rights of the Sikhs whether they are protected from Hindus or not. Did he not go through all this before with Indira Gandhi? What was the result of all that? Repeating the same again, he could destroy the clear thrust of current Sikh politics. can’t he see the writing on the wall? Is there any way that Longowal can be made to understand Sikh politics and the nerve of this community or the political future and freedom of the Sikh religion? What does he think he would gain from pursuing this negotiation fraud? This indicates a serious lack of decisiveness, vision, and willingness for self-sacrifice on his part. Since he and his henchmen lack all these qualities to lead the Sikh community, they are bound to be at best ineffectual, and at _ worst, treacherous. Obviously, this can clearly serve Rajiv’s interests. Rajiv, as his mother before him, likes to engage the Akalis in such activities, as it serves a dual purpose: one is that Sikhs then appear to be engaged in serious negotiations to accomplish something, and the other is that it keeps Sikhs at the Indian governments back. On this path of the Akalis, there lurks a grave danger; for absolutely no real gains for the Sikhs. Then why should this Longowal farce is allowed to continue? Doesn’t one feel like a king who disgustedly remarked about a pestering Thomas “Can anyone free me of this priest?”
Article extracted from this publication >> March 29, 1985