NEW DELHI, July 7, Reuter: Angry Opposition leaders today questioned Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s policies to Pacify volatile Punjab state where gunmen last night killed 38 north Indian bus passengers.

But in a rare show of unity the Opposition and the ruling Congress (1) Party met in Chandigarh, the State capital, and called a general strike in Punjab tomorrow to protest against the massacre.

Gandhi dismissed the north Indian State’s moderate Sikh government on May 11 and assumed direct rule over Punjab, saying Chief Minister Sujit Singh Barnala was unable to contain violence.

Now Gandhi’s ability to impose law and order over the prosperous farming State of 17 millions being called into question with more than 500 people killed so far this year in Punjab compared with at least 640 in all of last year.

Syed Shahbuddin, a Janata Party member of Parliament, told Reuters in New Delhi: “Every time the government claims the situation is under control and the Sikh freedom fighters are on the run, they strike to make their presence felt”.

“The basic approach of the government is wrong. You cannot terrorize the freedom fighters. There must be negotiations with all concerned”, he said, adding: “The vast majority of people in Punjab are not separatists. There is an area of agreement”.

More than 70,000 police and paramilitary security forces have been on duty in Punjab since Barnala was sacked but killings and armed encounters continue unabated.

Punjab has been Gandhi’s biggest domestic headache since he came to power 30 months agaand halfway through his fiveyear tenure as Prime Minister it remains the biggest challenge to his authoity.

Since March, other events, mainly allegations of payoffs in arms deals and stunning defeats of Congress Party in State elections, have momentarily shifted focus from Punjab to Gandhi himself but the Sikh majority state has remained on the front pages of Indian newspapers.

Gandhi’s inability to untangle the Punjab situation was a major factor in last month’s rout of his Congress (I) Party in State elections in Haryana where a peasantbased party rode an antiGandhi backlash to power.

Punjab’s former Finance Minister Balwant Singh told Reuters in Chandigarh: “Earlier when such incidents took place, people demanded Barnala’s resignation. Whose resignation is being demanded now?”

“It is a total failure of Rajiv Gandhi’s central rule”, he added.

Last night’s attack was the third time gunmen had attacked bus passengers in Punjab. Twentyfour people. Mostly Hindus, were killed in an ambush last November and 14 others last July.

The violence has spread to Gandhi’s doorstep. Last month gunmen shot 14 people during shooting spree in New Delhi, prompted increased security measures in the already nervous capital.

The Khalistan Commando Force, one of the leading Sikh groups operating in Punjab, announced last week in Amritsar that it would kill Hindus and policemen unless the state government stopped killings of Sikhs in what police usually term “encounters”.

Since then nearly half a dozen policemen have been shot dead.

Such carnage in the past has led to Hindu backlash but political parties moved quickly today to prevent violent reactions.

Barnala, who sees his dismissal as unfair and hopes to be reinstalled as Chief Minister, led the move appealing for calm and saying it was a “trap laid by the enemies of the people”.

Marxist parties and some Sikh groups also joined in appealing for calm.

Kabira Jahan Gyan Teh Dharam Hai Jahan Jhooth Teh Pap Jahan Lobh Teh Kal Hai Jahan Khiman Teh Aap

When translated into English, it means where there is divine knowledge or spirituality, there is righteousness. Where there are lies, there are sins. Where there 1s greed, there 1s scarcity. And where there is forgiveness, there is God, When applied to the functioning of Sikh organizations, it could mean that the Sikh organizations should be based on divine knowJedge and spirituality so that they can be kept relatively free from lies. sins, personal greed, scarcity of resources and can practice to minimize dysfunctional conflict.

Article extracted from this publication >>  July 10, 1987

Article extracted from this publication >>