CHANDIGARH, India: Will Mr. Surjit Singh Barnala continue as the Chief Minister of the East Punjab this year or will the Punjab have another spell of President’s rule is the uppermost question in political circles of Chandigarh.

According to political observers Mr. Barnala will not survive the budget session in March, while no one hazards a guess as to what the situation under President’s rule or any other Akali Chief Minister would be like.

These circles are of the view that Mr. Barnala may even be asked to step down as President of the ruling group of Akali Dal.

Hardliners among Mr. Barnala’s followers appear to have an upper hand in party affairs. They are likely to force him to start agitation against the Centre.

These militant postures apparently, are meant to counter the challenge of the Badal Akali Dal which continues to function despite detention of some of its top leaders.

The stalemate over the Jodhpur detainees and punishment awarded to certain Army deserters has also been irritating. Murder and mayhem continue unabated.

Meanwhile, according to the Indian Express the Eradi Tribunal is expected to pronounce its verdict on the river waters dispute between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan during the current month. Any decision which Punjab considers contrary to its interests will invite stiff opposition from the Badal group. The rival Dal’s leaders have made it clear that they would not accept any verdict of the Tribunal which “robs” Punjab of its riparian rights.

The delegation of more powers to paramilitary forces deployed in the Punjab has resulted in the arrest of several Sikh activists. This step has also created resentment and hatred in the rural areas. Besides, the excesses committed by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on residents of Brahmpura village in the Amritsar district, recently, while searching for a Sikh activist, have also created much hatred among the Sikhs.

The wounds inflicted on the Sikhs by the Hindus outside Punjab during riots in November, 1984, have not healed yet as no action has so far been taken against those responsible for the large-scale massacre of the Sikh families.

The situation in the Punjab now looks more alarming and complicated than the one which obtained in the State following the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar five years ago.

Article extracted from this publication >>  February 6, 1987