New Delhi, India: Indian Prime Minister has invited the opposition leaders for a meeting on the eve of Parliament session beginning January 15. Parliament will meet for its opening session after Rajiv’s Congress (I) won a landslide victory in the general election, held in December, 1984. Rajiv was returned to power barely after two months of assuming the office of Prime Minister after his mother was slain on October 31.

 Rajiv intends to discuss three major problems confronting his government the complicated Panjab problem, the lingering Assam tangle and the issue of Centre State relationship. But of the three problems Panjab poses a real challenge to the stability and unity of the country. Sikhs have been estranged to a dangerous point through consistent mishandling and unconcealed hostility. Constitutional demands have been grossly distorted to project them as anti-national and separatist. On the other hand conceding even a few of these demands would be interpreted as an unnecessary appeasement and undesirable encouragement to separatist trends by recently whipped up Hindu fundamentalist sentiment. Rajiv cannot afford to ignore the sentiment that is solely responsible for the massive mandate in his favor. At the same time the continued stalemate in Panjab can spell colossal disaster. Rajiv will have to do tightrope walking. Indication of his thinking can be gauged from his keeping the Centre State relationship as a separate and independent item on the agenda of discussion. In doing so, he is trying to delink the crucial issue of autonomy from the Anandpur Sahib resolution. Other demands can be handled through eyewash solutions but the question of autonomy admits no such approach.

The question of Centre State relationship will be projected as a national problem involving all the states and would be referred to national committees and commissions. There would be endless discussions, marathon sessions and lots of political dribbling before the issue would ultimately be shelved as _ inconsistent with the Unity of India.

 Assam problem constitutes economic tussle between the native Hindu population and the Muslim settlers. The growing prosperity of the settlers has made the natives feel disinherited. They feel further threatened by the influx of refugees from Bangladesh. They covet the settler’s wealth and want them to leave Assam. Assamese want all settlers even those who have been residing there from generations to leave. Government wants to disenfranchise those refugees who have entered Assam after 1971. This does not serve the purpose of the natives as the economic dominance of the Muslim settlers would remain unaffected by it.

Economic tussle has been given communal color and Muslims are being mercilessly persecuted to force them out of Assam.

Article extracted from this publication >> January 18, 1985