AMRITSAR: Enticed by the strange lure of Politics and power, a host of relatives of militants – alive or slain – have jumped into the elections in Punjab.

Only a few members of the militants’ families are contesting on the ticket of the AISSF (Manjit) and the Akali Dal (Mann). There are many others trying their luck at the hosting as independent candidates.

For obvious reasons a majority of the candidates known to be closely related to the militants are in the fray for four Lok Sabha and 40-odd Assembly constituencies falling in the border districts Amritsar Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran.

Although it is difficult to ascertain the exact number of the candidates coming from the militants’ families it is now learnt that their number is much more than estimated earlier by official agencies.

In the border areas alone the number of such candidates is well above four dozen with most of them related to the little known or even innocuous militants

According to the available information more than 300 persons claiming themselves to kin of militants had submitted their applications to the parliamentary boards of the federation and the Dal led by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann Many had even brought written recommendation of underground militant leaders.

As both the federation and the Dal were to cope with a large number of their own ticket aspiring ambitious workers there was little scope left for accommodating the militant-sponsored candidates. Moreover the “tough” criteria laid down by the federation giving preference to the educated persons eluded the ticket to the illiterate or semi-literate family members of the militants.

It is learnt kin of the militants had filed their nomination papers despite the fact that most of the militant organizations had made know their stand not to participate in the elections. After having been denied the ticket from the federation or the Dal platform these candidates decided to go ahead as Independents.

Like the Akali Dal and the federation factions the elections have also set in a process of disintegration and confusion in the ranks of the militant outfits.

As of now only the Panthic Committee headed by Baba Gurbachan Singh Manochahal and its allied four militant are in favor of contesting the elections. These bodies are backing the AISSF (M) at the hustings.

On the other side of the fence are Sikh Students Federation (Mchta) and the Panthic Committee of Dr Sohan Singh and a combine of five powerful militant organizations who are keeping themselves away from the electoral process.

The stance the third Panthic Committee led by Wassan Singh Zaffarwal and its Force” to?. Another militant group of the ‘Akal Federation and the Khalistan National Army have adopted a neutral stand towards.

It is an open secret that even the lower cadres of the organizations opposing the elections are divided over the issue and a couple of them are fighting the polls by Proxy.

In the rural constituencies in the border region the candidates related to the militants are reported to have been propped up by the militant bodies known for their antagonistic stand towards the AISSF (M). Little? out to neutralize the federation candidates at the hustings.

What has prompted kin of the militants to jump into the election arena is mainly the case with which the candidates of the Akali Dal (Mann) supported by the militant organizations romped home in the 1989 Lok Sabha polls.

Then the results had defied all electoral logic and upset the poll calculations. However the things may not be a replay of the last elections this time because of the multitude of the militant forces and their conflicting stances.

In the Tarn Taran parliamentary constituency where the federation Chief Bhai Manjit Singh is contesting at least four militant-supported candidates are opposing him. Prominent among them is Mr Surinder Singh Kairon a former Congress leader and son of Mr Partap Singh Kairon He reported to be backed by the Khalistan Commando Force faction led by Paramjit Singh Panjwar. Also in the fray is Mr Amrik Singh a close relative of the slain KCF chief Kanwarjit Singh Sultanwind whose one of the brothers emerged victorious in the corporation poll in Amritsar.

Another senior federation leader Harminder Singh Gill who is General Secretary and brother-in-law of Bhai Manjit Singh is facing Mr Bohar Singh brother of top Khalistan Liberation Force militant Nishan Singh Makhu in the Zira Assembly segment.

Many of the militants are being put up by the AISSF (Manjit) or various factions of Akalis. But some others who were denied tickets by any of these organizations have decided to go it alone as independents.

Many members of the families of top slain militants have been put up candidates as the AISSF (Manjit) and Akali Dal (Mann) but many family members of the not-so-well known militants are also trying their luck.

Among the prominent militants or their family members in the fray are Balwinder Singh Manochahal a brother of Baba Gurbachan Singh Manochahal who leads a panthic committee and is the AISSF candidate for the Naushera Panuwan Assembly seat.

Among others contesting for the scat is one Charan Singh Nihang a brother of Madhar Singh Babbar a militant belonging to Babbar Khalsa international. He is seeking election as an independent.

Similarly Mr Manjit Singh president of the AISSF (Manjit) who is a younger brother of Mr Amrik Singh a close associate of late Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale would be opposed by a candidate from the well-known family of militants from the Tam Taran parliamentary seat. Amrik Singh Sultanwind of the family of Kanwaljit Singh Suttanwind the slain chief of Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) is also fighting the seat as an independent.

Mr Gurchel Singh Panjwar a close relative of Mr Paramjit Singh Panjwar of KCF would be opposing Mr Manjit Singh for the Valtoha assembly seat and also Dhian Singh Mand an ex-MP.

Balwinder Singh Sangha a brother of Sukhwinder Singh Sangha slain chief of BTF is contesting for the Tarn Taran Assembly seat.

Nirmal Singh Dhillon an accused in the Sant Longowal murder case is a candidate from the Ludhiana parliamentary constituency. Kamaljit Singh currently in Ajmer jail for hijacking the Indian Airlines Delhi Srinagar flight in 1984 is a federation candidate from the Patiala Parliamentary seat.

Karamjit Singh a convict lodged in Tihar jail for an attempt to murder Mr Rajiv Gandhi at Rajghat is a federation nominee for the Sunam Assembly seat. Mohan Inder Singh a top militant behind the formation of Canada-based International Sikh Youth Federation who was caught while crossing into India and currently in Ajmer jail is a nominee of the federation from the Amritsar (west).

Another member of Sultanwind family Milap Singh has filed his papers for Amritsar (south) Assembly seat. Bibi Pritam Kaur wife of Rachhpal Singh Fauji a close confident of late Sant Bhindranale is the Mann Dal candidate for the Amritsar South Assembly Seat.

For the Beas assembly scat three candidates belonging to militant families have filed their nominations. They include Surjit Singh father of Penta a top militant of Operation Black thunder fame mother of Hardev Singh Debu a slain militant of the area and Rajbir Singh Sarja whose militant son was killed.

Bohar Singh Makhu brother of Nishan Singh Makhu a top militant of the KCF is contesting Zira Assembly seat while the father of Tasweer Singh a militant has filed from Raja Sansi seat.

Others include Shamsher Singh and Bibi Bimal Kaur Khalsa brother and widow respectively of Beant Singh of assassin of Mrs Indira Gandhi former prime minister for the Ropar Lok Sabha seat. Shamsher is Dal (B) Khalsa is contesting as an independent.

There are many more candidates belonging to militant families who have filed nomination papers as independents. The reason behind this could be attributed to the fact that the Akalis and the federation had been preference to such families who suffered during the Sikh struggle. Such families thronged the offices of the Akalis and the federation to get nomination for the elections. In the absence of any nominations from the two organizations many have opted to fight it alone.

Secondly the hopes of an easy win like the November 1989 Lok Sabha poll have encouraged many to jump into the fray.

While the Panthic Committee (Dr Sohan Singh) and other militant bodies have decided to boycott the poll the militant leaders at the local level would be at loggerheads over the support of such candidates

However the civic poll in Amritsar has shown that while Harjap Singh brother of a slain KCF chief recorded an impressive win Lal Singh father of three slain militants fared badly in another ward.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 10, 1991