CHANDIGARH, INDIA, MARCH 8, REUTER: Sikh leaders condemned on Tuesday an Indian government threat to impose emergency rule in Punjab if Sikh separatists rejected its peace overtures.

Former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal denounced the threatened use of ‘draconian’ emergency laws in the Northern State where Sikh are fighting for a Sikh homeland. More than 330 people have been killed there this year.

Senior officials said on Tuesday the government had taken a calculated risk to take stringent steps if they failed to bring a political solution.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi last week freed five Sikh high Priests detained for nearly two years. He also released 40 of 350 Sikhs held without trial since the Indian army stormed the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest Sikh shrine, in June 1984, to flush out freedom fighters.

Badal said: “The government is adopting a stick-and-carrot policy. It has taken a small step by freeing the priests and 40 others but it has also threatened to use draconian emergency laws.

“We have a long war to fight and the release is only a small battle won. I apprehend more ruthless repression”.

Surjit Singh Barnala, Punjab’s moderate Chief Minister dismissed by Gandhi said “The government is not clear what it should do in Punjab. While we are asking fora political initiative, it is treating it as a law and order problem.

Emergency rule would allow more easily than at present for detention without trial and media censorship,

The government said this week it would amend the constitution to extend its direct rule of Punjab beyond the permissible period of one year which expires on May 10.

Article extracted from this publication >> March 11, 1988