FOR several months many, especially Sikhs, have come to believe that at least some of the terrorist killings in Punjab have been caused, directly or indirectly, by various acts of omission and commission on the part of the Central Government. This suspicion was strengthened last month when The Indian Post and The Observer of London carried a report describing how last November some crates addressed to a nonexistent official in the Department of Telecommunications had been found to contain ammunition and a rocket launcher. The crates had arrived on the Indian Airlines flight from Kabul, and even as the police were about to begin an official inspection of the contents, a man claiming to be from Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) came and took away the crates saying that they were government property. The report was not denied by the Government, which opted for silence. A few days later, the issue came up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha, where several members, including General J.S. Aurora and Mr. L.K. Advani demanded an explanation from the Government. The members were apprehensive that the contents of the RAW consignment may have been meant for Punjab. Then, on May 4, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Mr. P. Chidambaram, made a statement in Parliament. He described the insinuation contained in the original report, that RAW might be up to evil in Punjab, as “preposterous and wrong”. But he did not deny that the crates not had  in fact , arrived and that they had contained ammunition and as reported, at least one rocket launcher. On the other hand, he appeared to justify the whole business by saying that the intelligence agencies did obtain equipment from time to time for research and analysis in order to keep abreast with developments in the world.

This leaves the question of whether RAW is planting arms and ammunition in Punjab unanswered. Several questions need explaining. Were the arms meant for arming one faction among the militants so that it may deal with the others? Were they meant for some groups in Bangladesh? President Ershad has already alleged that India is arming some groups hostile to him. Since the crates were sent by someone in Kabul, the contents were probably of Russian make. If so, Mr. Chidambaram’s explanation that intelligence agencies import weapons to keep abreast of developing rings very hollow. For are we not importing weapons from the Russians by the shipload through perfectly straightforward and legal means? Why did RAW have to go to such lengths when all it had to do was to request the Army HQ? There is also the curious fact that so far rocket launchers were said to have been used against the CRPF post on March 21, which just happened to be the day before the 59th amendment was to be, and eventually was passed. And the 59th amendment having been passed, we stopped hearing bout, rocket launchers, and Stinger missiles etc., Until the Government gives a more convincing explanation of coincidences such as these, and of such obvious oddities as the fact that while it claims to have the Golden Temple complex under the strictest surveillance, arms — in larger and larger numbers, and more and more lethal — continue to find their way to the inmates, the charges, now more and more frequent, about the intent and the role of the Government, will congeal into suspicion. After all, isn’t just what is happening in Punjab that fans such charges. Many recall how the killings escalated suddenly on the eve of the Tripura poll, and once the Congress (I) had won, subsided just as suddenly.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 27, 1988