Millennium Post

Akali Dal’s opportunism

'Haryana is where action is'. The slogan was coined by Bansi Lal’s brain trusts in the early seventies to project Haryana’s big strides in development after his taking over as Chief Minister in 1968. The slogan is now applicable to Punjab though in a different context. Here the action relates to the glorification of the armed militants who had converted the Sikhs' holiest shrine Golden Temple Complex and their revered highest temporal seat Akal Takht into their bastion for killing thousands of innocent Punjabis in the eighties. On June 6 the SGPC appointed high Sikh priests laid the foundation stone of Operation Bluestar memorial in the Complex and the Akal Takht Jathedar bestowed the title of
zinda shaheed
(living martyr) on the assassin of former CM Beant Singh who had restored peace in the terrorist-hit Punjab.

The two actions have brought back the memories of the dark chapter of India’s history which the people had tried to forget. These have raised some vital questions. For instance, are the decisions to build Operation Bluestar Memorial and declare Rajoana as living martyr justified? What is the stand of the ruling Akali leadership on building the memorial and honouring Rajoana? Will the two actions affect the equation between the ruling allies Akali Dal and BJP?

Those who supported the decision to build the memorial argue that it is for 'hundreds of innocent devotees who were trapped in the Golden Temple and lost their lives during the Army attack in 1984.' Well, nobody would have taken exception – rather everybody would have appreciated the decision - to build the memorial had the objective of the unfortunate Army attack on the Temple Complex been to kill the devotees. But can the critics of the Army attack deny that the aim of the attack was not to kill the devotees but to throw out the heavily armed Pakistan-backed separatist militants occupying the holiest place from where they were ordering killing of innocent Punjabis, most of them Sikhs?     

The critics should also explain why they are not building memorial for the thousands of peace-loving innocent people whom the terrorists had killed in Punjab during the eighties. Those who decided to bestow the title of zinda shaheed on Rajoana should also tell the people whether they would also honour the killers of Sikh army officers fighting the national battle against the Pakistan-trained terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.  

Nobody should have any misgiving about the hypocritical stand adopted by the top ruling Akali leaders on the memorial and Rajoana issues. The deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal first said 'Hundreds of innocent devotees who were trapped in the Golden Temple lost their lives during the Army attack in 1984. What is wrong if a memorial is built for them?' But later he distanced himself from the memorial saying that 'the state government has nothing to do with the memorial (who had said that the government was overtly backing the construction of the memorial?) adding that it was the project of the SGPC and the Damdami Taksal.' Whom is Sukhbir trying to befool? Nobody needs to be told that it is the chief minister and Akali Dal’s patron Parkash Singh Badal who controls the SGPC through his nominees. And it is the SGPC which appoints the Sikh high priests who laid the foundation stone of the memorial. It is also the SGPC which appoints Akal Takht
who bestowed the title of zinda shaheed on Rajoana.

The ruling Akali leadership had sought and got the support of radical Sikh bodies like Damdami Taksal and Sant Samaj to win the Assembly elections. Now it is submitting to the extremist elements by constructing the memorial and honouring Rajoana. Apparently unnerved by the attacks on their stand on the two issues the Akali leaders now seem to be feeding their critics with the thesis that their stand on the two controversial issues is designed to neutralise the hardcore militants!

History teaches lessons but cannot make the unwilling to learn them. Those behind two controversial decisions of June 6 have either not learnt any lesson or have unlearnt the lessons of the 1980s. One need not remind the ruling Akali leadership that such like mindset and actions as theirs adopted by some senior Congress leaders of yesteryears, particularly Giani Zail Singh, which had encouraged religious extremist elements and were instrumental in creating a situation conducive for the birth of terrorism in Punjab. Till today the state has not been able to fully recover from the disastrous consequences of the 1980s.          

One is surprised at the soft reaction of the BJP leadership to the Akali leaders’ covert backing of the 6 June actions. Despite its close rapport with Parkash Singh Badal the BJP’s central leadership failed to prevent the Akali supremo from allowing his SGPC and the Sikh clergy to go ahead with the decision to construct the memorial and honour Beant Singh’s assassin.

Despite the conflicting stands of Punjab’s ruling allies on the two issues and the reports about the BJP leadership’s worry over the Akalis attempts to expand their base in the BJP’s urban strongholds, there is no possibility of the two allies parting ways. The reason: they need each other for riding to power in Punjab and New Delhi.

Lust for power acts as adhesive to bind disparate political forces!
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