Naveen S Garewal, Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, June 5. June 6, 1984, the day the Army launched an attack (Operation Bluestar) on the Golden Temple. It has been 28 years. Why then has the SAD-led Government, into its third term, allowed a ‘Blue Star Memorial’ in the Golden Temple Complex to come up? The BJP, a SAD alliance partner, is strongly opposed to building such a memorial, but has kept quiet because of civic elections in the state.
Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also holds the Home Portfolio, finds nothing wrong with the memorial. He says: “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?” Apparently there is nothing wrong, except that it is the Damdami Taksal that is building the memorial with the support of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandak Committee (SGPC) and SAD.
It was the Damdami Taksal head, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala, who had moved into the Golden Temple complex along with his followers, fortified the Akal Thakt and took on the Army when it moved into the complex to liberate the holiest Sikh shrine. Though, the Army attack caused a deep emotional wound, it is only recently the SAD, which remained mum, has allowed the memories to be resurrected.
Developments, such as the SAD forming an alliance with the Sant Samaj, a predominantly religious body, and appeasing the Damdami Taksal during the post-poll phase can certainly be an attempt by the Akali leadership to neutralise the hardliners in Sikh politics by providing them an honourable return to the mainstream politics.
The re-emergence of fringe elements on the centre-stage of Sikh politics has led to several realignments and questions in Punjab politics. Started before the assembly elections to consolidate the Sikh vote bank by the SAD, the integration of radicals into the political mainstream has caused concern.
The inauguration of a series of historical monuments on the eve of Punjab elections was initially seen as a revival of the ‘Panthic Agenda’ (read appeasing the Sikhs) to draw political mileage. Though, denied by the Akalis, the timing and grandeur associated with the Sikh memorials did not leave much to imagination. But today, those watching Punjab politics want to know if the SAD was providing the radicals an honourable way to return to the political mainstream or are the radicals pushing their way back by bullying the Akalis.
Of late several important leaders of the Akal Dal Mann also known as SAD (Amritsar) that professes the cause of Khalistan have joined the Akali ranks. Organisations such as the Dal Khalsa have also returned to the mainline politics. But as of now, it is not clear if hardliners are being wooed back or the hardliners have the mainstream Akalis under some pressure.
While a memorial can be viewed as a move to please certain sections of society, but the decision to bestow the title of ‘Living Martyr’ on Balwant Singh Rajoana, the assassin of former Chief Minister Beant Singh, defies logic of the moderate Akali section. It is difficult to understand what interest can be served by eulogising a person held guilty of cold blooded murder and conspiracy.
The Akal Takht is the highest temporal seat of Sikhs and is directly under the SGPC. It is the SGPC that appoints the Akal Takht Jathedar. At the same time, the SGPC is controlled by the SAD. Therefore, to say the SGPC does not have the SAD approval in honouring Rajoana would be misreading Punjab politics. The move at this juncture can only be seen as an attempt by the SAD to consolidate Sikh politics, now that there is no major threat to it in Punjab from the Congress.
The first major test for the SAD-BJP alliance would be the post-civic election reaction of the BJP to the “policy of appeasement” being adopted by the Akalis towards those who had once challenged the state. Will the Akali leadership be able to handle the situation they are trying to create in Punjab? Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal with all his experience will find a solution once he sees things getting out of control. There are not many in the ruling alliance who can boast of a similar expertise.
Amarinder doesn’t favour memorial
Chandigarh, June 5. President of the PPCC Amarinder Singh today said it was completely wrong to set up Operation Bluestar Memorial as it was not going to help the state in any way. He also condemned the attempts to glorify Balwant Singh Rajoana, convicted of murdering former Chief Minister Beant Singh. (TNS)