Eighth report from the Sikh Federation (UK) National Sikh Convention
London – 24 September 2016
Punjab assembly elections in 2017 present a dilemma for those like the Sikh Federation (UK) who believe and campaign for the establishment of an independent Sikh homeland. None of the mainstream political parties fighting the Punjab elections next year are at the moment prepared or permitted to question the concept of India’s ‘national integrity’.
This despite a common appreciation at the lack of recognition and discrimination against the Sikh minority since independence in 1947, widespread human rights violations for the last 40 years with no justice for the atrocities, including an attempted Genocide and now the threat of assimilation into the Hindu faith.
In a properly functioning democracy these would normally be excellent grounds to argue Sikhs must be allowed to exercise their right to external self determination and establish an independent Sikh homeland.
However, the mainstream political parties in Punjab are all under pressure to address Sikh issues to secure votes and the elections are generating a lot of interest in Sikhs overseas. Complete silence is not therefore an option for an organisation like the Sikh Federation (UK) that people look to for direction on political matters.
Politicians in Punjab also recognise Sikhs abroad are more informed about the current problems in Punjab than many local people.
Sikhs in the UK, Canada, USA and other countries overseas exist in their millions and are considered as key influencers in the Punjab elections. There are villages and towns in Punjab, especially in the Doaba region, where almost every family has a few members living abroad. Sikhs abroad want better protection of their religious interests and many have family, businesses and other interests in Punjab.
Sikhs from the West will also travel in large numbers to Punjab during the winter vacations in December-January. This year it will coincide with state elections expected in January 2017. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alone hopes that around 50,000 volunteers from across the world will come to Punjab before the elections to boost the AAP campaign.
The jam-packed National Sikh Convention did not really allow the overall message of the Sikh Federation (UK) regarding the elections in Punjab to properly come across.
The only real choice at present for those who vote in the Punjab elections is as one commentator put it to “vote for the least worst mainstream political party” as there is no chance of successfully electing those committed to the ideology of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale that Sikh independence is the ultimate solution to all the problems faced by Sikhs.
While Sikhs in Punjab need to support individuals standing in the elections who are competent and committed to achieve Sikh sovereignty there is no doubt that many Sikhs having experienced the current ruling coalition of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and BJP alliance and previously the Congress want change and are considering the AAP as a better option.
Opinion polls conducted in August suggest AAP will take anything from 60-75% of the 117 members of the Punjab Legislative Assembly. Whilst opinion polls may be wrong and are subject to change before the elections, AAP are clear favourites, although they will be damaged by the recent infighting and controversies.
From the Sikh Federation (UK) perspective the one thing that is absolutely clear is Sikhs and the voters of Punjab should reject the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal)-BJP alliance and the Congress. Between them they were responsible for the assault on Sri Darbar Sahib in June 1984 and promoting human rights abuses and giving impunity to those responsible.
There is plenty of evidence that the Akali leadership in 1984 feared Sant Jarnail Singh Ji and desperately wanted to get back some power. Their alliance partner the BJP also has much to answer for, with L K Advani admitting in his book, ‘My Country My Life’ the BJP support for Operation Blue Star and the fact it had passed a resolution in 1984 wanting the attack sooner.
There is not a shadow of doubt the Akali leadership was responsible for inviting the assault on Sri Darbar Sahib in June 1984.
In 2014 it emerged Badal held a secret meeting with the then Union Home Minister P V Narsimha Rao, the Cabinet Secretary, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the Union Home Secretary in a guest house in New Delhi on 28 March 1984, wherein he sought military action on Sri Darbar Sahib to remove Sant Jarnail Singh Ji.
This alone makes Badal unfit to remain Chief Minister of Punjab.
Having been invited by the Akali leadership, the Congress government of Indira Gandhi was responsible for carrying out the military attack on Sri Darbar Sahib in June 1984 and used it to try and teach the Sikhs a lesson. It was the Congress centre who chose how and when to carry out the attack.
They timed the attack to coincide with the Martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, when thousands of pilgrims would have been trapped inside and chose to use the military, tanks and artillery to destroy the Akal Takht Sahib.
Congress took the opportunity that the Akali’s gave them to seal off Punjab and go from village to village arresting, torturing and killings Sikh men between 15-30 years of age, to slaughter a whole generation of Sikhs so they would never recover.
The Congress then led the Sikh Genocide of November 1984, although the BJP have also been implicated. What the Congress did in 1984 alone is unforgivable and we are confident the people of Punjab will remember this.
The record of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal)-BJP alliance and the Congress is equally as bad when it comes to support for the widespread abuse of human rights and giving impunity to police officers involved in extrajudicial killings.
Bhai Gurjeet Singh, the Press Secretary of the Sikh Federation (UK), told those at the Convention that a year ago revelations came in the biography of K P S Gill ‘The Paramount Cop’ about the close relationship between this mass murderer and infamous Punjab police DGP and Parkash Singh Badal. The book made clear Badal’s anti-Sikh role as the two would meet regularly in Sector 9 Chandigarh and conspire to hunt and kill a generation of young Sikhs.
As the elections approach in Punjab there is considerable patting on the back from Akali supporters how after 21 years Badal and the BJP have temporarily released Professor Devinderpal Singh Bhullar. However, it was an insult to the rule of law, when Badal again came to power in 2012 and promoted the infamous Sumedth Saini, who has been in and out of controversies, to become the DGP in Punjab.
This was despite his record of being accused of serious human rights violations including abduction, illegal detention and torture and is currently under trial for murder.
In July 2008 Sumedh Saini was indicted for his involvement in the torture of Balwant Singh Multani and Balwant Singh Bhullar, father of Professor Devinderpal Singh Bhullar. According to the 2008 FIR, both Balwant Singh Bhullar and Bhai Balwant Singh Multani were tortured during their detention. Balwant Singh Bhullar was tortured so badly he lost his mental balance.
In December 1991 Balwant Singh Multani and Balwant Singh Bhullar were picked up and interrogated on the whereabouts of Professor Devinderpal Singh Bhullar. They were tortured in the presence of and on the orders of Saini, the then SSP. On 2 February 1992, Balwant Singh Bhullar was arrested again and tortured.
He was unable to walk properly and eat anything. On the seventh day, he was segregated and taken away and believed to have been disappeared. Subsequently Saini claimed that Balwant Singh Bhullar had died a natural death and that Professor Devinderpal Singh Bhullar had tried to assassinate him.
The Congress record on human rights abuses is similarly poor. Following the excesses in the mid-1980s, Presidents rule was imposed in June 1987 until February 1992 after which Congress politician Beant Singh became Chief Minister in Punjab.
His tenure as the chief minister became synonymous with widespread human rights violations. Many reports estimate over 25,000 people were abducted and killed under impressions of fake encounters to please the Narsimha Rao-led Congress government in Delhi.
After two terms the Badal-BJP alliance is on its way out unless something dramatic happens in the next few months. They are held responsible for grabbing land and real estate and stashing away money in foreign bank accounts, while the people of Punjab face unemployment, the farmer crises, a failing economy and the drugs menace – supply of drugs and widespread addiction – that is destroying future generations.
Corruption allegations associated with sifarish (patronage, influence peddling and nepotism) and the use of goons in day-to-day matters is also highly prevalent. These factors together strike at the heart of Sikhi in Punjab and if not brought to an end threaten to wipe out the Sikh way of life promoted by the Sikh Gurus.
Sikhs that are supporting the Badals or have formed alliances with them should take a good look at themselves. The Badals may soon be out of power and could be finished with an uncertain future for their supporters.
Although Badal and his son who gained total control of Sikh religious power in 2003 following the death of Gurcharan Singh Tohra, hand picking presidents of the SGPC and the Jathedars of the Akal Takht, will try and hold on in the SGPC elections that should follow.
However, the handling of the controversial pardon of Gurmit Ram Rahim, subsequent withdrawal of the pardon following intense pressure and the lack of action following the beadbi of Guru Granth Sahib Ji in Bargadi and other places are indefensible and will result in much opposition in the SGPC elections.
Voters in Punjab need to use their vote wisely and vote for change. They need to vote for those who will give some form of justice for human rights abuses by prosecuting police officers and permanently release all Sikh political prisoners.
The newly elected Punjab administration needs to establish the truth of what happen to the Sikhs prior to and following the Sikh Genocide in 1984. Those elected also need to safeguard and promote Sikhi and make sure their actions are beneficial for the people of Punjab and the land of our Gurus.
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)
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