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Uk Sikhs Shows The Way To Their Indian Counterparts On Operation Bluestar

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UK Sikhs shows the way to their Indian counterparts on Operation Bluestar

Jagtar Singh

January 2, 2015

Chandigarh, The Sikh leadership in Punjab and Delhi has always tried to sweep under the carpet the sensitive issues that concern the community except when these are to be exploited during the elections to seek votes. However, it is the Sikh community in United Kingdom that is now setting an example by coming out with the Sikh agenda for 2015 elections there. The issue of Operation Bluestar, the biggest tragedy faced by the Sikhs during the last more than a century, is to be at the core of this agenda.

Going by the reports appearing in a section of the Media, the Sikh Federation which has a large following in England, has decided to demand inquiry into the role played by the Margret Thatcher government in Operation Bluestar. The Sikh community numbering about 700,000 is effective in about 50 seats. The Federation would come out with a Sikh manifesto for the elections to be held in May next. The Federation has decided to write to all the main political parties on the demands listed in the Sikh manifesto. The response of the political parties to this agenda would largely influence the decision making by the Sikh voters.

It may be mentioned that a storm had been created when certain papers were released by the British government relating to the advice sought by the Indian government in executing Operation Bluestar, the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by the army in June, 1984 to flush out Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed associates. Hundreds of innocent men, women and children were killed in that Operation that left permanent scars on the Sikh psyche. However, the Sikh leaders from time to time have been trading over this tragedy of immense magnitude. Despite that fact that Punjab is having fourth Akali Dal government, the exact number of the people who died is still not available. It is a different matter that the law and order is a state subject.

After Operation Bluestar, the next big tragedy was the planned killing of the Sikhs in Delhi following the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984 by her two Sikh security men. Sikh men were burnt alive and their women raped. Justice still eludes the victims. The Narendra Modi government announced compensation of Rs. 5 lakh each to the victims. But then this has to be seen in the context of forthcoming elections to the Delhi Assembly. The irony is while it is the BJP government that has announced the compensation, the Shiromani Akali Dal, the alliance partner, is just bargaining for a few seats rather than setting any Sikh agenda.

The Sikhs are decisive in about two dozen Assembly seats in Delhi. Articulating the Sikh view in Delhi are the Delhi Akali Dal, the Shiromani Akali Dal and then there is the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee. However, going by the past history, the concern of the Sikh leadership about the victims has only been superficial. The Akali Dal parades them in Punjab during elections. In Delhi also, it is the same exercise. For the last several years, these victims who participate in these demonstrations have started charging from the organisers after realising that it was their tragedy that was being exploited by these unscrupulous leaders.

The Akali Dal extended unconditional support to the Bharatiya Janata Party to form the government at the centre in 1996. Perhaps this was the biggest blunder. That was the time to dictate terms. For years, Parkash Singh Badal used to claim that it was only the Akali Dal that had extended unconditional support to the BJP and that the bond between the two parties was everlasting. That bond is now under strain. The people has a right to know as to who gained from that unconditional support offered by the Akali Dal when the party could press for judicial probe into Operation Bluestar and the November 1984 killings of the Sikhs in Delhi and other states.

But then even at the cost of repeating, it may be recalled that Badal backtracked from the poll promise of his own party in 1997 to order a judicial probe into the turbulent period in which thousands of lives were lost. This issue becomes all the more relevant now when the Akali Dal is exhibiting the pretence of going back to the Panthic agenda after harping on the development agenda for the last seven and a half years which has failed to yield any results.

The Sikhs are a global community and the Sikh issues are alive in UK, USA and Canada. Of course, the Sikhs have never looked back in history, even after Guru Gobind Singh made the supreme sacrifice by way of the martyrdom of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur and his four young sons, two of whom were bricked alive. But then Operation Bluestar and the situation that followed needs answers. The Sikh leadership in Punjab and Delhi has been characterised by escapism.

It is the global Sikhs who are now showing the way. It is time for the Sikh leadership in Punjab to learn some lessons. It is never too late.

Senior journalist and author Jagtar Singh is rooted in vast professional experience spanning more than 35 years, starting his career with The Indian Express in Chandigarh, the paper he worked with for about quarter of a century beginning 1978 covering religio-political dynamics of Punjab.

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