Never mix religious passion with politics. The concoction has always been highly volatile. Someone must tell the Akali Dal that. Not that they need to be told. The memories of the Khalistan movement should be sharp in the generation of leaders heading the party and they would be aware of the high price the country and the state paid for such low adventurism.
The decision of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) - it is controlled by the Akali Dal - to honour the killers of Army Chief General AS Vaidya is disturbing to say the least. It reeks of narrow political opportunism and poor foresight of the consequences such actions may entail. Obviously, the party is flirting with danger by pandering to the wishes of elements which it should keep a safe distance from.
On Wednesday, the body conducted a bhog ceremony in the memory of 'martyrs’ Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha. The duo had assassinated Vaidya in 1986 in Pune as revenge for Operation Bluestar conducted in 1984 to flush out pro-Khalistan terrorists from Golden Temple. They were convicted, awarded the death penalty and executed in October 9, 1992. The SGPC is also planning to erect a memorial for those killed in the operation, calling them `martyrs’.
The relation between the Akali Dal and the SGPC is hardly secret. By its actions, the party, by default or design, could be kicking alive a secessionist movement that has been uprooted from the country but is still alive in countries like the US, Canada and Britain. There’s reason to be worried since there are enough hints that the there are frenetic efforts to revive the Khalistan movement in the West. Third generation Sikh youths are being radicalised with incendiary propaganda and wage war against India.
There have been reports that secessionist Sikh groups in Europe and North America have undertaken huge fundraising campaigns to fund their cause. Security agency sources have reported that the activities of the banned Babbar Khalsa International and Khalistan Commando Force and Dal Khalsa have gained momentum in recent years. Pakistan’s ISI is believed to be playing a role in the mobilisation of the Sikh youth for revival of terrorism in the Punjab region. Worse, the movement is finding fresh converts too.
There’s no clear indication yet whether the pro-Khalistan groups are regrouping in Punjab but if they are it should not be a surprise. The anti-India forces have been mobilising support online too. There are media reports claiming there are close to a 100 websites dedicated to the new Sikh movement, some of which have been projecting Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the guide-philosopher of the Khalistan movement as a hero and Operation Bluestar as `genocide’. The recent attack on Lt General KS Brar in London is an indication that the groups are working in a co-ordinated fashion.
The Akali Dal by pandering to the religious sentiment of the ordinary Sikhs as a political strategy has indirectly been sympathetic to these elements who have been finding supporters in the vast mass of the unemployed youth in the state too. Not long ago, the Sikh clerics conferred the title of 'jinda saheeda’ (living martyr) upon Balwant Singh Rajoana, a Babbar Khalsa international terrorist convicted for killing former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh. The Akali Dal-led state government had also moved a mercy petition seeking the commutation of his death sentence. If the situation is allowed to progress then India could be in serious trouble.
This an issue of national security too. The Congress and the BJP have been correctly opposing the position of the SGPC and the Akali Dal on the issue of lionising those who waged fought a war against the country. The question is simple. Can the country afford another Khalistan movement? Should it allow the condition to fester?
Maybe things have not gone out of hand yet, but it doesn’t take long to do so. Somebody must drill some good sense into the politicians of the state and make them realise that they should not mix religion and politics.