Army chief’s fear on revival of militancy in Punjab sends out multiple signals

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, November 5: Army chief in India is not known for making semi-political statements but General Bipin Rawat seems to be the exception.

His latest is his apprehension that it is not all well in Punjab saying attempts were being made to revive insurgency in the border state and this statement seems to be part of some design.  This leads to the conclusion that the situation is serious in the state.

He has referred to the “external linkages” and specifically talked of Sikh Referendum 2020 campaign from the US soil. In the process, he has provided legitimacy to this campaign by recognising it. None should be more happy than the SFJ people.

At one level, the positive dimension is that India has finally admitted that police solution has failed in Punjab and the army attack on the Golden Temple code-named Operation Bluestar in 1984 killing more than 1000 innocent men, woman and children in the name of flushing out militants led by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was a failure in the long term.

No exact figure of these killings has ever been provided by the government. Even the four Akali governments that ruled Punjab after 1984 have never addressed such issues.

The basic issues that provided fertile ground to militancy in Punjab continue to  exist. That situation has got further compounded as thousands of people were killed from every section of society during that turbulent period of a decade and a half. Somebody somewhere has to be accountable for it.

At the propaganda level, the campaigns to demonise Sant Bhindranwale and the struggle have failed miserably.

Sant Bhindranwale has his memorial in the Golden Temple complex and killers of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Army chief General A S Vaidya are “martyrs’, the tile conferred upon them from Akal Takht, the supreme seat of Sikh identity and  trans-border sovereignty of the Sikh doctrine that was created as a symbol of state power by Guru Hargobind.

This is one dimension.

The  other one is that of giving importance to Referendum 2020 campaign launched by Sikhs for Justice functioning from USA. This body held one conclave in London some weeks back but the participation was much less than the expectations of the Sikh organisations.

This referendum campaign is for self-determined status for Sikhs in Punjab but is not active in the state. The campaign should be rooted in the soil for whose people it has been launched. SFJ is non-existent in Punjab. This raises the pertinent question as why a person of the stature of army chief should take notice of such organisations.

This needs to be explained by the political leadership at the centre.

The obvious reason is that some sort of design is discernible in the run up to 2019 Lok Sabha election. Raising the issue of Ram temple at Ayodhya on the site of Babri Masjid is part of that design.

These are the tactics to divert election campaign from governance issues on which Narendra Modi has failed to come up to his own promises. Social tension is being unleashed in the name of Hindutva issues. Punjab has been part of the electoral dynamics earlier too at the national level.

It is for this reason that this statement of the army chief is multi-dimensional.

At the same time, the next part of the narrative is the closure aspect.

No effort has ever been made to deal with various dimensions and issues relating to militancy. Justice for the victims of November 1984 carnage of Sikhs is still being awaited even after 34 long years.

Even more important aspect is accountability for Operation Bluestar.  Indira Gandhi lost her life in that vicious politics.

The people of India must know as to who were the people responsible for such monumental blunders.

Rather than raising apprehensions about revival of militancy, the basic issues need to be addressed.

And Army chief must understand that political violence in Punjab is cyclical.

Jagtar Singh


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