Thursday 29 October 2020

Fixing accountability for Operation Bluestar is the real issue, apology a diversion

- Posted on 07 June 2019

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, June 7: Raising of  certain issues relating to Operation Bluestar by those associated with House of Badals  without any commitment is as meaningless as demanding apology for this attack on the Sikhs without fixing accountability.

That the army action in the Darbar Sahib complex in June 1984 was ordered by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is only one dimension of that deadly and brutal politics.

The issues that have been raised include apology for this army attack, making entire record public and the demand for return of the artefacts and rare books and manuscripts that were taken away by the army from the library housed in the shrine.

It was also ‘heartening’ to read rare tweets on June 4 from husband-wife team of Akali Dal president and party MP Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife and Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal paying tributes to the martyrs. It may be mentioned that all others who contested on the Akali Dal ticket in the Lok Sabha election lost with some even having been pushed to the third position.

Sukhbir and  Harsimrat paid tributes to the “defenders of Akal Takht” perhaps for the first time.

However, both of them stayed away from the June 6 anniversary that was observed at Akal Takht. This function is organised by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee every year. Sukhbir has never attended this function although he  has been the Akali Dal president since 2008.

Their absence from this function  has to be seen in the context of House of Badals to which the Akali Dal has been reduced to contesting the May 19 Lok Sabha election on the issue of Operation Bluestar to counter the onslaught related to sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in 2015. The Badal couple has termed their victory as defeat of those politicising the sacrilege issue.

Akali Dal patron and 5-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has participated in Operation Bluestar anniversary function only twice, once in 1986 after parting company with then chief minister and Akali Dal president Surjit Singh Barnala.

The issues that have now been raked up again should be contextualised in August 1997 statement of Badal  dropping the party promise to order high level probe into that narrative on the logic that it would “reopen the old wounds”. His associates  defended that backtracking saying it was a conscious decision.

Now raising the issues relating to Operation Bluestar that at one time was perceived to reopen the old wounds smacks of stinking political opportunism to which this second oldest party having glorious history has now come to be identified with since 1996.

It is in this context that the issue of accountability become important. Apology  alone would not mark the closure of this tragedy that was a heinous crime. Moreover, it is a diversionary tactic.

Were there people from the Akali Dal too who collaborated with Indira Gandhi in this crime? Only a high level probe might provide the answer but one can’t be sure.

Even the basic issue of number of casualties in Operation Bluestar is not known. The state government could have probed at least this aspect. Badal completed three full terms as the chief minister beginning 1997. Was any attempt made to uncover the facts as post mortem was done on most of the dead bodies?  This record should be with the state government.

Badal failed to tell the people as to who signed the file to requisition army and it is the retired officers who were directly involved who have now spoken out. It is otherwise a minor issue  as the requisitioning was for the entire state and not just for Amritsar and it was merely a formality.

Two of the demands made by these Akali leaders have to be seen in the context of the Akali Dal being the partner in the Narendra Modi government.

Release of the record entered the narrative in Punjab when papers from the archive relating to this operation were released by the British government in 2014. The papers referred to the advice sought by India for action in the complex.

The record is with the government and Harsimrat kaur Badal is part of the government.

So far as apology is concerned, although it means nothing ultimately without accountability, non-official resolution should be moved in the Lok Sabha by Sukhbir Singh Badal.

It is pertinent to mention is that it is of no consequence whether it is the Congress or the BJP that is in power.

Going by the record that is in public domain, the BJP too was complicit.

Lastly, the Damdami Taksal that  the battle commander Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale headed till his martyrdom, has demanded that he should be bestowed the honour of Panth Rattan from Akal Takht. The demand borders absurdity. Parkash Singh Badal engineered the much higher  coveted title of  Fakhr-e-Qaum Oanth Rattan.

Does the Damdami Taksal perceive Badal to be ‘hero’ bigger than Sant Bhindranwale going by the title sought?

Moreover, is any title would be bigger honour than the memorial that has been raised in the Darbar Sahib compelx dedicated to Sant Bhindranwale and his associates? Disgusting.

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