Sikhs had to struggle for ten long years (1956-1966) to get the Punjabi Suba. They quite rightly feel that what is granted to other Indians as a right, Sikhs have to fight for it. When their magnificent contribution in the 1965 Indo-Pak War could not be ignored, Punjabi Suba was at last formed in 1966. But even that was not done in a straight forward manner. Chandigarh, the capital, became a Union Territory. The head-works and hydroelectric power stations were taken over by the Central Government and some Punjabi speaking districts were excluded from Punjabi Suba. Once again Sikhs had to start the struggle. The mentality of New Delhi is thanda karake khana (Cool it and eat it). Let the problems drag on. Vasantrao Naik, former Congress Chief Minister of Maharashtra once said openly, “How do I solve the problems? I just do nothing. The problem is bound to go away” i.e., people are bound to get fed up with agitation or get used to putting up with difficulties.
On three separate occasions when agreement with the Akalis was in sight, Mrs. Gandhi withdrew at the last moment. When the Akalis saw that prolonged peaceful struggle yielded no results, talks with Indira Gandhi lead to nowhere, government assurances were never fulfilled, a sense of frustration, helplessness and bitterness must have set in. The extremists were bound to take over and the moderates had to shift to extremism in order to maintain their position and remain as leaders.
Many well known persons like V M Tarkunde former Judge of Bombay High Court, have remarked – If Bhindranwale is arrested Longowal, Badal and Tohra can influence the moderate opinion and negotiations can be peacefully concluded. But this would strengthen the Akali Dal and that is precisely what Indira Gandhi would not allow. No matter what the consequences for India.
The politics of the Congress (I) was aimed at weakening the Akalis. Zail Singh was the Chief Minister of Punjab during 1972-77. Unlike the previous chief ministers, he came from Ramgaria (artisan) caste and not the majority Jat caste. In order to widen his power base and weaken the Akalis, he encouraged the activities of Bhindranwale and his ultra-orthodox intolerant followers. Akali-Janata coalition was in power during 1978-1980. In order to create a rift in the Akali Dal, a new faction called Dal Khalsa led by Bhindranwale was started with blessings of Zail Singh, Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi on April 13, 1978. In the year following, some policemen in Punjab went on strike and were dismissed. During the elections of 1980, Zail Singh promised to take them back if Congres (I) returned to power that promise was fulfilled. We can imagine what kind of police force Punjab had.
With his masters Zail Singh (then Union Home Minister) and Indira Gandhi firmly back in power, Bhindranwale openly attacked his opponents – the Nirankaris. Their leader Baba Gurubachan Singh and his aide were shot dead in Delhi on 25th April 1980. The killer, carpenter Ranjit Singh, escaped. All the 20 persons against whom warrants were issued, either belonged to the Jatha of Bhindranwale or were his relatives or associates and were hiding under his protection. Organised political murders were now appearing on the scene.
One year after this event, a well known journalist wrote – “Though the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has solved the murder case, it is almost certain that the killers will never be arrested because they are alleged to be in the protection of Bhindranwale. Besides, the State police is not prepared to involve itself in the case by arresting the culprits. Repeated pleas by the Governor of Delhi to the Punjab Chief Minister Mr. Darbara Singh and the letters written by the directors of CBI to the Punjab Government for help have been of no avail. The director of CBI wrote to State Government about ten days ago urging it to help the CBI by arresting the culprits and taking away their arms. But the State Government has not even acknowledged the letter. The present Lt Governor of Delhi, Mr.S.L. Khurana has again written to the Punjab Chief Minister pleading for the arrest of the suspects.”
The CBI has almost comp6leted the investigation and persons who are suspected in this case have been declared as proclaimed offenders. “It was on the orders of Indira Gandhi that the murderers were not arrested or disarmed.” And exactly 3 years later, she had the audacity to say that she had no alternative to army action!!
Sometime in 1980, Government of India issued an order that recruitment into the armed forces would from now on be on the basis of the population of individual state. And thus as Sikhs are less than 2% of India’s population, their percentage in the Armed Forces would drop sharply – from 15% to less than 2%. This is the height of absurdity. Gujaratis are 5% of India’s population. Are we going to see Indian Army with 50,000 Gujarati soldiers? Different people have different attributes and these must be utilised for the country’s good. Sikhs do not claim to be the only martial race but as long as they make excellent soldiers, they should be employed as such. It is only after this Government order that we hear about Khalistan.
In March/April 1981, on the day of Baishakhi, extremists of Dal Khalsa openly demanded Khalistan. G.S. Dhillon and J. S. Chauhan were present. Imam of Delhi Jama Masjid gave his blessings. (Why was he never arrested?). Indira Gandhi had sought the blessings of the same Imam for her 1980 election campaign and yet she had the audacity to say that there was really no alternative to army action in Amritsar.