OPINION: Do you support Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Punjab?

Published: October 21, 2012

Retired Indian lieutenant general Kuldip Singh Brar is escorted out of the Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport after his arrival from London in Mumbai on October 3, 2012. Indranil Mukherjee

GURPREET SINGH
RADIO INDIA

The recent attack on a former Indian Army General, K.S. Brar, in London has once again opened up old wounds.

Brar was instrumental in a controversial army operation that was launched to flush out religious extremists, who had fortified the Golden Temple Complex, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs in Amritsar in 1984.

Dubbed as Operation Bluestar, the military assault left many dead and the buildings inside the shrine scarred with bullets and heavy shelling, sparking angry protests from Sikhs across the world.

Brar was allegedly stabbed by Sikhs during his private visit to London. two people have been charged.

The attack coincided with ongoing attempts to build a monument in memory of both the militants and innocent civilians who died during the Operation Bluestar. This is an initiative of the Akali Dal, a mainstream Sikh political party that currently rules Punjab and also enjoys hold over the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, an apex Sikh religious body that looks after Sikh temples’ affairs.

Ironically, the BJP, a Hindu nationalist ally of the Akali Dal, is seeking a memorial for the army officials who died during the battle. This speaks of political opportunism, a chance to keep both the Hindu and Sikh fundamentalists happy.

Operation Bluestar along with subsequent events, like the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, by her Sikh bodyguards and the anti Sikh pogrom engineered by Gandhi’s Congress party, were the result of the dangerous cocktail of religion and politics.

While the so-called secularist Congress party was behind the creation of the Sikh fundamentalist forces in Punjab, the Akali Dal, because of its own compulsions of religion-based politics, let these fundamentalists turn a religious shrine into a fortress.

Whereas the Congress was aiming to weaken the Akali Dal by propping up a parallel force, the Akali Dal was trying to use the same force to its own advantage. The Frankenstein monster that was born as a result of this experiment ultimately proved harmful to everyone.

Hindus and moderate Sikhs became targets of attacks by the Sikh militants. What the government thought of as a final solution to terrorism actually turned out to be a miscalculation.

Operation Bluestar bred more terrorism and violence, and alienated Sikhs from the national mainstream. The 1985 Air India bombings were also a fallout of these ugly events. A decade-long terrorist violence in Punjab left over 25,000 people dead. There was massive repression from both the security forces and the militants.

Though the peace has finally returned to Punjab, there is no closure in the lives of the people who died at the hands of the police and the Congress goons. Not a single prominent Congress leader has been convicted for the 1984 violence. Even the Akali Dal that promised to bring the guilty police officials to book and order a judicial enquiry into circumstances that led to the beginning of Sikh separatism has backed off from its promises.

Unlike Canada and South Africa where Truth and Reconciliation Commissions have brought some closure into the lives of aboriginals and blacks respectively, the people of Punjab continue to wait for an honest attempt to assuage their wounds. As a result, debate over a separate Sikh homeland or “persecution” refuse to die.

In places like Canada or London, the Sikh separatists have succeeded in indoctrinating a new generation of radical youth, whose point of reference remains the bloody events of 1984. The assault on Brar should be seen in a broader context of this new form of militancy outside India.

By failing to deliver justice, the Indian establishment has actually strengthened the hands of such sectarian forces. If nothing else is possible, at least a Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be established to bring a dignified closure in the lives of the victims of terrorist violence and state repression. This can at least shame those Indian politicians who played with the lives of innocent people.

What do you think? Go to http://gurpreetsingh.ca/blog/

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Sukh Hayre says:

These are comments I posted in regards to another story, but I think they are relevant here as well:

“When the rich wage war, it is the poor who die.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

The people of the Punjab may not like being part of India. What has happened in the past may not be right (just like the fact that you, me, and every other immigrant is here because someone’s land was conquered).

The people in the Punjab must live with the reality that geography dictates. The Punjab is a region with a population of 28 million people. India is a country with a population of 1.3 billion people. So, like it or not, if the rest of India wants to keep the Punjab (and its fertile lands) as part of India, there isn’t much that the people of the Punjab can do.

The Punjabi people may not like this, but they understand their reality. I think the problem they face is people who are once-removed from that reality (have escaped to the richness of developed countries), are still trying to fight for something they believe in, but the fight itself does not affect them in their daily lives (or the wealth and leisure they get to enjoy in their new “home” countries.

If shere punjab were to win its freedom back from India, then what?

From what I can see, this region would be land-locked.

How would goods get in and out of shere punjab?

Would that really be better for the people to be isolated from the rest of the world, unable to trade?

Would this new border-enforced isolation not give India the leverage to negotiate economic issues to India’s advantage?

Would the average person in shere punjab really be better off?

For example, how would oil get into shere punjab?

Or new cars, trucks, appliances, tv’s, etc.

And how would the goods produced in shere punjab be exported to the rest of the world?

Also, how would farm equipment and tractors get into shere punjab?

Flying all this stuff in and out of shere punjab would be excessively expensive.

And that would still not solve the most important issue in regards to the local economy, which would be the lack of access to oil.

Do you have a plan to deal with all these issues as well?

human says:

is the hindu govt ever gonna pay for over a 100 yrs of genocide of the sikh ppl? & still at it in diff ways

enuff z nuff says:

Listen human fight your battles in your Panjab or whatever you call it. Dont mess around in Canada. If you want to stay in Canada then better behave yourself else one day there could be serious trouble.

human says:

is the hindu govt ever going to pay for nearly a century long genocide of sikhs?

Sukh Hayre says:

What level of payment would you think is fair?

Please provide some specifics.

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