PUNJAB TODAY, ON THE EVE OF THE 32ND ANNIVERSARY OF 'OPERATION BLUE STAR'
As an ex Intelligence / Police officer, I am not unduly worried on the eve of the 32nd anniversary of the Operation Blue Star. I was in service in 1984 and had joined the Intelligence Bureau of the Government of India as a very junior officer. Though the operation was being planned and coordinated at the highest possible level but bits of information did percolate down, particularly to the Control Room where I had to visit off and on because of official reasons. Control Rooms are the hub and nerve center of any setup and information, though often half baked and ill conceived, floats around adding to the general excitement which is often there, particularly in a crisis situation. And the Control Rooms of such supposedly top secret organisations always keep humming with excitement with one set of information or other pouring in continuously.
In 1984, when Punjab crisis was reaching one of its peaks, particularly in the aftermath of the killing of DIG Atwal in Amritsar, I was worried like hell on three counts, being a Punjabi, being a nationalist and belonging to Punjab cadre of the IPS. It was the commencement of turbulence. Now after 32 years, I am again worried like hell. I fear commencement of another period of turbulence. That period was primarily an offshoot of political ‘misadventures’ and I foresee turbulence again on account of certain political ‘misadventurism’.
Operation Blue Star had blatantly outraged sentiments not only of Sikhs but even of non Sikhs, including Hindus, as well because Darbar Sahib is equally revered by all. Recent trends in Punjab, have again been leading to resentment among a substantial section of population, particularly the predominant Sikh population.
Religious institutions have generally been the pivot around which Sikh politics revolves. Darbar sahib and Shri Akal Takhat Sahib are the supreme institutions. The struggle to 'free' them started in 1920s. It saw the birth of Babbar Akali movement and culminated in the passage of the 1925 Act. A substantial section of Sikhs both in India and broad feel that once again these institutions are being ‘grabbed’ by a section of politicians for their own selfish political ends.
This grouse started with allegations of a ‘systematic’ erosion of the authority of the Jathedar of Shri Akal Takhat Sahib and alleged ‘capturing’ of SGPC at the instance of some political circles. Allegations about the misuse of some ‘gurudwara golaks’ as also about the moral degradation and perversion of some SGPC members only aggravated their woe and anguish.
Disfranchising of Sehajdharies, howsoever justified it may be, has only led to resentment in a section of populace. Traditionally substantial number of both Sehajdharies and Amritdharies have common lineage. Several children of Punjabi families chose to grow hair and don the turban while some of them just chose to keep living their lives as per the Sikh religious tenets and having faith in Ten Gurus and in Shri Guru Granth Sahib. Segregation of Sehajdharies from Amritdharies led to resentment in all such families as also families of such Sikhs some of whose children had become ‘patit’, that is they chose to cut their hairs and abandon some of the holy ‘Ks.’ Though this division is seen by some as an attempt on part of some political interests to ensure their supremacy in the SGPC, which is considered as the ‘religious parliament of the Sikhs, but it is also said to have eroded social fabric of Sikh community. Some aggrieved Sehajdharies consider it as their ‘excommunication’ from the religion. Anyhow, it has led to a ‘schism’ within the Sikh society.
Viewed in this background, coupled with off and on reports about the arrests of potential militants, their movement and the continued known resolve of the Pakistan’s nefarious ISI, the situation is indeed worrisome. Those who recall pre and post 1984 situation are well aware that the militant phase of Punjab had two sets of ‘forces’ working on ground. One was the section which thought that they were fighting for an ideological cause; right or wrong, for I am no one to sit on judgement. The second section and which incidentally was more predominant and active; primarily consisted of criminals anti social elements, working either independently to stack in cash or working for certain political parties / organisations to add on to the general mayhem. This latter section also consisted of individuals working for certain influential officials as ‘Cats’ and bringing in both 'cash and laurels' to their employers.
And this latter category is once again hyper active in Punjab at the instance of the antisocial segment of the Punjabi polity and officialdom. These criminals, who are called gangsters in today’s parlance, own their allegiance no one but this anti social segment of Punjab’s polity and officialdom.
May god save Punjab...