Whether they want to revive terrorism or not, it is up to them. This country has suffered a lot due to terrorism. I do not know whether they are reviving terrorism or not. If so, they should introspect.” These were the confused words of India’s home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, recently while speaking to reporters at the Attari check post in reference to the Akali Dal when asked about the Punjab Congress’ allegations that the memorial to Operation Blue Star militants coming up at the Golden Temple could revive terrorism in the state.
The statement raises several disturbing questions. The Union home minister who controls the intelligence apparatus in the country professes that he does not know whether terrorism is being revived and leaves it to the ruling Akali Dal to decide whether it wants it revived or not. What a shocking abdication of responsibility by a person whose prime task is to combat external and internal threats to the country’s integrity. Can we trust such a weak-kneed and spineless person at the helm of the country’s security?
If there is an effort by Pakistan’s ISI to re-ignite Khalistani terror in Punjab, as is being claimed by intelligence networks, the minister ought to be in the most pro-active mode. Is Shinde capable of delivering on this crucial front?
It is common knowledge that a spineless prime minister acquiesced in the appointment of Sushil Kumar Shinde as Union home minister because he is Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s protégé. Former President of India Pratibha Patil who proved to be one of the country’s most disastrous presidents to date, had also been handpicked by Sonia Gandhi with not a murmur from within the Congress.
The signals that are emerging of youth in Europe being indoctrinated by Khalistani elements, in collusion with the ISI, to prepare them for subversion in India are far too disconcerting to be treated lightly.
So deeply has politics got enmeshed with even the country’s security that the dominant political party in Punjab, the Akali Dal, has been taking one shocking stand after another to pander to the extremists. Before the Assembly elections, a few months ago, it made an impassioned plea to the president to grant clemency to death row convict Balwant Singh Rajaona who had engineered the blast that killed the then chief minister Beant Singh who was successfully combating militants in terror-infested Punjab. Rajaona has made no bones about the fact that he had masterminded Beant Singh’s assassination and has been consistently refusing to appeal to the president for commuting his death sentence.
More recently, the Akali Dal acquiesced in the Sikh Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee’s decision to build a memorial within the Golden Temple complex to those militants who had been gunned down by the security forces in Operation Blue Star in 1984.
A few days ago, the same SGPC honoured the next of kin of the killers of General Vaidya who was the army chief when Operation Blue Star was conducted. They were felicitated, given saropas, which is the traditional way of honouring and the two assassins were declared martyrs. The Akali Dal looked the other way.
What of the BJP that has always sought a hard line against terrorists and is the partner of the Akalis in the Punjab government? Other than some feeble protests, more for the record than anything else, the BJP has been ominously silent on these moves and has steered clear of criticising the Akali Dal or threatening to pull out of the coalition. All the bravado of fighting terror has disappeared when it is sharing power. It is indeed a shame that the BJP has not told the Akali Dal that it would pull out of the Punjab coalition if the Akalis persist in continuing with their appeasement of groups glorifying terrorists.
The assassination bid in London on Lieutenant General (retd) K S Brar, commander of the army contingent that stormed the Golden Temple in 1984, has shocked the nation. Brar himself has pointed the finger of suspicion at secessionist Khalistanis who were seeking to avenge the killing of Bhindranwale and other militants. Even Punjab’s Intelligence Bureau chief Nehchal Singh Sandhu has indicated that Punjab is on the radar of the terrorists again.
Reports say an extensive fundraising campaign is being undertaken by secessionist Sikh groups in Europe and North America at the instance of the ISI to revive terror in Punjab. Terror groups belonging to Babbar Khalsa International and Khalistan Commando Force abroad are trying to radicalise Sikh youth by showing them doctored footage of Operation Blue Star and other propaganda material.
Besides, there are more than 50 social networking groups and over 20 websites that propagate an independent Khalistan and openly encourage revival of the movement.
Brar recently came down hard on both the Centre and Punjab. Criticising the building of a memorial inside the Golden Temple, he said: “Are they martyrs? They are not martyrs and you are honouring them, their families. The top politicians of the Akali Dal are attending these functions. No one is stopping this. The Centre says it cannot intervene because this is a state subject. What state subject? If it affects national security and unity, then state subject is not a state subject. The Centre has to step in and stop it. Otherwise, we are going back to the early 1980s.” On the other hand, no monuments were being built for soldiers and army personnel going beyond their call of duty to protect national integrity and sovereignty, he felt.
Without waiting for things to escalate so that they can conveniently blame the Akali Dal-BJP government in Punjab, the Centre must move to strengthen intelligence and bolster defences in the state. The Punjab government must be told that it must either cooperate or face the consequences of non-cooperation.
Rarely does a state or country that is in the grip of terror come out of it as Punjab did. The reason was that people at large were not for secession and wanted peace and tranquillity. Despite several attempts to drive a wedge and engineer riots between the Sikhs and the Hindus, communal peace had been maintained in Punjab even in the worst days of terror. Politicians will ruin the state if they have it their way. It is for the people to remain watchful and to thwart evil designs of the ISI, anti-national groups working overtime abroad and their sympathisers within.
Kamlendra Kanwar is a veteran journalist and author.