December 24, 2018 | By Kanwarpal Singh
When the chief minister of a state uses the editorial columns of a newspaper to vent his imagined fears and political chauvinism, it is necessary to take notice and respond. The December 19 opinion piece in The Tribune, “General, your slip is showing” by Captain Amarinder Singh is a parochial attempt to be more loyal than the king.
Amarinder Singh brags about his police strength without mentioning their prowess to fire shots at the Pakistan security establishment, unmindful that the Kartarpur corridor may become a casualty in the process and that would deeply hurt this cherished dream of Sikhs in particular and Guru Nanak Naam Levas in general. He is a captain, a Maharaja and a Chief Minister all rolled into one when he assumes the mantle of being the pursuer of peace through his tirade of Pakistan allegedly fighting a proxy war in Punjab.
The allegation of Pakistan instigating violence in East Punjab is a time-tested tool being used by the Indian state since the eighties and this finds a mention in Amarinder’s biography too published two years ago.
His present rhetoric is only repeating the old mantra to foist anti-Pakistan sentiments for his present political ideology. How easily the Chief Minister accuses the Akalis for the 35000 killings (unsubstantiated and out of thin air) in the state totally absolving the Congress and the blanket impunity to kill granted to the police and other security agencies by the Congress Governments and their proxy governors?
After the acquittal of Nirankaris who fired upon peacefully protesting Sikhs in Amritsar on 13 April 1978, Sikhs engaged in an armed struggle to protect their identity and roots. Initially the struggle was to avenge the sacrilege and it was directed against the state because it was the state which was flagrantly promoting and protecting the heretical pseudo-Nirankaris.
Sikhs have an orgnanic relationship with Pakistan as the founder of the Sikh faith –Guru Nanak Sahib was born in Nankana Sahib and immersed with the Almighty at Kartarpur Sahib, both in present day Pakistan.
Sikhs burnt their bridges with Pakistan after the country they chose to join in 1947 had attacked their holiest shrine Darbar Sahib in June 1984. As far as the Indian allegation of friendship between Pakistan and Khalistani Sikhs is concerned, let me quote US president Abraham Lincoln who defined friendship as, “two persons having the same enemy.”
Amarinder Singh imagines many fears and feeds falsifications. The barbed wire fencing on the Indo-Pak border could also not deter Khalistani fighters in 80’s and 90’s, who were determined to cross it and this is known very well to the Indian security establishment. They did not required Kartarpur corridor for that matter.
The chief minister of Punjab will do well to digest that the Kartarpur corridor is a corridor of faith. It is neither a passageway to peace between the two nuclear-power hostile countries nor a design of the Pakistan army as perceived by Amarinder and his Delhi bosses. It has the potential to revive engagement on a people to people basis on both sides of the fence and reduce tensions and build hopes, provided there is a cessation of shooting imaginary diatribes and allegations.
The chief minister has referred to the increased police strength of Punjab as a challenge to Pakistan and its army. What a childish statement! Increased numbers of security forces do not win wars for nations anymore. A political resolution of the conflict is the solution. India has deployed more than half a million army and other security personnel in Kashmir to counter Kashmiri insurgency. Have the numbers been able to kill or cow down the Kashmiri struggle for liberation? Has it been able to contain the insurgency? The more the security forces, the more is the disturbance and casualty of ordinary civilians.
Amarinder Singh and the police establishment of Punjab is engaged in creating a large than life image of Gurpatwant Singh Pannu. The Sikhs for Justice group has captured the imagination of the Diaspora through his 2020 referendum call, but it has no representation in Punjab.
The idea of referendum is in consonance with the freedom aspirations of Sikhs. It is democratic in essence and as per the UN treaties and conventions. The demand for right to self determination is neither unlawful nor a crime. Rather branding or name-calling the idea is unjustified, illogical and against international laws. A section of Sikhs (their strength has not been ascertained as yet) is a votary of right to self determination for Punjab and they are well within their rights to pursue the same through peaceful and democratic means. Dal Khalsa and Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) have been espousing the cause of self-determination yet they have questioned the practicality and feasibility of the notion of SFJ’s 2020 referendum.
What is India afraid of? What is Amarinder Singh frightened of? True democracies do not equate referendum calls with terror and do not detain people who support such attempts. It is another matter that there is little understanding that the SFJ call for referendum has no endorsement by the United Nations or the occupying country. Why this hue and cry?
To cater to his broad constituency, the Punjab chief minister does not have to play with the sentiments of the people. He should concentrate on good governance and fulfilling poll commitments. This will be good for his health and that of the state and of course, of the people too.