Finding cause to celebrate after 50 years and 50,000 deaths


Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, May 24: November 1, 2016 is not a gazette holiday in Punjab as per the state government list. For some years, this day used to be a holiday, perhaps beginning nineties before it was dropped from the list of gazette holidays. This  day is a gazetted holiday in Haryana, perhaps since 1967 as it was on November 1, 1966 that Haryana was carved out of Punjab. The Akali Dal at first decided to celebrate the acceptance of the demand for the creation of Punjabi Suba for which the party had launched the agitation beginning 1955 that is known as the first Punjabi Suba Morcha.

However, within hours of the announcement, the realization dawned upon the leaders that it was not a cause to celebrate. The Akali Dal working committee at its meeting on December 5, 1966 decided to observe December 12 as the ‘Black Day’ and gave a call for state-wide hartal against discrimination with Punjab while re-organising the state under Punjab Re-organisation Act, 1966. At the same time, party president Sant Fateh Singh announced the decision to go ion fast unto death. The issues whose genesis is traced to this re-organisation continue to be part of Governor’s Address to the Assembly asking the centre to redress these grievances. However, now the Parkash Singh Badal government and the Akali Dal has decided to celebrate the same, perhaps implementing the first decision taken by the Akali Dal after the re-organisation was implemented as the first reaction.

It is after 50 years that the Akali Dal has changed it perception with its core committee making the announcement to celebrate the creation of Punjabi Suba. Two of the demands on which the Akali Dal launched its agitation on August 4, 1982 included transfer of Punjabi speaking areas and Chandigarh to Punjab  and handing over of dams and headworks to the state and redistribution of river waters as per national and international rules. The violence that hit the state consumed about 50,000 lives over the period ending 1995 going by the rough estimate.

The statement released after the meeting of the Akali Dal core committee on May 23, 2016 stated: “The 50th anniversary of the  Punjabi Suba , the formation of the linguistic state  on the basis of Punjabi language, would mark the onset of    "the Year of  Punjabi Pride and Resurgence", ( Punjabi Gaurav da Varrah)   highlighting various chapters of the history of Punjab and of the long and hard struggle which Punjabi had to wage to create a region in which Punjabi language and culture could flourish freely. A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the Core Committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal at the residence of the SAD Patron-in-chief and Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Parkash Singh Badal here this evening.”

It is apparent that realising the tsunami of anti-incumbency confronting the Akali Dal, the leaders are groping in the dark in search of some effective agenda, especially in the Panthic domain. While development has emerged as a major plank in the recent elections in five states, the same may not work in Punjab despite Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal promising moon to the people. Mohali was to be the most modern city. There is little change. Amritsar was another priority but the city continues to get dirtier and dirtier. Sukhbir should walk about 100 metres away from the Golden Temple complex incognito or go around the areas near the railway station to know the reality. These are the prime areas. Perhaps he does not even know that Katra Ahluwalia in front of the Golden Temple could be part of Amritsar heritage but its narrow lanes are dirty.

Before the core committee meeting, the celebration programme was finalised at the cabinet meeting. The statement issued after the meeting stated: “With a view to commemorating the 50th anniversary of Punjabi Suba in a befitting manner, the Punjab Cabinet today gave approval for organizing a series of state level functions across the state from now onwards till November 1, 2016. This decision was taken in the meeting of Council of Ministers chaired by the Punjab Chief Minister Mr. Parkash Singh Badal here at Punjab Bhawan this evening. Disclosing this here today, a spokesperson of the Chief Minister’s Office said that these state level functions and other programmes to be organized during the aforesaid period to apprise people about the relentless struggle launched by the Punjabis for the creation of Punjabi Suba. The Cabinet also gave nod to constitute a high level organizing committee to chalk out various programmes for this purpose.”

Very interesting.


Jagtar Singh


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