Chandigarh, June 6: It was a solemn occasion to commemorate those who were killed during the army attack codenamed Operation Bluestar in the Golden Temple complex beginning June 4 and ending on June 6, 1984. Those killed also included a large number of innocent men, women and children, their number may be four times than those who confronted the army with guns inflicting the worst damage in such an operation that otherwise went horribly wrong.
However, as Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh got up to deliver his message at the function organized at this seat symbolising trans-border Sikh sovereignty, he was shouted down by the Khalistan Zindabad chorus. The head of this otherwise supreme institution has become a liability for Chief Minister and Akali Dal patron Parkash Singh Badal who at one time held deliberations to facilitate his removal along with that of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Avtar Singh Makkar.
Ever since the flip-flop by the Akal Takht Jathedar and his associates from four other Takhts including two outside Punjab, Giani Gurbachan Singh has lost his legitimacy with virtually every Sikh organisation, excluding now partially Sikh Shiromani Akali Dal, seeking their removal. The situation had taken another turn when the Sikh congregation convened by some Sikh organisations on November 10 last at Chabba near Amritsar that was termed as Sarbat Khalsa ‘sacked’ the three jathedars and replaced them with radicals. This had happened in 1986 too but then the radicals had taken over the Golden Temple complex again after the revival of militant movement beginning late 1985. Giani Gurbachan Singh has become non-functional head of this supreme religio-political institution of the Sikhs.
The state government and the SGPC had beefed up security arrangements inside the complex and almost half of the people who had gathered in front of Akal Takht were from the security forces in civvies and the task force. Amritsar and Patti are the districts where one can still see policemen in true Sikh form with unshorn beards. However, as the slogan shouting started without having been prompted by anyone with Giani Gurbachan Singh being the provocation, these people slipped away. Sloganeering stopped when Akal Takht chief ended his speech in a huff. Otherwise, the Khalistan slogans were earlier used to be raised by a handful of associates of Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann.
There is another aspect to this situation and that is the reflection of anger against the Badal government building up over the months and the situation having been compounded since the incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib started last year. Even the copy of Granth Sahib that went missing from Burj Jawahar Singhwala village on June 1, 2015 is still to be traced.
Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal opted for the development agenda in the state in which the religio-political dynamics has been dominating political discourse. The Hindu politics has been generally the reaction to the dominant Sikh affairs. However, questions have come to be raised at the level of performance of development agenda. Moreover, it is the human development index that is the test of development agenda. The government thinks that charity to the people is the development rather than the capital investment. Amritsar is the worst example of Sukhbir’s development model. It is the non-performance and non-governance that are the two major factors that have added to anti-incumbency and this includes corruption and the drug menace. This has been reflected at the religio-political level. In case the government had performed, the situation might have been better for the ruling dispensation.
Along with this non-governance, the other major factor that concerns only the Sikhs is the denigration of the supreme Sikh institutions under the present set up. The functioning of SGPC and Akal Takht is no more independent and the two institutions are practically subservient to the political power centre in the Sikh stream.
There is another interesting aspect to the commemoration of June 6. Amritsar observed almost complete bandh on the call given by Dal Khalsa. This is the third consecutive year that Dal Khalsa has been giving the call for June 6 bandh in the city.
Dal Khalsa activists worked for about a week distributing pamphlets appealing to the shopkeepers to extend cooperation. According to Dal Khalsa spokesman Kanwarpal Singh, there was no coercion. The organisation had also staged a peaceful march on June 3 that was called remembrance Day parade. No slogans were raised.
Amritsar is otherwise sensitive region where a small provocation can flare up the situation. This has been realized by the Dal Khalsa leaders who went about with folded hands rather than the activists of the radical organisations forcing the closure of shops on the day of the bandh. People responded to the call. This should be seen as a positive development. This experiment should be carried forward by other Sikh organisations too on such occasions.