Chandigarh, September 24: For years, Punjab government did not observe November 1 as the holiday. However, it was a day for celebration in both Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Years later, the Punjab government too started declaring November 1 as gazette holiday in the name of Punjab Day. It was on November 1, 1966 that what was left of Punjab after the partition of the country in 1947 was trifurcated on the demand of the Akali Dal to re-organise the state on linguistic basis on the pattern of other states. The result was a lame duck Punjabi speaking state creating more problems than it had solved. About 50,000 people were killed in the violence that engulfed this historically jinxed region during militancy and some of the issues were those on which the Akali Dal had launched agitation on August 4, 1982 having genesis in the re-organisation.
Of course, there is a cause to celebrate for the Akali Dal. It was after 1966 that the Akali Dal formed the government for the first time in Punjab in 1967 and Parkash Singh Badal took over as the chief minister on March 27, 1970.
In this framework, one can’t question the celebrations that would be a state level function on November 1 at Amritsar.
Before trifurcation, the boundary of Punjab touched the China border on one side and Delhi on the other.
Punjab inherited two major irreconcilable disputes from this re-organisation. Punjab has compromised to the status of Chandigarh as the Union territory and joint capital of the two states. Of course, it is customary for any party in power in Punjab to raise the transfer of the city to the state along with left out Punjabi speaking areas in every Address of the Governor to the Assembly. Punjab is the only state that was divested of its capital after re-organisation. This modern city was built as capital of Punjab.
The complexion of Chandigarh has changed over the years. Ironically, the Punjabi villagers whose lands were acquired got uprooted but the migrant workers who came to settle here were allotted permanent dwelling, perhaps the first such experiment in the country. This changed the very complexion of the city. One would not question the allotment of houses to the homeless but the basic issue is that of discriminating against the original owners of lands who were not allotted even a plot.
The second issue arising out of the re-organisation of Punjab is the river waters dispute with the successor state of Haryana. Both the states have been in confrontation on this issue with Haryana not getting its share that it was allotted to it under Sections 78-80 of the Punjab Re-organisations Act. The fact is there is no water to share. The Akali Dal made a commitment under the Rajiv-Longowal Accord to complete the SYL Canal to supply waters to Haryana. The land for this canal was first acquired during the second term of Badal as the Chief Minister from 1977 to 1980. Although its foundation stone was laid by Indira Gandhi on April 8, 1982, this canal has been constructed under the Akali governments. Its construction stopped after the killing of its chief engineer and the superintending engineer by the militants. Canal water was among the most important issues taken up by the militants and its genesis is in the creation of the Punjabi Suba.
There were two agitations launched for re-organisation of Punjab beginning 1955 known as Punjabi Suba morchas during which thousands of people went to jail. A Total of 43 persons lost their lives. The Akali Dal does not even have a list of these people. Only 12 families are left whose ancestors laid down their lives for this cause.
The Akali Dal has never made any effort to get the history of the Punjabi Suba Morcha chronicled, forget what happened during pre-partition period.
There is another important aspect. The Punjab government had banned ‘Punjabi Suba Zindabad’ slogan in 1955. In the first Punjabi Suba morcha against this action of the government, those who courted arrest included Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Achhar Singh, Golden Temple Head Granthi Giani Bhupinder Singh and manager Gurdial Singh. It was for the second time in history of the Sikhs after Bhai Mani Singh that the Golden Temple Head Granthi had been arrested.
Here is the ironical part. The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee welcomed the lifting of ban on the slogan through a resolution. However, five persons opposed this resolution. One of them was Chaudhary Devi Lal whose statute was installed by Parkash Singh Badal government near the Haryana border in Bathinda district.
The major attraction of the celebrations would be the laser show.
The celebrations means nothing as such without any solid content. The tercentenary celebration of the Khalsa in 1999 was a mega show but without any content.
Let the government announce an autonomous research institute to work on Punjab’s religio-political, cultural and economic history.
Punjab would be having five centenaries beginning that of Jallianwala Bagh in 2019, founding of SGPC and Shiromani Akali Dal in 2020, Nankana Sahib massacre in 2021, Guru Ka Bagh Morcha in 2022, Jaito Morcha in 2023, Jaito killings by police in 2024 and of the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 2025.