Chandigarh, September 30: Chauvinistic nationalists might not appreciate it. It is the timing that is very significant. At the time when 1000 villages in the 10 km border belt in Punjab have been ordered by the authorities to be evacuated amidst war hysteria between India and Pakistan following the ‘surgical strike’ by the army across the Line of Control in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to neutralize launching pads of the terrorists, an interesting but unrelated aspect has emerged. This can be interpreted as a message of goodwill, especially for the global Sikh community.
Gurdwara Babe Di Ber in Sialkot has been renovated for the first time since partition of the country. The present generation does not know that this was the first gurdwara to be liberated when the Sikhs launched gurdwara liberation movement. The Dawn carried the news today while referring to it as Gurdwara Babe Di Beri in Sialkot. A management committee of 13 Sikhs headed by Baba Kharak Singh was appointed by Kartar Singh Jhabbar on October 5, 1920 to manage this shrine after it was taken over by the Sikhs. This committee was the culmination of long period of struggle.
This gurdwara had been closed down after partition. After its renovation, it has now been given a fresh look. Worshipping has started with the installation of Guru Granth Sahib. Jaskaran Singh has been appointed caretaker of the shrine. This gurdwara is associated with Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith. Guru Nanak was the apostle of peace, love and universal brotherhood. His place of birth and death too are in Pakistan at Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur respectively. Kartarpur is in the border belt of Pakistan across Ravi river with the shrine visible from Dera Baba Nanak on this side of the border, separated by a distance of about three kms by crow flight. The township of Dera Baba Nanak is exactly on the border.
The border area villages in Punjab have been evacuated and one fails to understand the emergency for the same. But then not all have shifted. People are staying put. The timing of escalation of tension could not have been the worst for the border area farmers as paddy crop is about to be harvested.
Ironically, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has been too quick to implement the orders received from the centre. In case of war, it is Punjab that is going to suffer the worst. Even the present exercise is going to cost heavily. It may be mentioned that Badal and his party continue to blame the special term loan extended to the state during militancy for the reason of financial crisis despite the fact that most of the amount was waived. Badal has not asked the centre whether Punjab would be compensated for the loss suffered in “national interest”.
The basic issue is Kashmir but it is Punjab that would be the main theatre of war and the cost would be paid by the Punjabis on both sides of the Radcliffe line.
Former army chief General Bikram Singh made an interesting comment yesterday saying this was not the first time that the Indian army had conducted such an operation. He referred to similar action in January 2013 after two Indian soldiers were beheaded. It was never publicized. However, what is unprecedented is that the Director General of Military Operations briefing the media and leaders like BJP chief Amit Shah getting photographed with him. It amounts to politicization of what should have been purely an army action.
But then the idea seems to be to prove a point. There could be something more than that. In case the message was to be given that Prime Minister Narendra Modi means business, then it has been conveyed.
The write up by RSS parcharak and BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav provides an insight into the working of the minds of the war mongers who first exploited the TV channels to create war hysteria. He has used the word ‘gang’ for ‘peaceniks and mombattiwalas’. It may be mentioned that peaceniks gather on the two sides of the Zero line on Attari-Wagha border on August 15 night egery year with candles in hands to give the message of peace.
Ram Madhav should know that a group of young Pakistani girl students is presently in Chandigarh on the invitation of one of the organisations working towards peace between the two countries.
What should be the area of concern is the future role of India in this region. Is this country turning into base for ‘America’s war against terror’? Pakistan was US base earlier for decades. Peshawar was the base for U-2 spy planes of USA during the Cold War. India has now shifted to US camp. However, Russians are having joint exercise with Pakistani army. India had the Russian support during the critical times for decades. China has invested more than $51 billion dollars in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. China would protect its heavy investment.
There is yet another aspect that is Punjab specific. Badal said last night that no time frame has been fixed for the return of the residents of the border villages to their homes. This raises the next question. In case there is such uncertainty, holding of Assembly election in February 2017 too could become uncertain. One can’t say who would benefit from that situation.