Chandigarh, October 31: The decision of the Akali Dal government to celebrate 50th anniversary of creation of the present Punjab on November 1 as Punjab Day at Amritsar marks a qualitative shift for the Akali Dal. The Akali Dal can no more blame the Congress for excesses against the people of Punjab during the re-organisation of the state. The slogan of excesses associated with the re-organisation has been one of the major planks of the party politics over the years. It was to get justice on the issues rooted in the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 that the Akali Dal had launched its Dharam Yudh Morcha (agitation) on August 4, 1982. The Dharam Yudh Morcha during which thousands of people went to jail and several others dies now stands automatically nullified.
Is the Parkash Singh Badal celebrating 50th anniversary of the inter-state river waters dispute and denial of its capital city of Chandigarh? It is because of the excesses by the Congress government at the centre in 1966 by way of denial of Punjabi speaking areas that are now part of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh that cleared the way for the Akali Dal to come to power in the state. The party formed the first government in Punjab in 1967. This of course is the most important gain for the Akali Dal.
One would have to take into account the two Punjabi Suba agitations and the Dharam Yudh Morcha in the context of 50th anniversary celebrations. Thousands of people went to jail in the two Punjabi Suba agitations, the first launched in 1955 and the second in 1960, while 43 persons died including some in police firings that forced the government at the centre to re-organise Punjab. The problem with this state was that this demand was opposed by both the Congress and the Jana Sangh that articulated the Hindu view. For years, Punjab witnessed communal strife that continued even in the post 1966 period when the Arya Samajists and the Sangh Parivar opposed the decision of the state government to affiliate Jalandhar colleges to the newly created Guru Nanak Dev University at Amritsar.
This is not the present Punjab that the Akali Dal had demanded. The area demanded included Ambala district and some other parts now in Haryana and the Kangra district that now is part of Punjab on the basis of the same being Punjabi speaking. Pahadi that is spoken in Chamba and Kangra regions of Himachal Pradesh is a dialect of Punjabi. It is the Congress that played the mischief to create Sikh dominated state. It may be mentioned that Sant Fateh Singh had issued a statement denying that the demand for Punjabi Suba was communal. His logic was in case the demand for retaining the areas in Punjab as pressed by the Akali Dal was accepted, the party would never come to power in the new state at its own. The same logic was given by Sant Harchand Singh Longowal after the launch of the Dharam Yudh Morcha in 1982.
November 1 is etched in the Sikh psyche for another tragedy. The 3-day anti-Sikh pogrom started in Delhi from November 1, 1984 following the assassination of the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh security personnel. The Sikhs were burnt alive while their women were raped. The Akali Dal has been making it an issue in every election. These killings are described as genocide of the Sikhs. Of course, the term genocide has its own definition that is universally accepted.
Master Tara Singh and Sant Fateh Singh emerged as the icons of the Punjabi Suba agitation but both of them were pushed out of the Akali political stream. It was Darshan Singh Pheruman who went on fast unto death in 1969 for the transfer of Chandigarh and other Punjabi speaking areas. More importantly, he undertook the fast to restore dignity of Ardas that in his perception had been undermined both by Sant Fateh Singh and Master Tara Singh at different time spaces. He lived upto his Ardas (Sikh prayer) and died on the 74th day of his fast on October 27, 1969. He was not owned by the Akali Dal. He had started his political career with Akali Dal, joined the Congress and then the Swatantra Party.
The Akali Dal launched the Dharam Yudh Morcha in 1982 to reverse the excesses committed to the state during re-organisation of Punjab that had become effective on November 1, 1966. The Akali Dal-BJP government is celebrating 50th anniversary of that very re-organisation as a mega show at Amritsar on November 1.