When Master Tara Singh stood his ground against Jinnah’s provocative proposal to divide India, it was Akali politics at its best. No to division and a vision for united India.
But much like pervasive degeneration in politics since independence days, Akalis are resorting to dangerous tactics to grab space vacated by Congress in these assembly elections.
And now that the compendium of issues of development and progress is exhausted, the public is being fed on a diet of balderdash. Of exaggerated fears and hidebound and insular identities.
Least bothered about the repercussion of opening old wounds, political leaders in Punjab have pulled out knives like zealots. Their cataract infected sight is fixed on self-interest; the state be damned.
The angst of a common Punjabi who has repeatedly been subjected to cycle of bloodshed is forgotten. He is once again been driven to the edge by hoopla of false rage and fabricated pretences of hurt.
Where were the Akalis when Balwant Singh Rajoana was sentenced to death? Why this sudden burst of memory after years of amnesia.
More importantly, what are they protesting about! Death to a man who killed a Chief Minister, who helmed the state through one of its most dangerous times. By calling for mercy for a terrorist, do they want to turn India into a banana republic?
Are we not perceived as soft enough, when we refuse to touch the clemency plea of Afzal Guru or hang S Nalini? And when we shy away from sending Masood Azhar to the gallows and instead let the bird fly to Pakistan, so that he can plot another dozen attacks on the Indian soil?
How much more do these chest beating politicos want to be berated and mocked for their farcical sense of wound and deeply set insecurities? Even the convict Balwant Singh calls them “cheats” and spews ridicule at them: "I don't need any help from blue-turbaned Akali leaders, who have not done anything so far to secure justice for Sikhs. Akali leaders have started speaking up now as they fear that if they don't, they will lose their support."
Decades earlier, when Akalis had resorted to high pitched campaigns, Indira Gandhi had found a foil in Bhindranwale. It was a false move and one that cost her life. Rather than dividing the Akali vote, Bhindranwale trained his gun on Indira.
What did terrorism reap after so many years after all? Except bloodshed and a lost decade.
These terrorists had followed no ideology of faith. They were lost in the mire of obscure ideas and unbridled violent passion.
It is us, the common Punjabis, who suffered.
I can give my own example…our family’s ancestral house was attacked by terrorists and an old relative who was occupying it in those days was ruthlessly beaten and left for dead when she refused to give them refuge.
Punjab was so disturbed that I missed visiting the state during my growing up years.
India’s own disorderly house is an open invitation to our enemies. When Pakistan made a mission of Punjab, it did so for three reasons: Soldiery, Granary and Kashmir.
Pakistan which fallaciously lives with the misconception that one Muslim equals a lakh Hindus (an Urdu adage they often repeat), saw a threat in Sikhs who had repelled conversion attempts during Mughal period through wars and fought back when the first train from Pakistan arrived with chopped bodies. Besides arming and sheltering separatists, Pakistan wants to destroy the youth of the state who get recruited into the Indian Army in large numbers. It has been sending in sackfuls of drugs to convert a promising generation into addicts.
Second, seeing the success of the green revolution in Punjab and India’s self sufficiency in food grain, it wanted to make futile the toil of the Punjab farmer, so that India could feel that pangs of hunger and would be forced to import wheat.
And last but the not the least, if Pakistan had been able to realize its dream of creating Khalistan, Kashmir would have been cut off from mainland India and fallen into its lap.
When we take a pragmatic view of history, we notice that it is impossible to extricate the fate of Sikhs and see it in isolation of that of India. The well being of Punjab and its people is linked with that of India.
The fate of the Sikhs has been intertwined with that of India since the birth of the religion. And through the thick and thin of its subsequent destiny.
Since the inception of the religion and through the bloodwashed Partition, the Punjabi has suffered too long and far too much. It is to the credit of the community that it has been able to bounce back. Unfortunately, the zeal of the Punjabi is sometimes misdirected by vested interests.
Peace has returned to state after years of turmoil, let it be. Let us not whip up commotion, because a votebank would fatten.
The Centre has stayed the execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana. Let the law of the land decide his fate.
But if common sense still escapes the Akalis, let me add a final word:
Much like false patriotism, false brouhaha over religious convictions is also the last refuge of the scoundrel.