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BJP's Demand for Return of Chandigarh

Recently, BJP has started to advocate Rajiv-Longowal Accord and pushed the demand for transferring Chandigarh to Punjab as it is listed in the accord. But this move of the BJP is not for the benefit of the Punjab State. It will further dwarf the exploited and crippled State. According to the accord, only the Capital Area of Chandigarh will be transferred not the entire city of Chandigarh. The capital area back in 1985 was significantly smaller and no official document provides any insight on what constitutes the entire capital area and its boundaries.

The three member Boundary Commission, presided over by Justice Shah, which demarcated the boundaries of the Punjabi speaking State, decided to award Chandigarh and many important Punjabi speaking areas to Haryana. This was done on the basis of the communal census of 1961. In 1961, the city was inhabited mostly by Government employees, majority of whom were Hindus, who though they were actually Punjabi speaking had got their mother tongue registered as Hindi, on account of communal considerations. However, the Commission’s recommendation to transfer Chandigarh to Haryana was not implemented and the town was kept as a Union Territory, as the capital of both the States and the seat of the common High Court.

In exchange, Punjab will have to give up its Punjabi speaking areas to Haryana. This is unjust and unfair in light of the fact that keeping Chandigarh as a union territory was an unconstitutional move to begin with. Chandigarh was built by Punjab Government but now it stays there as a tenant. While elsewhere in the country the state capitals were retained by the parent States, e.g. Bombay in Maharashtra and Madras in Tamil Nadu, Chandigarh was not given to Punjab. The extreme unfairness of the Boundary Commission is indicated by the fact that whereas Simla, the Capital of Punjab from 1947 to 1954 was allotted to Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, the new capital of Punjab from 1954 to 1966 was transferred to Haryana. Even the Gobind Sagar lake and the uninhabited area around, though adjacent to Nangal Town and a part of the Bhakra Nangal Project, always administered by Punjab, were not transferred to Punjabi Suba.

Haryana was created as a rival State under a scheme of the government to further cause fights and disruptions in the Northern area and to deprive Punjab of its constitutional rights. Whenever Punjab raises a demand for its natural resources, autonomy and Chandigarh, Haryana is always there to oppose such a move and the entire issue turns into a Sikh-Hindu conflict on communal lines. This is observed by S.M Sathananthan (London), K.T. Lalwani (London), S. Raghunath lyenger (Lagos), Prof. G. P. Mansukhani (Bombay), Asha Bhatnagar (Jaipur) et. al. in ‘Hindu-Sikh Conflict In Punjab: Causes and Cure’ by These persons belonging to different professions came all the way from far off places to personally study the Punjab situation. They moved from place to place in the State and met a cross section of the people and concluded as under:

"The present Hindu-Sikh conflict is the saddest tragedy of post-partition Indian History. Its genesis lies in a narrow-minded attitude of certain sections of the community, that totally refutes the traditional Hindu virtues of tolerance and understanding. One also wonders, why the Sikhs are always pushed into agitation for their basic constitutional demands, the kind of which were never denied to other States and communities. Why was Punjab the last linguistic State to be formed (10 years late)? Why is Punjab the only state in India whose capital Chandigarh is governed by the Central Government? There are many such unanswered questions which deserve serious probing and full national exposure. Indian news agencies and papers will do well to investigate the reasons for Hindu-Sikh conflict arising from Hindu opposition to Sikh demands, even though their demands were made to the Government (and not to the Hindus of Punjab and Haryana). While most of the Sikh demands are for the welfare of Punjab State, not one demand is anti-Hindu or hurts Hindu sentiments in any way.”

During the Punjab (Sikh) agitation, the government tried sham negotiations and expressed its helplessness to appease both Punjab and Haryana. The government knew fully well that Haryana will naturally oppose Punjab’s constitutional demands for transferring control of water and hydel projects and Chandigarh because Haryana loses much of its free wealth it gets from Punjab. Due to Haryana’s opposition, the issue turned into a communal Sikh-Hindu conflict. Instead of talking economic and politics, the government sidetracked the issue to religion. This caused much anti-Sikh violence in Haryana and Punjab. The media played its biased role of siding with the government. The government let the violence spread and then sent in the army under the pretext of maintaining “law and order”. Hundreds of thousands of Sikhs were killed in order to make them submissive and suppress them to the point of never raising their demands ever again. In the meantime, Punjab continued (and still continues) to get exploited of its wealth.

The ‘Guardian’, London (June 8, 1984) made a good analysis of this policy of the Prime Minister in the following words:

 “All through the tangle in Punjab, the Government has preferred to talk religion instead of economics and politics in its dealings with the Akali party, which represents the interests of Punjabi peasants and farmers, the majority of whom are Sikhs. The farmers say, “Give us more of our own river waters to irrigate our fields or refer the matter to the Supreme Court.” The Government replies, “We allow you to broadcast religious music over All India Radio, as for the water we shall appoint a tribunal to give a ruling on the dispute.” The Akalis say, “Chandigarh, which happens to be in the heart of Punjab, should not have to be shared as a capital with neighbouring Haryana. The Government retorts, “But how can we persuade the Government of Haryana to agree!”.... The Akalis say that Punjab and other States throughout India should be given greater economic powers and allowed to manage their own affairs. New Delhi retorts, “This is a talk of secession, it must be inspired by a foreign power.”

Much more can be written on the subject. What we need to understand is that the government will never change its policies towards Punjab and the Sikhs. Any move by the government will never bring any benefit to the Punjabi State. It will always have something behind curtains. If the capital area of Chandigarh is given back, Punjab will lose some part of its territory despite the fact that Chandigarh has always belonged to Punjab. BJP, Congress, AAP or any other Indian party will not stand behind Punjab lest the majority Hindu become upset.