Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon
BackgroundThe Sikh struggle in India from 1947 has been on the basis that the Punjab State must be treated equally as other Indian states. In 1966, Punjabi State was established but the Center government took calculated and deliberate steps in order to dwarf the State and prevent its economic growth. Two new states of Himachal and Haryana consisting of Hindu majority were carved out of Punjab reducing the size of the Punjab State. Many of the Punjabi speaking areas were given to Haryana. Punjab’s capital city, Chandigarh, was declared a Union territory directly under the management of the Center government. Control and management of Punjab’s resources especially waters and hydel power became the subjects of the Center government. Also, more than 75% of Punjab’s water was diverted to non-riparian states of Haryana and Rajasthan. Such moves were not only unconstitutional but also destructive to the growth of Punjab. Nowhere else in India are State’s waters controlled by the Center or State’s waters freely given to non-riparian states. Also, nowhere else in India is the same capital shared between two states. To make matters worse, no State government was allowed to remain in power or function in Punjab for more than a year if it did not please the Center’s policies.
Sikhs, therefore, launched a Dharam Yudh Morcha which sought to restore Punjab’s constitutional rights along with granting Sikhs’ their religious rights which had already been granted to other communities. Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister, dragged the issues further and further through sham negotiations in the facade of showing concern for the Sikh demands. In the meantime, in order to divert public attention from the real issues, the Center government increased violence in Punjab and turned the whole matter into a matter of law and order. The entire media was used to present a false image of the Sikh struggle which was branded as a secessionist movement trying to break up India. Communal Hindu mindset of Punjab also did not bother to stand behind the rights of the very State they lived in and instead decided to side with the Center government imploring it to take strict action against the Sikhs. The government launched two operations namely Operation Blue Star and Operation Wood Rose. Under Operation Blue Star, Punjab was cut off from the rest of the world and placed under the army rule. Sikh holy center, Darbar Sahib, was attacked along with several other Gurdwaras throughout Punjab. Thousands of innocent Sikhs were massacred and the damage done to the Sikh psyche was irreplaceable. Under Operation Wood Rose, all Amrithdari Sikhs were declared as terrorists and the army was given orders to eliminate them from all villages and cities in Punjab.
Both operations were launched to subvert the Sikh agitation, suppress the Sikh voice of constitutional demands and keep the Sikh minority under the majority Hindu rule. Akali leaders were put behind bars and plans were made to resurrect their leadership which would enable the Center government to use the Akalis as stooges to implement its plans from behind the curtains. For this purpose, the Center government sought to release only those who would humbly submit to its rule and oblige with all the conditions.*
Signing of the Accord
The entire Akali leadership stood discredited and demolished. In this state of their isolation and exposure their only hope was the Government which could rehabilitate them. In this race of opportunism Barnala and Balwant Singh outmanoeuvred Badal and Tohra and took Longowal with them to Delhi to conclude an agreement known as the Memorandum of Punjab Settlement, signed by him and the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on July 24, 1985. The Memorandum also called the Rajiv—Longowal Accord ran into the following 11 clauses:
- Compensation to innocent persons killed
Along with ex-gratia payment to those innocent killed in agitation or any action after 1-8-82, compensation for property damaged will also be paid.
- Army Recruitment
All citizens of the country have the right to enroll in the Army and merit will remain the criterion for selection.
- Enquiry into November incidents
The jurisdiction of Shri Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission enquiring into the November riots of Delhi would be extended to cover the disturbances at Bokaro and Kanpur also.
- Rehabilitation of those discharged from the Army
For all those discharged, efforts will be made to rehabilitate and provide gainful employment.
- All India Gurdwara Act
The Government of India agrees to consider the formulation of an All India Gurdwara Bill. Legislation will be brought forward for this purpose in consultation with Shiromani Akali Dal, others concerned and after fulfilling all relevant constitutional requirements.
- Disposal of Pending Cases
- The notifications applying the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to Punjab will be withdrawn. Existing Special Courts will try only cases relating to the following type of offences:
- Waging War
- All other cases will be transferred to ordinary courts and enabling legislation, if needed, will be brought forward in this Session of Parliament.
- The notifications applying the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to Punjab will be withdrawn. Existing Special Courts will try only cases relating to the following type of offences:
- Territorial Claims
- The Capital Project Area of Chandigarh will go to Punjab, Some adjoining areas which were previously part of Hindi or the Punjabi regions were included in the Union Territory. With the capital region going to Punjab the areas which were added to the Union Territory from the Punjabi region of the erstwhile State of Punjab will be transferred to Punjab and those from Hindi region to Haryana. The entire Sukhna Lake will be kept as part of Chandigarh and will thus go to Punjab.
- It had always been maintained by Smt. Indira Gandhi that when Chandigarh is to go to Punjab some Hindi speaking territories in Punjab will go to Haryana. A commission will be constituted to determine the specific Hindi-speaking areas of Punjab which should go to Haryana, in lieu of Chandigarh. The principle of contiguity and linguistic affinity with a village as a unit will be the basis of such determination. The Commission will be required to give its findings by 31st December 1985 and these will be binding on both sides. The work of the Commission will be limited to this aspect and will be distinct from the general boundary claims which the other Commission referred to in Para 7.3 will handle.
- The actual transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab and areas in lieu thereof to Haryana will take place simultaneously on 26 January, 1986.
- There are other claims and counter-claims for adjustment of the existing Punjab-Haryana boundaries. The Government will appoint another commission to consider these matters and give its findings. Such findings will be binding on the concerned States. The terms of reference will be based on a village as a unit, linguistic affinity and contiguity.
- Centre State Relations
- Shiromani Akali Dal states that the Anandpur Sahib Resolution is entirely within the framework of the Indian constitution; that it attempts to define the concept of Centre- State relations in a manner which may bring out the true federal characteristics of our Unitary Constitution; and that the purpose of the Resolution is to provide greater autonomy to the State with a view to strengthening the unity integrity of the country, since unity in diversity form., corner-stone of our national entity.
- In view of the above, the Anandpur Sahib Resolution in so far as it deals with Centre-State relations, stands referred to the Sarkaria Commission.
- Sharing of River Waters
- The farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan will continue to get water not less than what they are using from the Ravi-Beas system as on 1-7-1985. Waters used for consumptive purposes will also remain unaffected. Quantum of usage claimed shall be verified by the Tribunal referred to in Para 9.2 below.
- The claim of Punjab and Haryana regarding the shares in their remaining waters will be referred for adjudication to a Tribunal to be presided over by a Supreme Court Judge. The decision of this Tribunal will be rendered within six months and would be binding on both parties. All legal and constitutional steps required in this respect be taken expeditiously.
- The construction of the SYL canal shall continue. The canal shall be completed by 15th August, 1986.
- Representation of Minorities
Existing instructions regarding protection of interests of minorities will be recirculated to the State Chief Ministers. (PM will write to all Chief Ministers).
- Promotion of Punjabi Language
The Central Government may take some steps for the promotion of the Punjabi language.1
The Government and the media acclaimed the Accord as a concrete step forward. After the Accord, the Akali Dal Working Committee met at Anandpur Sahib on July 26, to approve the Accord. After a long discussion, some of which was reported to be not open to the press, the Accord was approved by the Akali party. Though there was no open dissent, it was reported that during their internal discussion, Tohra and Badal had called the Accord a sellout.2 Among the youth there was evident displeasure and dissatisfaction over the Accord and negotiations with the Government. So much so that when Longowal went to the Darbar Sahib, a group of angry Sikh youth raised slogans: 'Sikh quom de tin gaddar, Balwant, Barnala, Longowal’ (Three traitors of Sikh community, Balwant, Barnala and Longowal) ‘Congress da dalal Longowal (Longowal is an agent of the Congress), 'Morcha jari rahega' (The Morcha will continue) and ‘Ih sauda nuhin chalega' (We do not accept this sell out).3 This was Longowal’s last visit to the Darbar Sahib.
Discussion on Clauses
The chief demand and the basis of the Dharam Yudh Morcha was that river waters belonged to Punjab and that the issue should be referred to the Supreme Court, since any sharing with or transfer of Punjab waters to non-riparian states was unconstitutional and S.Y.L. Canal, being in violation of the riparian rights of Punjab, should be stopped. The Accord completely rejected both the basic demands. For, the very title of Clause 9 stated that the issue was ‘Sharing of River Waters.’ This statement by itself rejected the constitutional stand of Punjab because the issue of constitutional rights had to go to the Supreme Court for its decision and not to a tribunal. Only sharing or distribution of waters between two riparian states or inter-state waters, which the Punjab rivers are not, could be referred to a tribunal. Hence the acceptance of a reference to a Government appointed tribunal was a complete rejection of the two-decade-old demand of Punjab. The Akali leaders voluntarily accepted to enter the trap against which they had started the Morcha. Equally ironic was the fact that the Dharam Yudh Morcha which had been started to stop the digging of the SYL Canal, ended in an Accord under which the Akalis committed themselves to the completion of the SYL Canal by the 15th of August, 1986.
Similarly clause 2 regarding Army recruitment was too brief and the population formula of recruitment to the Defence Forces was not to be put to the Supreme Court for its constitutional verdict, instead it was just vaguely stated that the recruitment would be done on merit, which was entirely irrelevant to and evasive of the constitutional point in dispute. On the territorial issue all that was desired was the implementation of the Sachar and the Regional Formulae and non-disturbance of the accepted status quo before 1966. Here again, as has been the Government’s usual method of having its way, a Commission was agreed to.
Regarding Chandigarh, Indira Gandhi’s controversial Award (1971) was virtually endorsed by saying that ‘in compensation of Chandigarh, some Hindi speaking areas will go to Haryana and a Commission would be appointed to determine the territories’. No other state in the country had paid any compensation to the separated state, at the time of reorganisation. And yet the issue of compensation for Chandigarh was unnecessarily raised in the Accord. During the reorganisation of states many capitals, much larger in size, population and development remained the exclusive capitals of the states in whose geographical jurisdiction they belonged. No compensation, either in the form of territory or any other, was given to the adjoining states after demarcation. This is how Maharashtra got Bombay and Tamil Nadu got Madras. The example of Himachal Pradesh is especially pertinent. For Simla and many Punjabi speaking areas viz. Kangra district, Una Tehsil of Hoshiarpur, Dalhousie Tehsil of Gurdaspur and parts of Solan district were transferred to Himachal Pradesh without any compensation to Punjab.
In regard to the other territorial adjustments between the two states, the Akalis agreed to refer the matter to another Government appointed Commission knowing full well that such Commissions had in practice been just the mouth pieces of the Government.
So far as the Anandpur Sahib Resolution was concerned, it was virtually thrown into the waste paper basket of the Sarkaria Commission. The demands embodied in the Anandpur Sahib Resolution were virtually given up by the Akalis. The Sarkaria Commission had already been enquiring into the Centre-State relations and under the agreement it was left to its sweet will to consider it the way it liked. In a way, it was a withdrawal of the Resolution by the Akalis themselves.
The Accord stated that the jurisdiction of Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission of enquiry into the November violence of Delhi would be extended to cover the disturbances at Bokaro and Kanpur also. The statement deliberately ignored the demand to ascertain the ‘causes and course of the violence and to identify the persons or organisations who were responsible for it’. The Sikh Forum and human rights organisations had demanded that the unprecedented narrow terms of reference of the Commission be widened so as to accord with those of all such Commissions of enquiry in the past. The terms of reference mentioned in the Rajiv—Longowal Accord departed from all precedents. It was obvious that the Government was not serious about identifying and punishing the culprits.
In response to the demand for an All India Gurdwaras Act, Clause 5 of the Accord stated that the Government ‘agrees to consider’ such a Bill and would consult the Akali Dal and others concerned. It was a vague assurance that has not been substantiated so far.
Regarding the rehabilitation of soldiers who left their barracks in the wake of the Blue Star attack, the Accord (Clause 4) stated that ‘for all those discharged efforts will be made to rehabilitate and provide gainful employment’. Clauses relating to the compensation for property damaged (Clause 1) during the November massacres; to assurances of protection of minorities and to promotion of Punjabi language were all vague that suggested no concrete steps.
The stark surrender was that the Accord made no mention of the Blue Star attack and the Wood Rose operation which had caused a grievous hurt to the Sikhs. The C.F.D. (Citizens for Democracy) report named ‘Oppression in Punjab’ expressed the view that the Accord would not be able to bring back normalcy in Punjab. It observed: “The Accord has seemingly forgotten, (1) The thousands of so-called Army deserters, (2) and thousands of Sikh youth languishing in different jails of the country, (3) and also the families of those—again running into thousands—who have allegedly gone to Pakistan but actually have been killed by the police and the Army, (4) the problem of absconders who are underground, and who have fled under duress; (5) Rajiv—Longowal accord has not said one word about the Police lawlessness or the repeal of most of the Black laws; nor has it dealt with the withdrawal of the Army from Punjab. (6) The Accord is silent about adequate compensation for the November 1984 victims. Will the Accord bring solace to those hundreds of men and women who have lost their peace of mind because of the constant terror of police they have been living in? As a poor village woman told us in Dera Baba Nanak—it is the poor who suffer when big people fight for their ‘Kursi.’’4
Let us try to see the Accord in its true perspective of the Akali agitation of the two decades. The Punjab Reorganisation Act of 1966 had reduced Punjab to a sub-state. It had not only narrowed its boundaries and virtually usurped its constitutional rights of water and hydel power but also had put a permanent ceiling on the economic and political development of the State. It was this situation that had led to the Akali demands, including the essential demand for autonomy, getting embodied in the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. The facts of the Accord leave little doubt that the Akalis dropped, on the one hand, all demands of autonomy or even of being at level with the other states and, on the other hand, withdrew their claims for their constitutional rights as against the non-riparian states and as against the population formula of recruitment to the Defence forces, and their territorial rights to Chandigarh and Punjabi speaking areas on the basis of the demarcation under Sachar and Regional Formulae. It was ignored that instead of trying to solve the problems the Government had staged the Blue Star attack to camouflage and sidetrack the real issues. By projecting the Akalis as secessionists and separatists, they had, on the one hand, created a public opinion in the country against them, and, on the other hand, had in a way tried to demoralise the Sikhs.
Three features of the Accord are very clear. First, there is no reference at all to the thoughtless brutality involved in the Blue Star and the Wood Rose attacks which had actually shocked the entire community to its roots and created a divide between the two communities. Hence the Accord, by its complete silence on the issue, not only justified it but also in a way laid the guilt for it at the door of the Akalis. Second, every demand for which the Punjab, the Sikhs and the Akalis had been struggling was virtually rejected, either straight away or through the forum of a proposed Government commission. The third and the worst part of it was that gross unconstitutional injustices which were too glaring to be directly rejected by the Government, were made a fait accompli partly by the concurrence of the Akalis and partly through the proposed Government appointed tribunal whose verdict, could be sought only about sharing of water and not on the unconstitutionality of the Reorganisation Act (1966). And the final blow was that through the forum of the water tribunal, the door of constitutional justice to Punjab by the Supreme Court was permanently sealed.
It is plain that the Accord was for the Government a treaty of victory, since it gave them everything they had tried to secure in the earlier decades, and was a complete surrender of every demand and every right the Sikhs had struggled for since 1966. Elections were considered an inevitable corollary to the Accord as the Centre thought it the most befitting to employ the old Akali leadership as willing tools and prop them up politically to fight the emerging leadership of the youth. The dummy moderates, restored in the seats of the Government, were to serve as a smoke screen between the ruthless steamroller of the state and, to some extent, the leaderless youth. They were overtly and covertly seeking government assistance to enable them to regain some semblance of credibility and following of the people. This was the situation which the government fully exploited. In view of the helplessness and isolation of the Akalis, it was easy for the government to manipulate them which they did. The government could not afford to allow the situation to slip away from its control.
Longowal was assassinated on August 20, 1985 at village Sherpur in the district of Sangrur. Only a few days before, a newspaper cartoon had shown Rajiv Gandhi handing over his bullet proof jacket to Longowal. The assassination of Longowal was considered a setback by the protagonists of the Accord but government decided to go ahead with the poll exercise as the installation of an elected government was essential if the Accord was to be salvaged. Badal and Tohra also joined the power game.5
As is clear from the discussion above, the Accord which is perpetuated by the government as a treaty and solution to Punjab’s problem is nothing but a façade signed by the sellouts and traitor leaders who turned their backs on the Sikh nation for their personal gains, selfish needs and political aspirations by becoming puppets of the government. Despite the fact that all demands raised by the Sikhs were constitutional yet not a single demand has been granted. Punjab and Sikhs by large continue to face discrimination and live under the yoke of slavery of the Hindu majority.*
Notes and References
*The background section and the last paragraph have been written by us. – Editor of SikhFreedom.com
- Ministry of I. & B. Government of India; Punjab Settlement (New Delhi, 1985).
- Thukral, Gobind; ‘Punjab: The Election Question’ in India To-day, August 31, 1985.
- Harminder Kaur; Blue Star Over Amritsar (Delhi, 1990), P. 168.
- Citizens For Democracy; The Book They Banned—Report To The Nation; Oppression in Punjab (Bombay, 1985), p. 13.
- India To-day September 15, 1985.
Source - India Commits Suicide by Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon