Akali’s organised efforts resulted in rise of extremism: Pranab

Akali Dal’s organised efforts during Punjab crisis resulted in the rise of extremism and even naxalites used it to expand their influence and areas of domination, President Pranab Mukherjee writes.

In the second volume of his autobiography ‘Turbulent Years: 1980-1996’, he complains, that “sadly, Akali Dal also never took a “clear position” regarding the hijacking of their movement by separatist elements while its leaders often used “provocative language very similar to that used by the militants”.

He says Akali Dal in 1980s was not satisfied with its own Anandpur Sahib Resolution that demanded a high degree of autonomy for Punjab. In 1981, its leader Jathedar Jagdev Singh Talwandi called for an autonomous state Khalistan.

“This proposed state of Khalistan would have its own Constitution and not be governed by the Indian Constitution. In November 1982, the foremost Akali leader, Sant Harcharan Singh Longowal, in a new elucidation of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, said that a Sikh religious state with all Punjabi-speaking people within it hould be created to preserve Sikh tradition and religion,” Mukherjee writes.

Amrik Singh, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and several others advocated the use of violence for a break-up of the Indian union and the creation of an independent Khalistan, which they claimed was a historical necessity for the Sikh youth, he says.

“Clearly, the Akali Dal was constantly changing goalposts and was not clear about whether it wanted autonomy within the Indian union or an independent state,” Mukherjee remembers.

“The Akali Dal’s organised effort to confront the government with its demands soon resulted in the rise of extremism. Both violent action as well as public incitement to violence became commonplace. Criminals, smugglers and anti-social elements took advantage of the situation and associated themselves with this movement. Even Naxalites used the crisis to expand their influence and areas of domination,” he writes.

He says the Golden Temple became a safe haven for extremists while “deliberate efforts” were made to “sow bitterness” between the Sikh community and followers of other religions.

“Had the Punjab movement been limited to the original demands of the Akali Dal, it may have found an easier resolution. But as it progressed, the establishment of an independent Khalistan emerged as its principal goal. It thus became a movement challenging India’s unity, territorial integrity and security,” he writes.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 30, 2015)

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