Tuesday, August 23

Truth and Reconciliation Beyond Bickering

Jatinder Preet

Punjab has suffered a lot due to politics. The suffering during the militancy days is too recent to ensure some fair judgment on that period. That does not stop the politicians from delivering their judgments though. But unfortunately in their zeal to score some political goals politicians are letting down the people of Punjab again.
This began with Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh talking of setting up of a Commission to probe causes behind terrorism in the state, which, according to his by now established obsession, was Akalis led by Badal. Singh said he was ready to set up a one-man commission to probe into the killings during the militancy. The inquiry would fix responsibility on those who perpetrated the militancy, he said. Caught in his own web of impetuous utterances he later climbed down from his assertion. He modified it to dare Shiromani Akali Dal supremo and former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to take part in an "open debate" in the Assembly on the decade-long militancy in the state.
The next day Badal came out with a statement accepting the "challenge" with the pre-condition that the Nanavati Commission's report should also be included in the debate.
"I have no objection for a debate with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on the cause of decade-long militancy in the State with the pre-condition that it should also include the Nanavati Commission's report on 1984 anti-Sikh riots," said Badal.
In all this competitive point scoring, both the leaders showed again the remarkable apathy and insensitivity to the real issues of Punjab which had cumulatively led to that situation in the first place. Exploiting religious sentiments is a charge that both political parties cannot shy away from. But to one blame another party and to assert that one party was cleaner than the other would be running away from the facts.
If any party or individuals encouraged or perpetrated militancy, one should not forget that there had been a fertile ground for that militancy in the state. There were many who came in to reap the harvest later. What was that, that made Punjab a fertile ground for militancy? This is one question that begs an objective answer. But political leaders obsessed with each other, are not in a position to be objective about anything.
Amarinder who sees Badal?s hand in everything that is wrong and the shrewd politician that Badal is comes up every time with a rejoinder. Both have shown their ineptness to take on the real challenges.
It would be useful to study the role of competitive politics between Congress and Akalis at the beginning of the period when militancy took roots in Punjab. Alarmingly, the situation is akin to that now. It makes it all the more imperative to go beyond the bickering and address the real issues, most of which are relevant even today.
May be its time for something on the lines of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It helped South Africans come to terms with their past with the apartheid. It may help Punjabis reconcile with the past while embracing the future. But remember the Commission worked in South Africa with doing away the real problem that was apartheid. Hope it?s not expecting too much from the current political class to come up with their answers to the real problems

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