Saturday, May 3

Two Hues of Baisakhi

The pro-Khalistan ideologues abroad are oblivious of the groundswell in their native land of Punjab. But the best way to mute their voices democratically would be to expose them to the situation in the state. Besides, the numerous issues which continue to kindle fires among them need to be addressed, writes Kanwar Sandhu in Hindustan Times

ON BAISAKHI, while has been business as usual in Punjab, it has not been so in North America. In rural Punjab, people have been busy in harvesting operations and their urban brethren in the grip of IPL cricket fever on their television screens. In the border belt of Amritsar, the release of Sarabjit Singh, who is on death row in Pakistan, and the Amritsar (South) bypoll are on top of people's agenda. At the political conferences in Damdama Sahib on occasion of Baisakhi, while the mainline political parties took potshots at each other, proKhalistan elements struggled to attract bare notice. But in the North American cities of Vancouver, Toronto and New York, Baisakhi was an occasion for pro-Khalistan elements to vie for center stage. At the 21st Sikh Day Parade in New York City, several resolutions in favour of Khalistan were passed, besides sloganeering. In Toronto, although the organisers of the Baisakhi Dal parade did not allow the proKhalistan elements to enter a float depicting the horrendous events of 1984 and after, the latter managed to carry a huge "proKhalistan" banner at the head of the parade, which was attended by nearly 50,000 people.
Why the vast difference in attitude? On the soil of Punjab, people have moved on from the era of militancy Abroad, particu . larly in North America, Khalistan continues to whip up passions. This has been so for years, but why? Last year, during the Baisakhi parade in Surrey near Vancouver, Khalistan slogans were raised and the radical ideologues were eulogised. The disparate pulls and pressures have sharply polarised the Punjabi community, including Sikhs in these countries, besides impacting local politics. Since terrorism became a part and parcel of the Khalistan movement in Punjab, raising the separatist bogey could isolate the Sikh community further in North America, where terrorism in any form is abhorred. Politically, like other immigrants, most Sikhs support the Liberal party, which is currently in the Opposition in Canada. While the ruling Conservative Party leaders have been shying away from attending the Baisakhi Day parade, some Opposition MPs did attend it this time. But, in case the polarisation persists, even the Liberal party leaders may stay away from it and the controversies surrounding it.
At home, the unfortunate result is that Punjab, once the land of five rivers, faces yet another chasm of sorts - an ideological one this time. First fractured by Partition and then truncated by the Punjabi Suba agitation, it now finds a sizeable part of its diaspora pulling in a different direc tion. This leaves the land a fertile ground for seeds of discontent to flourish. Unless the two disparate streams in the native and adopted lands are reconciled, the numerous challenges remain un-addressed. Since Khalistan as an issue remains afloat abroad, it is important to introspect on the past in order to move forward. What caused the holocaust of 1984 and after? Was the Congress leadership at the Centre and in the state solely to blame? Did the Shiromani Akali Dal leadership of the time rise to the occasion to stem the rot or did it too take the bait? What role did the community leaders, the media and others play as the situation slumped from one abysmal depth to another? Whether one agrees or not, the fact is that the Khalistan movement did not lead anywhere and only caused unending misery because its foundations were hollow. It was nothing more than an emotive bubble that burst in no time. The community was pushed headlong into it without its basis, ramifications or its contours having been deliberated. Those who continue to hold the banner of separatism need to ask themselves one simple question: are things any different now?
Besides introspection, the political leadership in Punjab should put their weight behind the Union Government to allow the pro-Khalistan elements abroad to visit their native land to see things for themselves. When they realise that the raison d'etre of the war they are waging has already been neutralised at home, they would see the futility of their "struggle" abroad. Of course, some part of the phenomenon abroad is psychological, which is common to many immigrant groups. The Irish Republican Army found ardent supporters in the USA and some of these supporters were descendents of Irish immigrants who had come to the USA in the early 1900s! So is it for many others, who become fastidious when it comes to "things back home". The driving force among them seems to be a reaction against a society where everybody is equal but nobody is important. Besides, the freedom of expression allows them to push even their outlandish agendas, provided they do it within democratic norms. Yet there are lots of people among them who would be realistic enough to see reason.
There is no doubt that one of the issues which continues to kindle the fires at home and abroad is the failure of successive government at the Centre to take those guilty of the Sikh carnage in Delhi and elsewhere to justice. The second issue that continues to rankle is the excesses by the security forces during the violent phase in Punjab. Unfortunately, neither the Congress government of Captain Amarinder Singh nor the SAD-BJP government of Parkash Singh Badal thought it fit to address the issue, which resurfaces every now and then. Besides providing an agenda to the radical elements at home, these issues render most visiting Sikh leaders abroad speechless forcing them to speak their language amidst them.
Pragmatism took the better of the community at home many years ago. It is time the government facilitates the elements abroad also to take a realistic view so that the collective strength is put to use to push not just the developmental agenda but also the wider issues. With the Union Government having set up a fresh Commission to review Centre-State relations, there is a chance once again to push for greater autonomy for states, especially in the light of increasing globalisation. Badal should solicit all-round support, including of the diaspora abroad, to put up a forceful case before the Commission.


Ali Abbas Sultan said...

How do people forget, and persuade others to forget, what happened in 1984?...........

What is the guarantee that those horrible events would not be repeated ?.....

Hindu has dark and damp mentality...and those thankless people would do it over and over again

Ali Abbas Sultan said...

Sikhs have given their blood to save these dark and damp minded Hindus countless times . . .but what they get in turn .. . TERRIBLE. . .

We have no shame in admitting that we, the Muslims, are responsible for Sikh-Muslim conflict (and also for Hindu-Muslim conflict). The conflict started when Hazrat Guru Taigh Bahadur Sahab was slain by a Mughal tyrant......but Sikh-Hindu conflict is an exaple of ingrained backstabbing habit of the hindu