Badal Has Been a Suspicious Witness to the Most Turbulent Phases of Punjab

CHANDIGARH, Punjab—Having been a Chief Minsiter five times, Parkash Badal has been a prime witness to the most turbulent phases in the recent history of Punjab and the country. He is averse to an autobiography, but not putting his account of events on paper will be a huge loss. ‘People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them’ — Badal is well aware of this. Letting his side of the story out in the public domain will be in public interest.

A file photo of Parkash Singh Badal (garlanded) with former state Finance Minister late Balwant Singh to his left and late Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and late Gurcharan Singh Tohra to his right at the Dharam Yudh Morcha.
A file photo of Parkash Badal (garlanded) with former state Finance Minister late Balwant Singh to his left and late Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and late Gurcharan Singh Tohra to his right at the Dharam Yudh Morcha.

American Nobel laureate Pearl Buck once said: “If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.” However, Akali Dal supremo Parkash Badal apparently does not believe in this famed remark. Responding to a query about writing his autobiography last week, Badal gave a rather baffling reply: “I am against writing a book. It is a risky proposition. Panga pai janda (it creates trouble).”

Badal has played a political role at crucial stages especially when Punjab was facing trouble. He was expected to someday share his side of the story. Evidently, by not speaking his mind through the book and revealing what is stored in his mind, Badal deprives scholars and historians of a peep into recent history.

A Chief Minister for five times, Badal has not only been a prime witness to the most turbulent phases in the recent history of Punjab and the country, but has also been a key player in many events related to the destiny of the state. He was a dominant player in state politics in the 1970s and 1980s when the state was going through the most challenging and turbulent phase in its history. Badal is a most apt example of what American writer and social critic James Baldwin once said: “People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them.” For years, the Akali supremo has remained trapped in history. And undoubtedly there is a vast reserve of historical events that is trapped within his huge body frame. As of now Badal is among the few surviving Akali leaders who were lead players in all major events — the agitation against the Emergency, the struggle for implementation of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, Dharam Yudh Morcha, agitation against SYL canal, Punjabi Suba Morcha and so on. Some of the important ones, including Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, have already left this world. The other surviving main leader Surjit Singh Barnala is far too frail to take up such an initiative.

Entering politics in the 1950s, Badal became Chief Minister for the first time in 1970. Except for a brief period when radical Sikh leaders dominated, Badal has been a pivotal political player in the state as well as Akali politics since then.

When Punjab was on the boil in 1980s, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, held three meetings with the Akali leadership, including Badal, and four meetings were held by designated Union Cabinet Ministers. Nine secret meetings were held from 1982 to 1984. The last secret meeting was held a few days before Operation Bluestar. Along with Tohra, Barnala and others, Badal participated in almost all the meetings. That is on record. From the Union government side, the main negotiators used to be PV Narasimha Rao, PC Sethi and Pranab Mukherjee. Besides, a lot happened off the record and behind the scenes.

What actually transpired in these meetings is not in the public domain. Immediately after Bluestar in June, 1984, the Union government published a White Paper in July giving a brief account of the pre-Operation events, including meetings with the Akali leaders to resolve the Punjab tangle. However, there is no detailed account of proceedings of the meetings. Who said what is not there for the present generation to dwell on what was described as the “Punjab problem”. What led to deadlocks at such meetings that ultimately led to a sort of catastrophe?

Or, take another key point. The Anandpur Sahib Resolution has been among the most debated and discussed documents in the country. It has remained a central issue in the state’s body politic for four decades. How was the committee set up to prepare the Resolution? Who authored it? Who finalised the demands included in it? Were there behind the scene discussions among top Akali leaders before including these demands? At the national level, certain demands generated controversy. There was even a suggestion that the document smacked of separatism.

In the light of the Resolution, 12 demands were passed at the Akali conference held on October 28 and 29 in 1978 at Ludhiana under the chairmanship of Jagdev Singh Talwandi. In that conference, the first resolution — to demand a federal structure in the country in the true sense of the word — was moved by Tohra and endorsed by Badal, who was Chief Minister at that time also. In its White Paper, the Centre, without elaborating, cleared its position on the Akali demands. However, there is no public version of any senior Akali leader who took part in meetings with Ministers and officials of the Union government. Badal should throw light on what happened on the record and behind the scenes.

Tohra did not write anything. Barnala, who knows as much as Badal, has not put his version in the public domain. Badal and Tohra jointly opposed the Rajiv-Longowal Accord. What were the reasons that made him and Tohra reject it while their three close associates — Sant Longowal, Barnala and Balwant Singh — went for it. What made him (Badal) contest the Assembly elections in 1985 in which support to the Accord was the main theme song? That needs to be disclosed to people as these are the most important events in the history of the state. Tohra began to tell his side of the story but fell ill and passed away.

There is a perception that as a part of the Accord deal, Barnala became Chief Minister. Who were the Central leaders who sabotaged the implementation of the Accord? Why was the announcement to transfer Chandigarh dropped a few hours before the deadline? Answers to these questions lie wrapped in the womb of history and in the memory lane of leaders like Barnala and Badal. They should have thrown light on them.

People would like to know from Badal about his experiences as the head of one of the oldest regional parties in the country, what challenges such parties face and how such parties are treated by the mainstream national parties. What are his experiences of coalition politics? Badal should not find an escape route by saying that books often land one in trouble. He should show boldness to put his account of events on paper to provide food for thought for the present and future generations.

 

Similar Articles

Comments

  1. I stand by this statement as I am witness to that period.

    All was gong well in Punjab . 1947 partition wounds were healing
    and every one was leading a happy life pursuing here Dreams .

    Then it all began

    Innocent Non Sikhs were killed by Sikhs militants and this lead to the 1980-1990 insurgency and all the Genocides .

    I am suspicious it was done by the EMPIRE to bring the people of Punjab from CHADI KALA to TEARS.

    The wound are healing and there is a need for a

    1984

    “TRUTH and RECONCILLATION” society

    • I am also a witness to that period so I know that you are looking back on the calamity of 1980 to 1990 (but no mention of events before 1980 (Sikhs being murdered with police and political collusion by Nirankari proxys or from 1990 onwards when Sikhs were being systematically rounded up, tortured and murdered in extra judicial killings) with not just rose coloured glasses but the shades that blind people use. Everything was not fine and happy before 1980 – I have already told you time and again about growing Sikh grievances from 1947 when it became clearer and clearer that Nehru and the established Sarkar were reneging on promises made to SIkhs before Independence (to entice them to join India rather Pakistan or re-create their own sovereign SIkh State) that culminated in the demands of the Anandpur Sahib Resolutions. Instead of addressing those genuine grievances Sikhs were continually rebuffed – the 1966 seccession of Punkani Hindus abandoning both their mother tongue Punjabi and state Punjab for Hindi and the creation of Haryana with all the attendant subsequent issues surrounded unfair channelling of Punjab water without Sikh consent (who were the majority in an agrarian dependent Punjab) is an early example culminating in the unprovoked massacre of Sikhs by Nirankaris backed by Indira Gandhi (did I mention she also instigated an illegal and draconian state of emergency in India from 1975 to 1977 in response to being found guilty of fraud by a court or is that all part of your rosy recollection of Punjab enjoying bliss and prosperity in the 1970s?) AS you are a Hindu (posing as a Sikh for nefarious reasons) I can quite understand why you wish to shift blame and attention onto Sikh ‘militants’ rather than address the actual historical facts of the case but then to even absolve yourself of this responsibility and blame foreign Empires – you are either genuinely delusional (which may account for your poor grasp of history although the RSS attempts to change that in Indian history school textbooks may also be to blame) or cynically trying to condemn the Sikhs as whenever they raise their heads in dissent you accuse them of being militants or terrorists (although cant quite bring yourself to use such terms when we talk of Bhagat SIngh or Udham Singh when they resisted despotism and tyranny of the Sarkar). Very telling of your real agenda and the frequency with which you post in this Sikh website with the same anti-Sikh drip-drip message. Truth and reconciliation is only possible when you are willing to accept the unpalatable truth and are genuine about reconciling – you clearly are not there yet and as a consequence not only do the Sikhs continue to suffer but India herself is dishonoured.

  2. See If you can get Justice it would be the best thing to happen.
    But we got to remember that there was Killings done by Sikhs of non Sikhs in Punjab in 1980-1990 period.
    I would still say we must pursue Justice for 1984 victims even if it is getting delayed.
    We must not follow the old dictum of “Justice delayed is Justice denied ”
    but rather it should be
    “Justice delayed is Justice achieved ”

    So Each year on 31 Oct Sikhs all over the world need to put in a appeal in all courts of the world for
    “1984 JUSTICE ”

    Believe me we will get it if we are perseverant.

    • Justice delayed is justice denied because justice needs to be done in timely manner and seen to be done. How can you call it justice after 31+ years that victims are still waiting and some have already died with the agony of the intervening years seeing the murderers and rapists of their families going about their business as if nothing happened? NOt to mention that some of these killers have also died and effectively got away with their atrocities unpunished during this 31+ years – it is not justice that they get ‘punished’ (by abosultely nothing happening to them) after they have died and been peacefully cremated by their loved ones. This is INdia’s shame and stain on its honour so nothing to do with relying upon other countries courts.

      And one more thing again and again you keep talking about non SIkhs killed by SIkhs in 1980 to 1990 as if that somehow is a tit for tat. Any innocent Hindus killed during that time were killed by criminals not Sikhs because you cannot be a SIkh if you are going around and killing innocent people. Any innocent life should not be taken by anyone but as you keep bringing it up let us look at the figures. The number of non SIkh killings is in double figures yet the murder of Sikhs reaches into the tens of thousands over decades with fake encounters, rapes, torture and extra judicial killings being sanctioned by the State itself not by criminals! How then can there be any tit for tat equivalency or proportional response which you are insinuating? The two are not connected and you should try to make such an unseemly connection / justification for the abuses and atrocities carried out wholesale against the SIkhs because that is the very insidious and disgusting justification Rajiv Gandhi used in his ‘When a Great Tree Falls it is natural for the ground to shake’ to explain away the organised rape, looting and murder of Sikhs in Delhi 1984.

  3. As if Badal has any interest in telling the truth of his behaviour when he has been so amply rewarded for betraying the interests of the Sikhs. And the abuses and injustices perpetrated against the Sikhs continues to this very day let alone ending in the 1980 to 1990 period such as can be seen in the barbaric way that Bapu Surat Singh has been treated with his hunger strike for the rights of Sikh prisoners (of conscience) still languishing in prisons long after their sentences have finished whilst the handful of murderers (not even the main culprits like Kamal Nath, Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler et al) who killed Sikhs in Delhi were released before even the full term of their sentences. The only ‘course correction for community’ required is for the Indian State to recognise the ‘unpalatable truths ‘ of the enormity of the crimes committed against the Sikh nation and to address them immediately instead of trying to pretend they didn’t happen or that Sikhs should let bygones be bygones and just accept the atrocities that were committed against them.

  4. If the main players of 1980 -1990 era don’t write their part of story then history may repeat itself .
    History has important lessons for all of us and is important in course correction for any community.
    He should be told to write his part of story even if it has some hard unpalatable Truths in it .
    People have out grown the 1980-1990 period and can see it objectively .

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Modi’s remark on 10th Guru confirms design to incorporate Sikhs into Hindus: Actor Deep Sidhu

:dateline:Punjabi and Hindi film actor Deep Sidhu once again turned vocal on Sikh issues through social media and stated that the Indian Prime Minister...

After Giani Harpreet Singh, Navjot Kaur Sidhu demands demolished gurdwaras be restored

:dateline:A day after SGPC-appointed acting jathedar of Akal Takht Giani Harpreet Singh asked Indian government to restore gurdwaras demolished out of Punjab, former MLA...

Shiromani Ragi Sabha Lodges Complaint After Hazoori Raagi Bhai Onkar Singh Receives Threat by Giani Jagtar Singh’s Son-In-Law

:dateline:Zora Singh, the son-in-law of Sri Harmandir Sahib’s head granthi Giani Jagtar Singh, today threatened Hazoori Raagi Bhai Onkar Singh inside sanctum sanctorum Sri...