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India: Dangers Of Neo Terrorism In Punjab – Analysis

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The situation that we are likely to face in Punjab and Delhi in the coming months due to the attempts being made by some elements to revive anger in sections of the Sikh community in Punjab and abroad would be qualitatively different from the situation that we faced during the Khalistan movement between 1981 and 1995.

What we faced between 1981 and 1995 was a politico-religious movement claiming that the Sikhs were treated as second class citizens in India because of their religion and that the only way of redressing their grievances was through the creation of an independent Sikh State to be called Khalistan. We faced the entire gamut of classical terrorism such as hijackings and blowing-up of aircraft, planting improvised explosive devices in crowded places, indiscriminate use of hand-held weapons against soft targets and targeted assassinations of Hindu and pro-Government Sikh leaders and VIPs.

Location of Punjab in India
Location of Punjab in India

What we are seeing today is an attempt to create a revanchist (reprisal) movement by re-kindling the dormant feelings of anger, inner hurt and humiliation in sections of the Sikh community in order to motivate them to seek vengeance for the alleged desecration of their holy temple during the military action code-named OP Blue Star in June 1984.

Our success in bringing the movement under control was due to the fact that the terrorist organisations were not able to win many adherents for the cause of an independent Khalistan despite the widespread anger caused by OP Blue Star.

Today, the terrorist remnants of these organisations would face difficulty in using such political and economic arguments which would not make an impact on the Sikh community. They are, therefore, seeking to use revanchist arguments and symbols to persuade the people to support a neo terrorist movement.

The attempts of the SGPC to build a memorial inside the Golden Temple for those killed during OP Blue Star, to pay homage to the memories of the assassins of Gen. A. Vaidya, who was the Chief of the Army Staff during OP Blue Star, and Beant Singh, the former Chief Minister of Punjab, and to kill Lt. Gen (retd). K. S. Brar, who played a prominent role in OP Blue Star, during his recent visit to London are indicators of the revanchist thinking being encouraged by some elements in Punjab and abroad.

At least in the initial stages, a revanchist movement is likely to focus more on acts of revenge against political leaders, and military and police officers, who had played a prominent role during OP Blue Star and during the subsequent counter-terrorism operations. It is important to review the security already provided to them and further strengthen it in India and abroad.

How to deal with the activities of the SGPC in encouraging symbolic acts like the construction of a memorial for those killed during OP Blue Star and paying homage to the assassins and to prevent the new brand of terrorists from again establishing control over the Golden Temple? This is a tricky question calling for careful handling without over-reaction.

We have faced two tricky situations in the Golden Temple in 1984 and 1988.The occupation of the Golden Temple by some terrorists in 1984 was handled by the Army under OP Blue Star resulting in many fatalities on both sides and damages to the Akal Takht, the sanctum sanctorum. The re-occupation of the Golden Temple by another group of terrorists in 1988 was handled without the use of the Army by a group of police officers led jointly by Shri K. P. S. Gill, Shri Ved Marwah, Shri M. K. Narayanan and Shri Ajit Doval.

The Government should consult these officers on the options available before deciding on a strategy. So far as attempts to revive terrorism outside the Golden Temple are concerned, the Akali Dal Government has been saying that it is all for strong action to curb them in the bud and claims that it is already doing so. But there is considerable ambivalence in its attitude to the revanchist activities of the SGPC inside the Golden Temple. This needs to be tackled without unwittingly aggravating the situation as these police officers successfully did in 1988 without unnecessary and unwise dramatization.

I saw a TV interview of Shri K. P. S. Gill after the attack on Lt. Gen. Brar. I got the impression that he was also cautioning against over-dramatisation of the worrisome situation developing in Punjab and abroad. The Government of India has a leadership role to play in this in consultation with the SAD and the BJP. It should not be self-complacent.

B. Raman

B. Raman

B. Raman (August 14, 1936 – June 16, 2013) was Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies.

5 thoughts on “India: Dangers Of Neo Terrorism In Punjab – Analysis

  • Avatar
    October 11, 2012 at 7:53 pm
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    What writer has conveniently forgotten to mention the Indian government atrocities on the its own citizens. What he has totally forgotten the 1984 Sikhs massacre orchestrated by the Indian authorities to teach Sikhs a lesson. 10,000 Sikhs were butchered across India with majority of killing happening in New Delhi. The police and administration instead of preventing actually participated in killings. The killers spared no one including women and children.
    The worst is that people like Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler who organized these killings were given ministerial berths in the central government.
    India did the same thing to Muslims in 2002 and to Christians in later years in states of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.

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  • Avatar
    October 12, 2012 at 8:19 am
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    all khalisthan terrorist were given Permanent residence in European countries(at that time India was at the side of soviet union)to be used later.Now they are creating problems there in europe and north america.India has curbed the movement here in india.terrorist are terrorist they never change.

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  • Avatar
    October 12, 2012 at 10:56 am
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    I think the author has not very much understood the magnitude of the two operations and the great difference that they had as also the political, diplomatic and military ramifications and hence the “feel good” sort of article on a potentially very dangerous developments inside the Golden Temple and outside in Punjab and abroad.

    The hollowness of his understanding and suggestions can be gazed in the light of the faulty and potentially damaging map of India that he has appended showing part of India as that of Pakistan & China. Such views cannot keep the integrity of the country. We have to analyse the situation, specially so under the prevailing situation in the entire Indian sub continent.

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  • Avatar
    October 12, 2012 at 4:29 pm
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    @Prabhujeet: I sympathize with the victims of riot. However the word “conveniently” is out of context here. The topic here is the attempts to revive khalistan movement. There is no justification for killing of the innocent but tell me do you want terrorists residing in holy places? Operation Bluestar preceded riots, not the other way round. In my opinion Op Bluestar was justified because it was to flush out terrorists. Riots and the operation are two different matters. It is the responsibility of govt. to prevent such violence and give victims justice.
    I also object to your saying that Indian state committed these atrocities. The authorities may be complicit but it is up to us that we don’t elect governments on the basis of religion and castes. It is our responsibility that we maintain unity and integrity of nation.

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  • Avatar
    November 3, 2012 at 5:03 am
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    The author’s analysis is an exemplification of the racist caste-Hindu incitement to genocide of Sikhs by India. Operaton Bluestar was a war crime. It is war crime to target places of worhip with thousand of pilgrims with lethal force. How did the author determine everyone inside the Golden Temple were terrorits? Did he have a dream?

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