By Inder Jit
(Released on 6 May 1986)
India has effectively met yet another challenge to its unity and integrity by the grossly misled protagonists of the so-called Khalistan. The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr. Surjit Singh Barnala, has been as good as his word — at long last. The Golden Temple complex has been cleared of the terrorists by the Punjab Police and the para-military forces, appropriately under the charge of the State’s Director-General of Police, Mr. Julius Rubeiro. It is a great pity that the five members of the so-called Panthic Committee were able to escape the dragnet, exposing once again the tragic failure of India’s Intelligence. Perhaps, these members have already slipped across the border as part of a calculated conspiracy, taking advantage of the absence of any effective surveillance ring round the Temple complex. India will clearly have to remain on the alert against the forces of destabilization inside the country and outside. The so-called Panthic Committee also gave notice on April 29 that it would soon announce “a parallel Government”. Thus, only one more crucial battle has been won against the country’s enemies. The war is on.
Thoughts in New Delhi have once more turned to Pakistan, which continues to deny that it has any hand in the Punjab trouble. Islamabad has been asking repeatedly for specific charges. These have been provided. India’s former Foreign Secretary, Mr. Romesh Bhandari, personally handed over to the Pakistan Foreign Secretary, Mr. Niaz Naik, earlier this year a document giving information regarding terrorists based in Pakistan and handpicked from among 1,000 to 1,500 Sikhs conveniently lodged in Pakistani jails. Seven key leaders are stated to have been identified. Details were also given of the modus operandi adopted by Pakistan for training these terrorists. Each terrorist, I am told, is given some basic knowledge in the use of fire arms – and a pistol or a gun and ammunition. Regretfully, Islamabad does not seem to have even cared to examine the list, much less to respond to it positively. Consequently, New Delhi was constrained to take up the matter afresh with Pakistan — this time with Sahabzada Yakub Khan, during the recent conclave of NAM Foreign Minister.
Meanwhile, additional evidence is now available of Pakistan’s complicity in Punjab. According to the Indo-Canadian Times of April 4, Dr. Jagjit Singh Chauhan was interviewed in his London office by a representative of the “Voice of Pakistan”, an ethnic radio programme from Toronto funded by Pakistan. A text of the message, broadcast over the station earlier in March and published by the paper, reads as follows: “I respect the ‘Voice of Pakistan’ sincerely for having come to Khalistan House despite the cold weather and making an effort to deliver my message to the Sikh in Canada. Do ask the Singhs to be prepared from today onwards for a long and protracted struggle. They should extend whatever help they can to the Sikh struggle in Punjab… Sikhs residing abroad should raise their full throated voice and propagate against any excess or oppression against the Sikhs in Punjab or India. Processions should be taken out. Articles published in newspapers and posters pasted. We are trying to take our case to the United Nations very soon under the Human Rights Clause…”
Not only that. On Sunday, March 29, the Pakistani Ethnic Programme in TV Channel 47 in New York interrupted its normal newscast to give an interview with one Mr. Baldev Singh, Secretary of the Sikh Cultural Centre in New York. In the course of the telecast, Mr. Baldev Singh not only indulged in a tirade against the Government of India but asserted: “The time has come to set up a Sikh State by wielding the sword.” The person of Baldev Singh and the office he holds is of little consequence in the point in question. The important thing to note is that the ethnic programe on New York’s TV channel 47 is funded by the Pakistan Government. Again, the Pakistan Government, I learn, has been extending support to magazines published by Sikh extremists abroad. For instance, the Sikh News Weekly, brought out in the United States, has carried an advertisement from a Government – owned Pakistan Company, an indirect way of extending financial help. Interestingly, the Weekly is published from the same address as that of the secessionist World Sikh Organisation set up by Gen. Bhullar.
Pakistani officials, too, have not hesitated to extend a helping hand to the Sikh extremists abroad and to incite them to demand Khalistan. Islamabad’s Minister (Press) in the Pakistan Embassy in London, Mr. Qutubddin Aziz, is understood to have been openly maintaining contest with the Sikh extremists in London. In addition, Mr. Aziz, an erstwhile journalist, is known to have been sending anti-Indian and pro-Khalistan stories from London to United Press of Pakistan, a news agency of sorts run by his brother in his absence, for dissemination to Pakistani newspapers, some of whom have editions in London and are distributed gratis to Sikh associations and Gurudwaras. Mr. Aziz is known to have been one of the favourites of Lt. Gen. Mujibur Rehman, formerly Information Secretary in the Zia Government. Not many may remember that Pakistan TV under Lt. Gen. Mujibur Rehman sought to incite the Sikhs in Punjab against New Delhi by repeatedly showing the Golden Temple with ‘bullet marks’ in the wake of “Operation Blue Star”. It also repeatedly showed the so-called Khalistan flag being hoisted atop the Golden Temple.
In sharp contrast, India’s Doordarshan has been bending over backwards to conduct itself correctly and give little scope for complaint. Importantly, the Doordarshan has generally desisted from telecasting scenes of the mass agitation launched by the MRD — Movement for Restoration of Democracy. Furthermore, it could have easily telecast repeatedly, as done by Pakistan, the statements of the well-known Sindh leader, G.M. Syed, who has been protesting time and again against Islamabad’s oppression of the Sindhis and has demanded the establishment of what he has called an independent Sindhu Desh. Readers may be interested to know that Doordarshan programmes can now be beamed to Karachi from its Rajkot Kendra. In fact, the Rajkot Kendra is said to being a position to telecast its programmes to almost all parts of the Sindh. During the last few weeks, Doordarshan deliberately exercised friendly restraint in regard to its coverage of the recent visit of Ms Benazir Bhutto to Lahore and other parts of Pakistan which evoked unprecedented popular response and, strictly speaking, was hot news.
Pakistan is almost certain to deny this again. Experience, however, shows that these denials should not be taken too seriously. In 1984, Pakistan denied that anyone in Lahore had given a pistol to Kanwal Singh Sandhu, the Sikh hijacker of the Indian Airlines plane to Pakistan on August 24. This aircraft, it may be further recalled, was retrieved in Dubai and returned to New Delhi, together with the pistol found on the hijackers. New Delhi thereafter sought the help of Interpol to identify the ownership of the pistol, manufactured by a West German firm by the name of Welther GHBH, Wiesdaden. Significantly, Interpol informed the Government of India before long that this pistol along with 75 other pistols of the same make were supplied by the Wiesdaden firm to the Government of Pakistan on September 22, 1975. The controversy over the pistol was settled insofar as India was concerned. Islamabad, however, still pleaded ignorance. Eventually, it put forward the lame excuse that somebody in Pakistan may possibly have stolen it from the Ordnance Depot and given to the Indian hijackers.
Pakistan and its leaders have, in recent weeks, been advancing two arguments to deny that it is supporting Sikh extremists. First, it asserts that if it was really interested in destablishing India, it would not be sending in merely a handful of terrorists. Authoritative sources in New Delhi, however, point out that this is so only because India has mounted a strict vigil on the border and only a few can sneak across. Second, Islamabad argues that it has proposed to New Delhi a meeting of the Home Secretaries of the two countries (and, if necessary, the heads of Intelligence) to tackle the problem. New Delhi, it adds, is not agreeable. The truth, however, is different. Pakistan, it is admitted, did propose a meeting of the Home Secretaries. India responded favourably and asked for time to consider the proposal. Meanwhile, it suggested that the proposal be kept confidential in the interest of its effectiveness. Before long, Sahabzada Yaqub Khan disclosed it to BBC, confirming New Delhi’s fears. Islamabad appears to be more interested in getting propaganda mileage out of the proposal than in tackling the basic problem.
Where do we go from here? Parliament has done well to have congratulated Mr. Barnala for clearing the Golden Temple of terrorists. But, as I said at the outset, only one more battle has been won even if it is an important battle. Effective action will have to be taken to prevent the Temple and other Gurudwaras from again being taken over by anti-national elements and exploited for political purposes. A clear distinction needs to be made between the Golden Temple, which is sacred as the sanctum sanctorum, and its complex. The police must have access at all times to the halls and buildings surrounding the Temple. Indeed, the Governments at the Centre and in Punjab must stop talking loosely of the Golden Temple complex. We must also beware foreign moves to destabilize India. No one need take Washington’s labored but strange defence of Pakistan. The U.S., an official source asserted in Washington last week, had found no evidence of “State sponsored terrorism against India from Pakistan”. Above all, the Akali leaders need to bury the hatchet and stand together. We must remember that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty – and of integrity. — INFA