India should be concerned over Sikh and Kashmiri hardliners joining hands.
As Sikh bodies support Kashmiris, BJP projects Sukhbir Badal as chief minister
Here is the quid pro quo. As hard-line Sikh bodies in Punjab and some other countries observed India’s Independence Day as the Black Day and came out in solidarity with the Kashmiris, the Bharatiya Janata Party the same day projected Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal as the next chief minister.
Akali Dal Badal is in alliance with the BJP.
It can’t be dismissed as just off the cuff remark from state BJP president Shwait Malik.
The occasion was Akali Dal’s annual conference on Rakhar Puniya at Baba Bakala in Amritsar district on Independence Day that the BJP normally used to give a miss.
The Dal Khalsa, Akali Dal (Amritsar) and the United Akali Dal staged protests at several district headquarters that day to observe Independence Day as the Black Day. The political agenda of Dal Khalsa is Khalistan through democratic means. Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann too raises this demand but off and on.
Although the Dal Khalsa has been observing this day as the Black Day for so many years, it is for the first time that black flag protests were staged by Sikh activists in several districts. This body used to be alone earlier. Significantly, Panjab University, Chandigarh students council president Kanupriya also attended the protest in Amritsar. She is from the Left stream.
The protest by these Sikh organisations was also against revocation of Article 370 that accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Besides its scrapping, this turbulent border state has been bifurcated and further downgraded as two union territories to complete the process of assimilation. The state has been under lockdown since then with heaviest ever presence of the armed forces in the already garrisoned state.
The Sikh bodies in London and Washington joined hands with Kashmiris to stage demonstrations outside Indian high commission and embassy. The protest in London was particularly aggressive.
It may be mentioned that Sikh mobilisations are being witnessed for the last some years in countries like UK, USA and Canada on the issue of separate Sikh state.
There is also an irony in this demand as it is Indian Punjab that is to become Khalistan as per this agenda. The land of birth of the Sikh religion that is Nankana Sahib, however, is in Pakistan and this aspect is not talked about.
India is learnt to be concerned about radical Sikhs and Kashmiris joining hands as Punjab was hit by armed struggle earlier that was commanded by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in Phase I. Both Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir share border with Pakistan. Both these states are strategically located.
The projection of Sukhbir Singh Badal as the future chief minister is in this particular context.
Shiromani Akali Dal for decades has been articulating the Sikh concerns but not anymore. This second oldest party in the country contested the 1967 Assembly election raising the demand for Sikhstan on the pattern of special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370.
The Anandpur Sahib Resolution of 1973 on which the Akali Dal launched the Dharamyudh Morcha on August 4, 1982 during which thousands of Sikhs went to jails is essentially rewording of 1967 articulation that was based in 1966 resolution. It may be mentioned that the agenda of militant leader Sant Bhindranwale too was the implementation of Anandpur Sahib Resolution “without any dilution”. He led armed struggle on this very agenda; at least this was what he used to say on record as he never called for Khalistan.
Sukhbir repositioned his party on Article 370 in the Lok Sabha during discussion on its revocation. Earlier, the party position used to be articulated by the party and not by any individual. However, that democratic approach ended after Parkash Singh Badal took over the party in 1995. Now this grand old party stands reduced to House of Badals. BJP has lost no time in reciprocating his crucial support. Akali Dal is the only party perceived to represent a minority that is in alliance with the BJP.
The Sikh stream is witnessing two streaks on Article 370. In the process, House of Badals seems to be getting further isolated from the Sikh support base. Earlier, it was the issue of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib that had hit the party and the Akali Dal is still to recover from that damage.
However, Sukhbir has consolidated his position within the matrix of Akali Dal-BJP alliance.
The BJP need not look for a Sikh face in Punjab.
The Abdullahs and Muftis played this role for decades in Jammu and Kashmir.
Punjab is now the only state dominated by a minority.
August 17, 2019 .
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