New Delhi, September 10
A new book on Operation Blue Star by then Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Ramesh Inder Singh released on Saturday provoked a deep debate on the reasons behind the Army’s entry into the Golden Temple on June 1, 1984, in a bid to purge the shrine of militants.
Analysing the events, former Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra, who, as Financial Commissioner (Home), Punjab, witnessed the tragic times first hand, today cautioned against the deployment of the Army for internal security management and called for all party understanding on plans of action should things go wrong in a certain place.
“I will say it loud and clear: It is not the Army's job to ensure against internal disturbance. Once you brought the Army into the Golden Temple, it was a sad day. The same way, it was a sad day for the Army to get involved in civilian affairs. The Army, in its own interest, would ask for the Armed Forces Special Powers Act as soldiers cannot fire at civilians or raid civilian premises unless they have protection. Such laws, as seen in the Northeast, have consequences. The Army’s role is to fight the foreign aggressor,” Vohra, the chief guest at the launch of “Turmoil in Punjab: Before and After Blue Star, An Insider’s Story”, said.
After the author traced roots of the Punjab problem to 10 unresolved demands of the Akali Dal at that time, Vohra, who oversaw state elections in 1985 and restoration of democracy, argued that problems of the nature of Punjab militancy arose when “there was unwillingness and indifference to understanding issues that were essentially political and assigning them to the civil bureaucracy or the police”.
The former J&K Governor said vexed issues concerning minorities, tribals and Scheduled Castes required astute understanding of aspirations and how these could be met.
“Lack of timely and deep understanding of political issues and their resolution was one of our biggest failures in Punjab. When things went wrong, there was abdication of responsibility. The Punjab Police could not handle the situation, so the Army was called in,” Vohra said, recalling the tragic assassination of then Jalandhar DIG AS Atwal, whose body lay at the doorstep of the Golden Temple while the Amritsar police chief waited for instructions from the Chief Minister.
Going forward, the former Governor appealed for good governance and for the civil and police administrations to be permitted to function without obstruction, interference or political pressures.
“You can play all politics in the world but Centre-state relations in regard to internal and external security cannot be played around with,” cautioned NN Vohra, hoping the book would trigger serious rethinking on macro issues of governance.
Singh, commenting on the 600-page book, traced the Punjab problem to 1982 when Parkash Singh Badal listed 10 demands to the Centre, including non-interference in Sikh religious affairs and enactment of the All-India Gurdwara Act.
Despite 26 meetings between 1981 and 1984, these demands remained unresolved, said Singh, arguing that the Punjab problem being a Khalistan problem was a “misunderstood aspect”.
Citing an analysis of killings between 1978 and 1982, the author said over 99 per cent of the victims were Nirankaris, their sympathisers or those perceived to be going after them. “It was when the Darbara Singh government was dismissed that Hindus began to be killed randomly. The movement then drifted further,” Singh said.
The discussion was moderated by the Institute for Development and Communication’s Pramod Kumar and speakers included conflict management expert Ajai Sahni.
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