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25 years after Rajiv-Longowal Accord

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by Archived_Member16, Aug 20, 2010.

  1. Archived_Member16

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    25 years after Rajiv-Longowal Accord Badal scuttled it, says Arjun; no, it was treachery: Badal
    Kamlendra Kanwar

    The Tribune - August 20, 2010

    Editorial: Exclusive

    Sant Harchand Singh Longowal flanked by GS Tohra (R) and PS Badal hours before he was assassinated. (right) Longowal with the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi soon after signing the Accord. — File photos

    As the nation observes the 25th death anniversary of Sant Harchand Singh Longowal who paid with his life by signing a path-breaking Accord with then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on July 24, 1985, with the earnest intent of bringing peace to terror-gripped Punjab, many key questions remain unanswered.

    Had Longowal not been assassinated as he was on August 20, 1985, less than a month after signing the Accord, could terrorism have been reined in earlier? It was only a decade later that it actually came under control. How much of a factor was the lack of co-operation extended to the Accord by key Akali leader Parkash Singh Badal and SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra? Could the Surjit Singh Barnala government in the state that came to power have handled the insurgency better considering that public support for militancy was waning?

    Last week the leading surviving actors in the political drama of that time were approached by The Tribune to reconstruct events and interpret them.

    What has emerged is a plethora of interesting observations by then Governor Arjun Singh who drew the contours of the Accord on a cue from then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Surjit Singh Barnala who worked closely with Longowal in the build-up to the Rajiv-Longowal Accord and was later rewarded with chief ministership, and Parkash Singh Badal who, along with SGPC chief Tohra, had serious reservations over the Accord from the word ‘go’and is today as vehement in his opposition to it as he was then.

    The Accord proved a virtual non-starter with the assassination of Sant Longowal and the opposition of some key players, but the psychological climate that was created both by the Accord and by other measures like the release of a substantial number of young Sikhs who had been imprisoned in the wake of Operation Bluestar, relaxation of censorship on the Punjab Press, withdrawal of army control over certain districts, lifting of ban on the All India Sikh Students Federation and the announcement of a judicial inquiry into the November 1984 killings of Sikhs went a long way in ultimately restoring normalcy.

    Interpretations of the Accord and its aftermath differ. Octogenarian Arjun Singh, Rajiv Gandhi’s pointsman at that point who worked very closely with a core group of Akalis which included Sant Longowal, Barnala, Balwant Singh who later became Finance Minister and Professor Attar Singh of Panjab University can be credited with providing the ‘healing touch’. He lamented in an exclusive interview with The Tribune that Badal did not lend support to the accord despite all efforts to persuade him. His contention is that had Badal been helpful, quite a different picture would have emerged. “This (Badal’s lack of cooperation) was in substance the tragedy of the Accord,” says Arjun Singh with a degree of finality.

    On the other hand, Parkash Singh Badal, who is now Chief Minister of Punjab, lashed out at Arjun Singh in another exclusive interview with the paper. According to him, the Rajiv-Longowal Accord was part of a “treacherous plan” Arjun Singh had engineered for his own political rehabilitation.

    Says Badal: “We had forewarned Sant Longowal. Our apprehensions that he would be cheated into the Accord have ultimately come true. Did Punjab or Sikhs gain anything out of the Accord except losing great souls like Sant Longowal?” he asks. He claims that before his assassination Longowal had realized that he had been cheated and had told him so.

    Another front-ranking Akali leader who was deeply involved in the build-up to the Accord, Surjit Singh Barnala, who is currently Governor of Tamil Nadu, recalls that days before Sant Longowal was to meet Rajiv Gandhi, special messengers were sent to Badal and Tohra, but neither of them responded.
    According to Barnala, Longowal had told him before he signed the Accord: “I have nothing to lose. There is no one to cry for me after I am gone. But I would be failing in my duty if I am unable to bring back peace and normalcy to Punjab.”

    All said and done, the Rajiv-Longowal accord was a turning point in the quest for peace in Punjab. It was by no means a clincher but it certainly marked a step forward. That after Longowal’s assassination, an estimated two lakh people turned up for ‘bhog’ at his village despite threats from terrorists to keep away or face their ire was indicative of the turning tide.

    The people at large were beginning to tire of an atmosphere of fear and insecurity. The sense of alienation was still stark but more and more people were yearning for peace so that they could get on with their day-to-day lives.

    Yet, it was a decade before one saw the eclipse of terror in the state. With assembly elections in August that year catapulting the Akalis back to power under Barnala, popular rule returned but terror showed no signs of abating.

    A bare three months before the Accord was signed, an Air India flight operating on the Montréal-London-Delhi-Bombay route was blown up in midair over the coast of Ireland. In all, 329 people perished, among them 280 Canadian nationals, mostly of Indian birth or descent, and 22 Indian nationals. When news trickled in that it was the work of terror groups linked to Punjab, the revulsion against terror grew as many families had lost their dear ones.

    But there was still time for the tide to turn dramatically.

    In fact, during the late 1980s and the early 1990s, there was a sharp rise in radical Sikh militancy in Punjab. On October 7, 1987, Khalistan was declared an independent state and a Council of Khalistan, headed by Dr. Gurmit Singh Aulakh, was formed.

    With dwindling support and elimination of terrorists, may of them in fake encounters, Sikh militancy was effectively over by early 1990s.

    A quarter of a century after the accord, where does Punjab stand?

    It is unfortunate that many of the terms of the Rajiv-Longowal accord remain unimplemented to this day for various reasons. The issue of greater autonomy for states as sought in the Anandpur Sahib Resolution was referred to the Sarkaria Commission which rejected the ASR approach to Centre-State relations.

    The contentious issue of transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab is where it was with three successive commissions (Matthew/Venkatarmiah/Desai) failing to yield an agreement. On the sharing of river waters between Punjab and Haryana, the Eradi Tribunal was appointed but its recommendations that favoured Haryana were not acceptable to Punjab.

    The prosecution of those responsible for the November 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom was referred to the Mishra Commission but the Congress having been absolved of all responsibility, the matter is still dragging on.

    There were issues of army deserters and political detainees too which were not adequately addressed.

    With reports trickling in of attempts at reviving terrorism, issues that were buried under the carpet need to be addressed without delay. The Rajiv-Longowal accord was in some ways a watershed but essentially it was the dried public support for the Sikh homeland cause that pulled the rug from under the feet of the militants.

    source: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2010/20100820/main1.htm

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    #1 Archived_Member16, Aug 20, 2010
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  3. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Jun 17, 2004
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    The controversy would be difficult to follow for those who are not familiar with the contents of this accord, and the history building up to it.

    Here are the main points of the Ranjiv Longowal Accord.

    Rajiv Longowal Accord

    The main points of the historical accord signed by the Prime Minister of India Mr Rajiv Gandhi and Akali Dal president Sant Harchand Singh Longowal on July 24, 1985 are as follows:

    1. Along with ex-gratia payment to those innocent killed in agitation or any action after 1- 8-1982, compensation for property damaged will also be paid.

    2. All citizens of the country have the right to enroll in the Army and merit will remain the criterion for selection.

    3. The jurisdiction of Shri Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission inquiring into the November riots of Delhi would be extended to cover the disturbances at Bokaro and Kanpur also.

    4. For all those discharged, efforts will be made to rehabilitate and provide gainful employment.

    5. The Government of India agrees to consider the formulation of an All India Gurdwara Bill. Legislation will be brought forward for this purpose in consultation with Shiromani Akali Dal, others concerned and after fulfilling all relevant constitutional requirements.

    6.1 The notifications applying the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to Punjab will be withdrawn. Existing Special Courts will try only cases relating to the following type of offences:
    (a) Waging War
    (b) Hijacking

    6.2 All other cases will be transferred to ordinary courts and enabling legislation if needed will be brought forward in this Session of Parliament.

    7.1 The Capital Project Area of Chandigarh will go to Punjab. Some adjoining areas which were previously part of Hindi or Punjabi regions were included in the Union Territory. With the capital region going to Punjab the areas which were added to the Union Territory from the Punjabi region of the erstwhile State of Punjab will be transferred to Punjab and those from Hindi region to Haryana. The entire Sukhna lake will be kept as part of Chandigarh and will thus go to Punjab.

    7.2 It had always been maintained by Smt. Indira Gandhi that when Chandigarh is to go to Punjab some Hindi-speaking territories in Punjab will go to Haryana. A Commission will be constituted to determine the specific Hindi- speaking areas of Punjab which should go to Haryana, in lieu of Chandigarh. The principle of contiguity and linguistic affinity with a village as a unit will be the basis of such determination. The Commission will be required to give its findings by 31st December 1985 and these will be binding on both sides. The work of the Commission will be limited to this aspect and will be distinct from the general boundary claims which the other Commission referred to in para 7.4 will handle.

    7.3 The actual transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab and areas in lieu thereof to Haryana will take place simultaneously on 26th January 1986.

    7.4 There are other claims and counter-claims for readjustment of the existing Punjab-Haryana boundaries. The Government will appoint another commission to consider these matters and give its findings. Such findings will be binding on the concerned States. The terms of reference will be based on village as a unit, linguistic affinity and contiguity.

    8.1 Shiromani Akali Dal states that the Anandpur Sahib Resolution is entirely within the framework of the Indian constitution; that it attempts to define the concept of Centre-State relation in a manner which may bring out the true federal characteristics of our Unitary Constitution; and that the purpose of the Resolution is to provide greater autonomy to the State with a view to strengthening the unity and integrity of the country, since unity in diversity form the corner-stone of our national entity.

    8.2 In view of the above, the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, in so far as it deals with Centre-State relations, stands referred to the Sarkaria Commission.

    9.1 The farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan will continue to get water not less than what they are using from the Ravi-Beas system as on 1. 7. 85 Waters used for consumptive purposes will also remain unaffected. Quantum of usage claimed shall be verified by the Tribunal referred to in para 9. 2 below.

    9.2 The claims of Punjab and Haryana regarding the shares in their remaining waters will be referred to adjudication to a Tribunal to be presided over by a Supreme Court Judge. The decision of this Tribunal will be rendered within six months and would be binding on both parties. All legal and constitutional steps required in this respect be taken expeditiously.

    9.3 The construction of the SYL canal shall continue. The canal shall be completed by 15th August 1986.

    10. Existing instructions regarding protection of interests of minorities will be recirculated to the State Chief Ministers. (PM will write to all Chief Ministers).

    11. The Central Government may take some steps for the promotion of the Punjabi language. The settlement brings to an end a period of confrontation and ushers in an era of amity, goodwill and cooperation, which will promote and strengthen the unity and integrity of India.

    Rajiv Gandhi
    Prime Minister of India
    Harchand Singh Longowal
    President, Shiromani Akali


    Also at http://www.sikhtimes.com/doc_072485a.html

    I think more needs to be posted to summarize the events that led up to the drafting of the accord. JIHMO we also need to take a look at whether any of these provisions were implemented, and how if they were.
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