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1984 Anti-Sikh Pogrom Discord Over Accord


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Dharmendra Rataul , Dinker Vashisht
Posted: Wed Sep 01 2010, 01:11 hrs

With barely a year and a half to go for the Assembly elections, politics in Punjab is falling back on ghosts of past controversies to liven up the debate. The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal has found the quarter century of the Punjab Accord and the killing of one of its main architects, Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, a convenient tool to stir a controversy.

The Longowal accord, an attempt to find a political solution for the grievances of the Sikhs, was signed between former Prime Minister the late Rajiv Gandhi and Harchand Singh Longowal, the then president of the Akali Dal, who was assassinated a few months later by separatists. The accord recognised the religious, territorial and economic demands of the Sikhs (see box). The agreement provided a basis for a return to normalcy, but it was denounced by a few Sikh militants who refused to give up demand for an independent Khalistan.

The current blame game over the Punjab Accord was sparked off by none other than Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who claimed that Longowal, who was the president of Akali Dal in 1985, regretted signing the peace accord with Rajiv Gandhi in July 1985. He said Longowal, within days of signing the accord, had personally told him that “he had been betrayed by the Centre”. The Chief Minister also claimed that Arjun Singh, who was Rajiv’s choice as Governor of Punjab, had approached him with the post of chief minister in lieu of signing an agreement that the Centre wanted.

The Chief Minister’s comments provoked sharp reactions from all quarters. Leader of Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal termed him an opportunist who was raking up an old issue because of forthcoming Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) elections. Former Congress chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has, in turn, blamed Badal’s “indecisiveness” for the failure of the accord. “He could never take a stand. At one moment he agreed on some points and then suddenly after a few hours he would do a volte-face.”

However, Manjit Singh Khaira, legal advisor and close friend of Harchand Singh Longowal, told The Indian Express, “I find it improper that these people are now voicing their opinions when they know that the four original parties to the accord — Rajiv Gandhi, Sant Longowal, Attar Singh and Balwant Singh — are now dead.”

Khaira would draft the letters on behalf of Longowal to Rajiv Gandhi which went on to become part of the Longowal accord. Recollecting those days, he too blamed Badal for being “indecisive” and alleged that he would often develop cold feet and more often than not, he would take the side of the radicals. “It is all very fine for him to speak that Sant Longowal was naïve but why does he conveniently forget that it was him and Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra who first allowed extremists refuge in the holy precincts of the Golden Temple.”

Baldev Singh, another politician who was active in the mid 1980s, says Longowal had no second thoughts about the accord. “Shortly before he was assassinated, he addressed a public meeting where he told people that the accord was necessary for peace in the state.”




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