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'Badal asked Rao for army action'

chandigarh Updated: Feb 13, 2014 00:08 IST
HT Correspondent
Parkash Singh Badal

Did Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, Fakhr-e-Kaum (Pride of Sikhs), ask the union government in 1984 for the eventual military raid on the Golden Temple to contain militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale?

A day after questioning Badal's role during Operation Bluestar, his rival from the Congress, Captain Amarinder Singh, on Wednesday fired this second salvo at the Akali stalwart. In an open letter to the Punjab CM, he even cited March 28, 1984, as the date when Badal had a meeting with the-then union home minister, PV Narasimha Rao.

"The object of the meeting was to convey to him (Rao) your concern over the situation at Darbar Sahib and ask the Indian government to take military action," Amarinder wrote to Badal, referring to the Centre's "white paper on the Punjab agitation" published in Delhi on July 10, 1984. The meeting with Rao happened at a Delhi guesthouse in the presence of the cabinet secretary, CM's principal secretary, and union home secretary, says the letter.

"You are now in the Punjab people's court, more particularly in that of the Sikhs of Punjab, our country and abroad. Let them judge you for what you are," he wrote further. Asking Badal to come clean on the issue, Amarinder asked him the reason for meeting the union home minister all alone when "your (party) president Sant Harchand Singh Longowal had authorised the committee of (Akali leaders) Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Surjit Singh Barnala and you to go together".

"Yesterday (On Tuesday), I had asked you whether you ever had a one-to-one meeting with a union minister shortly before (Operation) Bluestar," Amarinder pointed out. "Today, in your usual evasive manner, your spokesman has said that you had met the PM much earlier. That was not my question," the Congress leader added, seeking explanation for Badal's meeting Rao alone instead of taking Tohra and Barnala along.

Amarinder said that a month later, on April 25, 1984, Sant Longowal had written to RK Dhawan, private secretary to prime minister Indira Gandhi: "Sardar Gurcharan Singh Tohra's life is in great danger… Bhindranwale is not going to give up… we have to do what we planned earlier… Parkash Singh Badal has explained to you already."

Amarinder reminded Badal that on June 1 (1984), he was in his native village (Badal) when the police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) cordoned off Darbar Sahib. On June 2, troops from 12 Bihar strengthened the cordon. "It is not possible that you were not aware of the events over these two days. Why then did you not arrive in Amritsar?" he asked Badal. "The telephone lines to Amritsar were cut only on June 3," he added.

Amarinder also said Tohra had arrived at the Golden Temple on June 2 (1984) from Patiala on Longowal's call for a meeting of the senior Akali leadership to discuss the situation. "You (Badal) did not come from your village to attend because you were aware of the impending military action… you functioned in a cowardly fashion… you had earlier taken oath of 'marjiwara' (of laying down own lives to defend faith) with other Akali leaders at the Akal Takht to confront the army, which you had no intention of doing," Amarinder wrote to Badal.

He reminded Badal of his arrest "in the night intervening June 11 and 12 (1984) at 2.30am", following Badal's press conference on June 11. "You (Badal) had called a number of people to inform them of your arrest," Captain wrote. "What prevents you from addressing a press conference to either refute or accept my accusations with supporting details?" he asked the CM.