The Sunday night attack in London on Lt General Kuldip Singh Brar, who led Operation Bluestar against Sikh terrorists in 1984, shows that the memories of past wrongs, whether real or imagined, never really heal. Especially when opportunistic politicians seek to perpetuate them. The attack could be indicative of the fact that after years of peace, Punjab could see a resurgence of radicalism again. This is not helped by the Akali Dal trying to mix a potent cocktail of religion and politics. The former Indian Army officer has claimed that it was an assassination attempt on him since there had been a lot of hate messages and mails as well as pledges to kill him.
In the last few months, the Akali Dal government in Punjab has been playing with fire to cover up its own shortcomings and the problems Punjab is facing these days — unemployment, low agricultural incomes and drug addiction. Submitting to the demands of the radical fringe, the chief minister filed a mercy petition on behalf of Balwant Singh Rajoana, the killer of former CM Beant Singh, one of the main architects of peace in terrorist-hit Punjab. Then he submitted to the radicals’ demands for raising a Bluestar memorial. Significantly, in an interview, Lt-Gen Brar had recently spoken against these moves and accused the Akalis of “allowing a move to revive terrorism”. “Are the Akalis attempting to get the sympathy of militants by allowing such activities?” he had asked pointedly.
The Akalis are lucky that in a state where the incumbent party is not usually voted back to power for a second term, they have got a second chance. This was because they were able to sell the idea that they stood for development and a pluralistic society. But now it would seem that they are betraying that mandate by using divisive forces to further their gains. Such a strategy is shortsighted and is its destructive fallout is likely to singe the Akalis themselves. If they hope to consolidate the gains that they have made come 2014, they should firmly discourage any radical tendencies. As for the Centre, the attack is a wake-up call that peace in any part of India can never be taken for granted.