By M D Nalapat
It was a moral travesty on Trudeau’s part to implicitly back a return of Bhindranwale-style tactics in Punjab.
The post-colonial colonial practice of the Indian bureaucracy is to fawn on the white foreigner while being derisive towards the brown (and in the case of South Indians, if we are to believe Tarun Vijay, black) native. Hence it is almost a given fact that apart from private and muted expressions of disquiet, there will not be any action by the MEA concerning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. This despite the man endorsing (through his enthusiastic participation in a Toronto event) the separation of Punjab from the rest of India, which is the sole and the oft-stated objective of the Khalistan movement. The speeches of the other participants in the “Free Khalistan” gathering that had him as the star participant made clear that their intention was to “struggle for the achievement of Khalistan”. And as for the methods favoured during such a struggle, these were clear from the admiration showered on Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, whose countenance gazed on the participants through a profusion of posters featuring the individual who was a creature of certain Congress Party functionaries in the Punjab before shifting his loyalties to GHQ Rawalpindi. The favoured method of Bhindranwale was torture followed by murder. Looking at the cash that was sent from Canada—and indeed from the UK and the US as well—to the “Khalistan” network in India during the 1980s, it was obvious that there were more than a few Canadian nationals who were contributing towards another division of India. The NDA-II government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on several occasions demonstrated its fealty to the concepts and responses of Mahatma Gandhi, for example by aligning itself with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir. To those not attuned to a saintly way of life, it was certain that such a grotesque alliance would lead precisely to the meltdown that we are witnessing in Kashmir these days. However, just as happened with the Mahatma on countless occasions, hope was allowed to prevail over experience and an alliance tailor made for instability was crafted. Another Gandhian act of NDA-II was to forgive those in Canada, the US and the UK who during the 1980s and 1990s funded and otherwise assisted the operations of the Dal Khalsa in India. Such elements, who were committed to the breakup of India, were once again given visas to enter the country.
Not surprisingly, many such visitors have used the newly-opened door to try and bring the Khalistan movement back to life in the Punjab. Just in case Justin Trudeau is not aware of the murder and mayhem perpetrated by the Dal Khalsa in Punjab for over a decade (although the tempo slackened after the death of Zia-ul-Haq in 1988), hopefully the High Commission will educate him about this blood-filled chapter in our country’s history. Indeed, some from the vibrant Indo-Canadian community need to come out with advertisements detailing the deeds of Bhindranwale and the murders of innocents by the “Khalistani” groups.
The Prime Minister of what passes for a friendly country and is a member of the Commonwealth has tacitly endorsed a movement whose preferred instrument was terror. If this is not something which should be formally protested in the strongest of terms, it is difficult to determine what is. Certainly the Commonwealth Secretariat needs to be queried as to whether it is proper for the Head of State of a member country to participate in an event whose objective is the dismemberment of another through the use of terror and violence.
Fortunately, the chance of a recurrence of the Khalistan movement in the Punjab is zero, as memories of the mayhem of the past are still strong. The Sikh community is among the noblest in India, and has repeatedly shown their patriotism, especially in the field of battle. Indeed, Punjabis overall quickly got back on their feet after being, in a sense, flung on their backs during the murderous chaos of partition, and for this, they deserve both admiration and emulation.
However, just as it was a moral travesty on Trudeau’s part to implicitly back a return of Bhindranwale-style tactics in the Punjab, it must not be forgotten that what took place in 1984 just after the assassination of Indira Gandhi was unforgiveable. As is the fact that no one of any significance has thus far been seriously brought to account after the mass murders that took place in Delhi during those initial days in November 1984. It is expected of the UPA that they would deny that anything of significance took place during those few days. It should not be the case with the NDA, which needs to resist the temptation to either cover up (through not making documents public) or justify errors made in the past, including during NDA I.
Problem areas should be acknowledged rather than ignored, as should actions such as being present at events celebrating the life and ways of a terrorist.
To not respond diplomatically in adequate measure to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tacit backing of a fresh partition of India would only entrench the narrative that Lutyens Delhi is all bark and no bite, not even of the soft variety. Indeed, it is such a conviction about India, that there is no substantive blowback from trampling on this country’s core interests, that has ensured recent diplomatic disasters as Pakistan, the US, UK, Australia, Norway, Ireland, Czech Republic, Germany, Kyrgystan, Kazakhstan, Lichtenstein, Haiti, Kenya, Vatican, South Korea and others joining hands to fling accusation after accusation at this country in the Geneva meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.
Hopefully, in the case of each of these powers, there will be more than the usual “silent protests” at such mischaracterisations of India. Under Nehru in the 1950s, India talked and talked and talked and yet found itself isolated at its moment of crisis in 1962. The people expect more than just words from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
They expect action.