Deen Dayal Upadhyaya

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This Punjabi Suba Business

-Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya
[Organiser, 5 September, 1965]

An artificial agitation is being built up in the Punjab. Sant Fateh Singh has announced his plans of resorting to hunger-strike from 10 September on wards and then to immolate himself on 25 September if the Government does not agree to the formation of a Punjabi Suba of his conception by that date. As we know, this plan was decided upon by the Sant when Master Tara Singh earlier threatened a Morcha to demand the right of self-determination for the Sikhs. To counteract the Master, the Government picked up the Sant. A hurried meeting with the Prime Minister was arranged. Sant Fateh Singh put forward certain grievances and demands. The Prime Minister agreed to look into them, and then himself prepared a note to be considered by the Working Committee of the Akali Dal. The committee rejected this note and instead put forward the demand for Punjabi Suba, and the Sant announced his decision regarding the fast and the act of self-immolation.

This threat made the Government very panicky. Whether the panic is real or feigned is not yet very clear. But it can be definitely said that it is needless and unbecoming. All sorts of appeals are being made to the Sant to Abandon his idea. A number of compromise formulae have been suggested. Sant Fateh Singh has summarily rejected them all. He is showing great doggedness.

The people of Punjab are astonished to see all these developments. Because of past experience and a lack of confidence in the utterances of Congress leaders, they are growing apprehensive. Gradually a feeling of concern and uncertainty is replacing their sense of bewilderment at the heroics and histrionics of the various leaders.

Communists and other subversive elements that is always ready to fish in troubled water, have become active. They are preparing their plans on loot, arson and violence if, per chance, the people get agitated due to any tragic happening to the Sant.

The Central Government has become the victim of its own plans. It boosted the Sant. Their utterances are now recoiling on them. Akali circles and even dissident Congressmen in the State are now busy dinning into the ears of the Home Minister, the Prime Minister and even others that a very grave situation would develop if Sant Fateh Singh dies. They are being coaxed to do something to avert the tragedy. An appeal to their statesmanship is being made as if statesmanship lies in appeasement and surrender also.

The Provincial Government is divided. The Chief Minister and the Home Minister do not see eye to eye. Although the Home Minister has declared his firmness to deal with any situation, the people are not sure of any coordinated action. Everybody in the Minister has his own are to grind, and they would not mind giving the devil a free hand if it suits their personal ends.

There are people who believe that the genesis of the present developments lies in the ground rivalries of the Akali Dal and also of the Congress. Some high-ups very openly confess that this situation would not have come up if the Chief Minister of the State had been a Sikh. It is perhaps on this basis that Sardar Jiial Singh has been nominated the Acting Governor of the State. The general convention about not having the Governor from inside the State has been disregarded.

People also suspect that the whole thing had been hatched up only to get the support of the Sikhs for the Congress in 1967 elections, and to undermine the growing unity of the opposition parties in the State. The congress in Punjab has always banked upon the communal support of the Sikhs. Like the British Government it would not relish harmonious relations between the Sikhs and the non-Sikhs. For the last few years since the reorganisation of the States, the two were coming closer. The built-up prejudices against each other were dying away. The Jana Sangh was not looked upon as anti-Sikh by the Sikhs and the Akalis were no longer anti-Hindu in the eyes of the non-Sikhs. The political entente had helped in reviving the old spirit of camaraderie of the Hindu society, and the social atmosphere also improved. It made those parties uneasy which thrive only on communalism. The Congress grew apprehensive. It does not want a normal situation in the province. And so it revived the issues that were long settled.

The case for Punjabi Suba needs no examination. It has been discussed and dealt with at all levels. The SRC dismissed it, the Government rejected it, and even the Akali Dal renounced it. The Regional Committees Formula was conceived only as a compromise plan. It however seems that the Akali Dal’s rival groups cannot think of any other slogan to sway the Sikh masses. But the masses too are now disillusioned. They know that the Punjabi Suba is only a chimera. It has little to do with their real problems.

The reorganisation of the States has been completed. Except for marginal adjustments here and there we cannot now restart the process of carving out new provinces. If that is done, there would be no end to the drawing and re-drawing of the political map of India. Any reconsideration of the issue in Punjab will open a Pandora’s Box. We cannot afford to unsettle settled things.

The Akali Dal has been trying to confuse the people in other States by saying that it wants a linguistic province on the same pattern as Maharashtra, Andhra etc. But then it conveniently hides some elementary facts of Punjab its geographical, linguistic and religious conditions. Though Punjabi is one of the languages enumerated in the eighth schedule of the Constitution, it is not possible to carve out a contiguous viable territorial unit claiming to speak that language. For Punjabi is spoken by millions in the Hindi-speaking Haryana area of Punjab and even in Delhi. As such the whole of Punjab is a bilingual area. It cannot be territorially divided on the basis of language. On political considerations, attempts had been made in the past to divide Punjab under a number of formulae. They have failed because they were based on artificial considerations. Jana Sangh had opposed then. Events have only vindicated the truth of its stand.

It need not be repeated that the Punjabi Suba is a misnomer for Master Tara Singh’s Sikh State. What ever Sant Fateh Singh might say the whole movement is based on a communal appeal. It is carried on openly not only from the religious platforms in the Gurucharanas. This Suba therefore will be a theocratic state in India. We cannot allow it.

Sant Fateh Singh is a religious leader. He has no political standing. It is wrong on the part of the Government to discuss with him political issues. Religion and politics should not be curbed. That Sant Fateh Singh should have considered the present moment when we are engaged in a bloody battle with the aggressor in Kashmir as most opportune to pressurise the government is an eloquent proof of the anti-national character of the Punjabi Suba movement.

What should the people and the government do in the circumstances? Surely they cannot succumb and submit. One has to be firm and strong at home to fight the aggressor successfully abroad. Strength in Punjab will give strength to the whole nation to stand united and firm. Let not the Government falter.

The people of Punjab should also rise to the occasion. The Sikhs have their reputation at stake. Will they provide cause for the future historian to write that they stabbed the nation in the back and deserted her in her hour of need? No, that is not the tradition of the great gurus. Guru Tegh Bahadur martyred his life to save Kashmir. Kashmir is again calling the followers of Guru Tegh Bahadur. Will they listen to the call? Will they emulate the example of Guru Tegh Bahadur of follow Sant Fateh Singh? The have to choose either the one or the other. In their choice lies the future of the Panth.

I know that the Sikhs are nationalists, and that therefore they do not like this fasting business of the Sant. But they must also guard against cheap sentimentalism in the future. If India lives, Panth will live; if India suffers, Panth will not prosper.

The people and the Government of India cannot allow a recalcitrant and divisive minority to disturb the peace of the country and create a law and order problem. It cannot be coerced into submission by threats of self-immolation. If it succumbs, it will lead to a chain reaction. It has to be firm. No appeals, no concessions and no compromises. The status quo in Punjab, political as well as linguistic, should not be changed. If some people create disturbances they should be administratively dealt with a strong hand. Meanwhile communists and Akali leaders who are hatching subversive plans should be taken into custody. Sant Fateh Singh should be left also in the Gurudwara to get light from the great gurus to desist from his ill conceived plans.

Jana Sangh should mobiles the nationalist forces to preserve the unity of Punjab which is essential for the unity of India. As heretofore, I am sure it will succeed in its holy mission.
Compiled by Amarjeet Singh, Research Associate & Programme Coordinator, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, 9, Ashok Road, New Delhi - 110001
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